by Emily Brontë
Where It All Goes Down
Yorkshire Moors, Northern England; roughly 1750-1802
Set in the harsh and isolated Yorkshire moors in Northern England, Wuthering Heights practically makes a character out of its geography. Gimmerton is the nearest town and provides the location for characters like Mr. Kenneth, the doctor, and Mr. Green, the lawyer. Liverpool is a distant port city associated with the dark, foreign, gypsy child, Heathcliff. But more important than any sense of a city center are the regional markers and sights, such as the "golden rocks" of Penistone Crags, black hollows, bleak hilltops, bilberry bushes, moonlit scenery, miles of heath, and winding roads. It's easy to get lost in this barren landscape, especially in the snow. The feelings of desolation and confusion provoked by the setting strongly contribute to the tone of the novel.
The story spans roughly fifty years, the last half of the eighteenth century, though Lockwood's narrative begins in 1801.
Weather plays a big role and tends to reflect some of the desolate attitudes of the characters. (The fancy term for this literary motif is "pathetic fallacy.") The landscape can be pitiless and forbidding – as with Lockwood's snowbound night at the Heights – or a Garden of Eden-like escape from the tyrannies of the home – as with the rambles young Catherine and Heathcliff take in order to avoid Hindley's cruelty.
The two main sites of action, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, are opposed in many ways: Wuthering Heights is dark and cold, located on a hill high above the more bright and inviting Thrushcross Grange, which is situated in the valley below. The two houses are only four miles apart, and yet characters are constantly getting lost while traveling between the two. There is continuous back and forth movement on horse and foot.
Access to the Grange symbolizes the acquisition of a certain social status. Though there is no social scene as such, Catherine is still gratified by her acceptance into the Linton manor. Heathcliff, on the other hand, is not welcome in either household. So issues of setting, access, and mobility reflect many of the novel's themes of social class, family, property, and estrangement.