'Wuthering Heights' Quotes

The best from Emily Bronte's gothic fiction novel

These selected quotes from Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights pertain to its main themes and symbols, namely love, hate, revenge, and the way nature mirrors—or is used as a metaphor—for the characters’ personalities. 

Quotes About Passion and Love

“I wish I were out of doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free . . . and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them!” (Chapter 12)

When refusing food and drink, Catherine does not understand why she is not getting her way, and she thinks that those who were her friends have now turned against her. She can barely handle the thought that her husband, well aware of her condition, has been in his library without any seeming concern for her health. During the delirium caused by self-starvation, Cathy reveals to a doting Edgar that her heart does not belong to him, Thrushcross Grange, and their refined lifestyle, but to the moors and, by extension, to Heathcliff. 

“You said I killed you—haunt me then!” (Chapter 16)

This is the prayer that Heathcliff says at Cathy’s gravesite, while the house is in mourning. He is fine with her haunting him, provided she does not leave him “in this abyss, where I cannot find [her].” Echoing Cathy’s “I am Heathcliff,” he says “I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

“Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? If not, is he a devil?” (Chapter 13)

This question appears in a letter Isabella addresses to Nelly after returning to the Heights following her elopement with Heathcliff. After having been disowned by her brother Edgar, she only has Nelly as confidante, and, in this letter, she admits to the abuse she suffered at Heathcliff’s hands. “I sometimes wonder at him with an intensity that deadens my fear,” she continues. “Yet, I assure you, a tiger or a venomous serpent could not rouse terror in me equal to that which he wakens.” When she finally flees, she refers to him as “incarnate goblin” and “monster.”

Associating Heathcliff with the devil is part of Wuthering Heights being a tribute to Milton’s Paradise Lost, where Heathcliff is the moorland incarnation of his anti-heroic Satan, whose conscience had “turned his heart into earthly hell.” He does preserve a sliver of humanity, mainly through Brontë’s overarching idea that his viciousness was rooted in the misery and the mistreatment he had suffered. In fact, even more innocent characters, such as Isabella, become evil and vindictive due to the abuse they suffered.

Nature Metaphors

“It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.” (Chapter 10) 

This sentence, which Nelly Dean uses to describe the first year of happiness in Cathy and Edgar Linton’s marriage, is meant to showcase the personality of the heroine. She does not make a big effort in trying to win the Lintons over, who are way too eager to get into her orbit, much like a honeysuckle is eager to wind itself around a thorn.

Like Heathcliff, Cathy has no tenderness nor passion for anybody, and she is far from being what we could call a “likeable” character. During her father’s decline, for example, she enjoys harassing him, and "she was never so happy as when we were all scolding her at once." She is so sure of Heathcliff’s and Linton’s devotion towards her that she is not particularly interested in winning other people over. 

"He might as well plant an oak in a flower-pot and expect it to thrive, as imagine he can restore her to vigor in the soil of his shallow cares!" (Chapter 14)

In this speech to Nelly, Heathcliff dismisses Edgar’s way of loving Cathy. This speech relies on a repeated motif from the novel, using imagery from nature to describe a character. Just like Cathy had likened Heathcliff’s soul to the arid wilderness of the moors, and just like Nelly equated the Lintons with honeysuckles (cultivated and fragile), here Heathcliff tries to convey that the Lintons’ ways of life (forcing an oak—Cathy—in a flowerpot) is not the correct way to love a person such as her. 

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff.” (Chapter 9)

Cathy utters these words to Nelly Dean when she confesses to her that she feels unsure about Edgar Linton’s proposal, but can’t marry Heathcliff because it would hurt her social standing. The reason she wants to marry Linton is so that she and Heathcliff can escape the oppressive world of Wuthering Heights.

Brontë here uses metaphors of nature to talk about the inner worlds of her characters. By equating Cathy’s love for Linton to foliage, she makes it clear that it’s just an infatuation that will eventually wither; whereas her love for Heathcliff is equated to rocks, showing how that type of love is maybe less pleasant on the surface, but completely necessary as the foundation of her being.

Quotes on Revenge

“I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.” (Chapter 11)

Even though Heathcliff is the main character driven by revenge, Cathy has quite a vengeful personality, too. She makes this proclaim after she finds out about Heathcliff’s and Isabella’s burgeoning romance, which prompts Edgar to throw Heathcliff out of the house. Cathy feels anger towards both men, and resolves that the best way to hurt them both is through self-destruction. Upon Edgar’s return, she explodes into hysterical rage, a reaction which is at first thought of as an act but eventually leads to self-imprisonment and starvation. Cathy's episode leads her to the verge of delirium, from which she never fully recovers. 

"I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally—infernally! . . . and if you think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot: and if you fancy I’ll suffer unrevenged, I’ll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while! Meantime, thank you for telling me your sister-in-law’s secret: I swear I’ll make the most of it." (Chapter 11)

Heathcliff speaks these words to Catherine after she walked in on him embracing Isabella. He speaks to her about his plans for revenge, using Isabella Linton as his pawn. And while Heathcliff’s revenge fantasies had been there since he was abused by Hindley Earnshaw, it’s Catherine’s marriage to Linton that triggers his drive for revenge once and for all. 

"I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and when everything is ready and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished! My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself…But where is the use? I don’t care for striking…I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing." (chapter 33)

These words are spoken by a low-spirited Heathcliff, who has grown more and more fretful and delirious. Now that his enemies have suffered all that Heathcliff had intended for them to experience, he lost his drive to end his revenge. Despite having the power to do so, he realized that it would not bring him joy anymore, as getting even with his enemies did not bring Cathy back to him. Also, he makes this remark after noticing how much Catherine and Hareton resemble the late Cathy and his former self.