What's Important About The Title of 'Wuthering Heights'?

A first American edition of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

OLI SCARFF / AFP / Getty Images

Wuthering Heights is a great title! It sounds Gothic--it sets the mood for one of the most dramatic and tragic love stories in literary history. But, what is the significance of the title? Why is it important? How does it relate to the setting or characterization?

The title of the novel is also the name of the Yorkshire family estate, located on the moors, but Emily Bronte appears to have used the title to imbue the text with a feeling of dark foreboding. She carefully created the mood of the novel and placed her characters on the wild moors.

Other reasons for the title:

  • "Wuthering"--meaning quite literally "windy" or "blustery"--sets the scene for the volatile, often-stormy-passionate relationships in the novel, but it also sets the stage with the feeling of isolation and mystery.
  • The setting is based on the Elizabethan farmhouse, Top Withens (or Top Within), located near Haworth, West Yorkshire, England. Here's more information (photos, description, etc.), from Haworth Village.
  • In Ch 1 of the novel, we read: "Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff's dwelling. 'Wuthering' being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had the foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones."
  • In the Preface, we read: "It is rustic all through. It is Moorish and wild, and knotty as a root of heath. Nor was it natural that it should be otherwise; the author being herself a native and nursling of the moors. Doubtless, had her lot been cast in a town, her writings, if she had written at all, would have possessed another character. Even had a chance or taste led her to choose a similar subject, she would have treated it otherwise... her native hills were far more to her than a spectacle; they were what she lived for, and by, as much as the wild birds, their tenants, or as the heather, their produce. Her descriptions, then, of natural scenery are what they should be, and all they should be."
  • We also read in the Preface: "Having avowed that over much of 'Wuthering Heights' there broods 'a horror of great darkness'; that, in its storm-heated and electrical atmosphere, we seem at times to breathe lightning: let me point to those spots where clouded daylight and the eclipsed sun still attest their existence."

The setting of the place--so dark moody and stormy--also sets the perfect stage for her obstinate lovers, who carry on such a tumultuous relationship. And, with ghostly visitations, and multiple generations in the mix, it's all a mess of supernatural portents and mad passions. (We could almost recollect a Shakespearean tragedy.) Every relationship is charged...

The landscape is the personification of the turmoil experienced by the characters of Wuthering Heights. Also, the raw, even (what has been described as) animalistic passions of the novel reminds us once again of the long and controversial history of the novel.

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Lombardi, Esther. "What's Important About The Title of 'Wuthering Heights'?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, thoughtco.com/importance-of-wuthering-heights-title-742023. Lombardi, Esther. (2020, August 28). What's Important About The Title of 'Wuthering Heights'? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/importance-of-wuthering-heights-title-742023 Lombardi, Esther. "What's Important About The Title of 'Wuthering Heights'?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/importance-of-wuthering-heights-title-742023 (accessed March 27, 2023).