Emily Brontë

A Declaration of Catherine and Heathcliff’s Love

The Life of Emily Brontë

Biographical Information:
Emily Brontë was born on July 30th 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire, which is located in England. She was born to her mother, Maria Branwell Brontë and her father, Patrick Brontë and was the fifth of six children. Unfortunately, Emily and her family lost her mother early on, just shortly after her younger sister Anne, who eventually became a writer too, was born. As a result of losing her mother, Emily’s maternal aunt, Elizabeth Branwell, took on the responsibility as mother and caretaker of the family and came to assist the family. Both Patrick and Elizabeth Branwell were Methodists and this is where she got some of her religious education. Tragedy struck the Brontë family once again when Emily was seven when her two older sisters, Elizabeth and Maria died from tuberculosis (Brownson). After this, Emily’s father made the decision to keep his daughters at home instead of sending them back to school. It is perhaps this turn of events that helped Emily and her two sisters become writers since most of their free time was now spent at home reading and brainstorming and exchanging stories between siblings. Emily, her two sisters Charlotte and Anne, her brother and even her father are all said to have had great imaginations and creativity. Though Emily had many deaths in her family her upbringing was reported as surprisingly normal. (Brownson)

Emily went on to write almost 200 poems in her life but only a small fraction were published in her life time (Brownson). Her only novel,Wuthering Heights, is one of her most famous works. Emily was often seen as a very strange woman who never was able to leave this isolation. This made her seem even more mysterious and created many myths about her. Not much is known about the last the last couple of years of Emily’s life except for the fact that her family continued to be cursed with sickness. This included her father becoming nearly blind and her brother dying from consumption (also known as tuberculosis) in September 1848. She became sick with consumption and refused medical attention in October 1848. Emily sadly died at the age of 30 only a few months later on December 9 (Brownson).

Throughout the Victorian Era, social class was an important topic of debate and that can be seen throughout Wuthering Heights. This topic clearly influences Emily’s work since society was very concerned with one’s social class as well as the restricted rights for women, despite a women’s social class status. Emily describes how one’s social class affects his or her character rather than discussing the issue as a satire. Throughout her work, Emily displays afocus on the fact that actions have consequences and that the characteristics that one displays is very important to their overall character as a person. Her focus on the issues of conduct also helps to contribute to make Wuthering Heights a realistic novel. During this time period there was also a loss of optimism and a sense of uncertainty in what was to come. This may be reflected in Emily’s work as Wuthering Heights constantly has people dying rather unexpected and most of the people end up living pretty miserable lives.

Assessment of Wuthering Heights

Family Connections

The Brontë sisters

Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, but it was Charlotte who edited and published the novel after Emily’s death, in addition to penning the preface to the work (it was originally published in 1847, a year before Emily died and three years before Charlotte’s edition was published). Charlotte additionally added a Biographical Notice, publicly admitting for the first time that the mysterious authors Currer, Ellis, and Action Bell were in fact three women (Ref 2). Charlotte takes the preface as a chance to both praise her sister’s work and express doubt on the inclusion of some of the controversial elements.

The Preface reveals that, while Charlotte admired her sister’s work, she was not afraid to point to its “faults,” or to debate the controversial elements of Wuthering Heights. She discusses the great loss that many readers will experience, as anyone unfamiliar with the passions and wildness of northern England will not be able to appreciate Emily’s skill in representing these qualities. She also acknowledges that Emily–a woman not inclined to converse with the people around her yet knew much about them by listening–may have had a darker view of people than most; as Charlotte claims, when all one knows of people is facts about them, the mind clings to “tragic and terrible traits,” which stick out in memory. Charlotte also expresses doubt that it is “right or advisable” for her sister to have written a character as dark as Heathcliff; however, she notes that it hardly matters, because the writer is “not always master” of her art, and “little deserve[s] blame” if her creative product is unattractive (Ref 3). Even having pointed to these faults, though, Charlotte herself does not even hint at the contention that any of these elements make Wuthering Heights of lesser quality. In fact, she ends her Preface first on the concept that Emily–or an author, for that matter–is not necessarily responsible for the controversial elements of the novel, at least the ones that she addresses in the Preface. She also notes that, despite all this, Wuthering Heights is an impressive work, and ends her Preface on that note.

Race/Social Class
Wuthering Heights mainly follows characters Heathcliff and Catherine. Healthcliff comes from a gypsy background, and is adopted into the Earnshaw family. Both the father and the daughter, Catherine, are very welcoming to Heathcliff. Hindley Earnshaw however, is not very welcoming. Much like the Wuthering Heights society, Heathcliff isconsidered a beast because of both his ethnicity and also his poor economic background.

