In this article you will learn about the archetypes in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, the classic novel containing various archetypes commonly seen in literature throughout the ages.
What are the Archetypes in Wuthering Heights?
In Heathcliff Emily Bronte has embodied both the archetypal villain and the archetypal romantic hero, two seemingly contradictory archetypes, in one character.
Heathcliff is a romantic hero because of his single-minded determination to be with his one true love at any cost, unable to see beyond the woman who he deems fate has determined he should be with an utterly devoted to
her even beyond her death. However, he is also an archetypal villain, one who acts in an utterly evil manner in order to achieve that which he desires, willing to hurt anyone, even his own child, because of the pain he feels and completely unable to empathise in any way with anyone else.
Heathcliff also embodies the archetypal outcast, one shunned by society because of their social status or other factors which makes them intrinsically different and therefore unacceptable.
He is bullied by Hindley and Edgar in particular, and not accepted as a part of the wider society in which he lives even when he himself is a wealthy man.
Heathcliff and Catherine are representative of the archetypal star crossed lovers, destined by fate to be together but kept apart by factors outside of their control – in this instance the conventions of society and the will of their family.
Despite their passionate love they are unable to overcome the odds against them and destroy everyone around them as a result.
Nelly, the co-narrator, is the archetypal nurturing motherly figure who nurses Lockwood back to health and cares for the Earnshaw family throughout the novel with great compassion and sense.
Isabella is the archetypal innocent and damsel in distress, easily manipulated into marrying Heathcliff due to her naive and trusting view of the world before becoming a woman in need of rescue from the appalling treatment at the hands of her husband.
Wuthering Heights Book Summary
- Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, visits his landlord Heathcliff at his home, Wuthering Heights.
- There he meets Cathy Linton, a quiet young woman, servant Joseph and Hareton, an uneducated young man.
- All are inhospitable, despite Lockwood staying the night as they are snowed in. While reading the diaries of former resident Catherine Earnshaw Lockwood has a nightmarish vision of her ghost.
- Lockwood is told the story of the residents of Wuthering Heights by his housekeeper.
- Thirty years earlier the Earnshaws lived at Wuthering Heights with their children Catherine and Hindley. Earnshaw adopts young Heathcliff and treats him as his favourite, neglecting his own children.
- Heathcliff grows close to Catherine but is beaten by Hindley.
- Hindley becomes master of the Heights on his father’s death, only allowing Heathcliff to stay as a servant.
- Heathcliff and Catherine spy on the Lintons at Thrushcross Grange but when their dog injures Catherine the Lintons take her in, sending Heathcliff away.
- When the Lintons visit the Heights, Edgar Linton and Hindley fight Heathcliff, with Heathcliff banished to attic and vowing revenge.
- Hindley’s wife dies giving birth to son Hareton. Catherine gets engaged to Edgar despite loving Heathcliff, confessing she will not marry Heathcliff due to his low social status. Heathcliff overhears and flees.
- Heathcliff returns three years later a wealthy gentleman, encouraging the infatuation of Edgar’s sister Isabella with him as revenge.
- Edgar cuts off contact with Heathcliff and a pregnant Catherine, despondent, refuses to eat. Heathcliff elopes with Isabella but their relationship fails.
- On hearing Catherine is dying he visits in secret before she dies giving birth to Cathy.
- Isabella flees and gives birth to Heathcliff’s child Linton. Hindley dies, leaving Heathcliff master of Wuthering Heights.
- Twelve years on, Isabella dies and Heathcliff insists his son Linton come live with him rather than Edgar.
- Cathy and Linton develop a relationship, with Heathcliff scheming to ensure they marry.
- When Edgar dies he insists they live with him and, in his madness, reveals he dug up Catherine’s grave when she died and is haunted by her.
- Linton dies and Cathy is forced to remain at Wuthering Heights.
- Lockwood moves away but later learns that Heathcliff, increasingly insane, refused to eat and has died.
- Cathy and Hareton marry and move to Thrushcross Grange. Locals believe the moors are haunted by Catherine and Heathcliff.
Wuthering Heights Archetype Examples
- Romantic hero
- Star crossed lovers
- Damsel in distress
Want more literary archetypes?
Go check out our extensive list of archetypes in literature to find out more about the characters seen in literature throughout the ages.