The way that Heathcliff is treated reflects the moral intent of Wuthering Heights, which is to criticize society and the definition of civilization. Following the in the tradition of other famous Victorian novelists, Wuthering Heights fiercely criticizes certain elements of society. Emily Brontë’s writing implies that the concept of civilization promotes selfishness, that organized religion is hypocritical, and that the basis for family life is not love, but greed. Each of these criticisms are typical of Victorian writing; all can easily be found in Emily’s sister’s writing, or even in Dickens’ novels. Heathcliff’s family, the Earnshaws, are the vehicles for many of these criticisms. Mrs. Earnshaw’s desire to be rid of Heathcliff, in particular, reflects a selfishness seen as acceptable within the world of the novel. Additionally, the behavior of the Earnshaw family demonstrates the contention that family life in the society of the time was built around the desire for wealth or power. Brontë moves outside the family in order to criticize organized religion. The character Joseph is hypocritical in typical Victorian fashion (Robert Browning takes the same approach in “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”): he sees everyone damned but himself, but any outside observer can tell that he is truly selfish and worse than those he condemns.

Despite these social differences Catherine and Heathcliff fall in love. As a child Catherine is described as being wicked, and she did whatever she pleased. Heathcliff would have followed her anywhere. Yet, as they grew older their love became overshadowed by social status. Heathcliff knows that Catherine would never marry him without having any prospects. He leaves to make something of himself to impress Catherine. When Heathcliff returns he discovers that Catherine had already married a man named Linton. Linton came from a wealthy family with high social status. Both Catherine and Heathcliff know that Catherine married merely for money and class. Upon learning of her marriage Healthcliff tries in a doomed attempt to convince Catherine to be with him. He explains “if he loved with all the powers of puny being, he couldn’t love much as in eighty years as I could in a single day.”

Catherine even tells Nelly “My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.—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! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable.” (Bronte, 79)

Unfortunately, Catherine chooses vanity and wealth above the love that they share. She later dies with regret wishing that she had spent her life with Heathcliff.

Throughout most of the novel Heathcliff is constantly looking for revenge. He does everything he can to hurt those who are related to Catherine and Edgar. Healthcliff marries Edgars sister in order to spite him and Catherine. Throughout their marriage he treats his wife with hate because she is not Catherine. He also holds distaste for his own son because of his Isabel. Healthcliffs last act of revenge was hiring Catherine’s daughter to work for him. He treats her horribly because she reminds him of Catherine, he believes the birth killed Catherine, and because he wasn’t her father.

The ghost of Catherine haunts Heathcliff constantly. Her ghost drives him insane, but he would rather be insane than live in a world without Catherine in it. At the end of the novel Heathcliff is found dead in the Moors after walking with Catherines ghost.


  • Catherines ghost drives Healthcliff to insanity. Her ghost reminds him of the pain of not being able to be with her.
  • Yet, it also brings him peace. Knowing that Catherines spirit never left him makes him feel whole.
  • Upon Heathcliffs death he is seen happy and smiling with Catherines ghost. He died happy and at peace because he was with Catherine.
  • Catherine’s ghost represents Heathcliffs longing but also his peace

The Moors

Example of Moors

  • The Moors symbolizes youth and freedom. This was the place Heathcliff and Catherine would run away together as children.
  • It represented hope and contrasted with Wuthering Heights where they could not be together and had to uphold to social expectations.
  • In comparison to society, the Moors were wild and unpredictable. It was a place for Catherine and Healthcliff to dream. Meanwhile, once back in society those dreams are crushed.

Other Works
Emily Brontë’s canon is not as extensive as that of other Victorian writers, in part due to her early death. Additionally, Wuthering Heights is by far the most famous of her works. However, she did have a history of talented writing, and was also a poet in addition to being novelist. Her poetry was published in the volume Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846) under the pen name Ellis Bell.

This might be helpful

Works Cited

E‍‍ditors, Biography.com. Emily Brontë. 23 10 2015. 20 4 2017. <http://www.biography.com/people/emily-bronte-9227381>.

Heathcliff and Catherine Image: https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/files//2018/06/il_340x270.1105653303_r6sx.jpg

Moors Image: https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/files//2018/06/wensleydale_yorkshire_dales_0.jpg

Family Image: https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/files//2018/06/BronteSisters-large-1.jpg

Brownson, Siobhan Craft. “Emily Brontë.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2017. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/emily-bronte>‍‍

Shapiro, Arnold. “Wuthering Heights as a Victorian Novel.” DISCovering Authors, Gale, 2003. Student Resources in Context, link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/EJ2101202067/SUIC?u=lblesd&xid=e1927b23. Accessed 28 Apr. 2017.

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.

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