The Brontes Mystery and Suspense in the Wuthering Heights

Analyse how Bronte creates mystery and suspense throughout wuthering heights. “But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark- skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman, that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure—and rather morose.

Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling-to manifestations of mutual kindliness.

He’ll love and hate, equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again- No, I’m running on too fast-I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him”.

This passage, spoken in the voice of Lockwood, displays the first of many attempts in the book to explain the mysterious figure of Heathcliff, his character and motivations.

The reader, whom is just beginning to enter into Wuthering Heights as a novel, parallels the situation of Lockwood, just beginning to enter into Wuthering Heights as a house. Like Lockwood, readers of the novel confront all sorts of strange scenes and characters- Heathcliff the strangest of all—and must venture interpretations of them. The reader is given an uneasy and apprehensive feeling towards the scene; immediately foreshadowing ideas of danger and potential threat.

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We are given a sense of fear; that mystery lurks in the hallways or the old house.

Lockwood, in claiming to recognize in Heathcliff a kindred soul, whom he can understand “by instinct,” makes assumptions upon his host, which are soon proven to be false. Lockwood, while he rather proudly displays himself as a great misanthrope and hermit, actually resembles Heathcliff very little. In the many misjudgements and blunders Lockwood makes in his early visits to Wuthering Heights, we see how easy it is to misinterpret Heathcliff’s complex character, and the similarity between our own position and Lockwood’s becomes a warning to us as readers. We, too, should question our instincts.

In Chapter III, Lockwood relates the first of the troubling dreams he has in Catherine’s old bed. This scene testifies to Lockwood’s role as a reader within the novel, representing the external reader-the perplexed outsider determined to discover the secrets of Wuthering Heights. Upon Lockwood’s first arrival at the house, no one answers his knocks on the door, and he cries, “I don’t care-I will get in!” The same blend of frustration has marked the responses of many readers and critics when facing the mystery of Wuthering Heights.

The connection between Lockwood and readers is particularly clear in this passage. Catherine first appears to Lockwood, as she does to readers, as her name, scratched into the paint. When Lockwood reads over the scraped letters, they seem to take on a ghostly power -the simile Brontë uses is that they are “as vivid as spectres.” Ghosts, of course, constitute a key image throughout the novel. We see that Brontë, by using Lockwood as a stand-in for her readers, indicates how she wants her readers to react to her book; she wants her words to come vividly before them, to haunt them.

The first paragraph of the novel provides a vivid physical picture of him, as Lockwood describes how his “black eyes” withdraw suspiciously under his brows at Lockwood’s approach. The desire to understand him and his motivations has kept countless readers engaged in the novel.

Heathcliff, however, defies being understood, and it is difficult for readers to resist seeing what they want or expect to see in him. The novel teases the reader with the possibility that Heathcliff is something other than what he seems-that his cruelty is merely an expression of his frustrated love for Catherine, or that his sinister behaviours serve to conceal the possibility that he is, in fact, romantic hero. We expect Heathcliff’s character to contain such a hidden virtue because he resembles a hero in a romance novel. Traditionally, romance novel heroes appear dangerous, brooding, and cold at first, only later to emerge as fiercely devoted and loving.

Foreshadowing is a persistent theme throughout the novel. References to death, such as Mr Earnshaw and Hindley’s wife represent tragedy throughout the family within the walls of Wuthering Heights, as well as themes of emotion and suffering. Violence occurs throughout the novel, such as Catherine’s violence as a young girl, and the dog at Thrushcross Grange. Accomplished authors use foreshadowing in order to ensure the narrative of verisimilitude. In a sense, the use of foreshadowing creates a certain intrigue for the reader as the suggestions and hints a reader’s desire to continue the narrative in order to discover what does happen, as well as to ascertain the author’s point in writing, or the theme.

Lockwood’s dreams set up the mystery of who Catherine Earnshaw Linton really was. They also heighten and foreshadow some of the cruelty that is evident in later parts of the book. For instance, Lockwood rubs the wrist of Catherine’s ghost across a pane of glass so she will let go of him. The supernatural elements of his dreams also add to the Gothic mystery surrounding Wuthering Heights. They also heighten the tension in the novel which is initially established with Lockwood’s arrival and his strange treatment by Heathcliff. All of these occurrences eventually lead both Lockwood and the readerto try to solve these mysteries.

Gothic themes in Wuthering Heights create a tone of suspense and mystery. From beginning to end, Wuthering Heights is a novel full of ghosts and spirits. Dead characters refuse to leave the living alone, and the living accept that the deceased find ways of coming back to haunt them. In a departure from traditional Gothic tales, these hauntings are sometimes welcome. Heathcliff, for instance, repeatedly seeks out visitations from the ghost of his beloved Catherine. He even digs up her grave in order to be closer to her. Brontë uses otherworldly figures to emphasize the ferocity of Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s love; their connection is so powerful that even death can’t stop it.

Wuthering Heights has just about all the elements of a Gothic novel, but the characters are a lot more complex than your average Gothic protagonists/antagonists. Heathcliff’s motivations and responses go way beyond the flat character of the average Gothic villain. Catherine is far from the vulnerable, threatened maiden in need of rescuing. And instead of a ruined, crumbling castle, we have Wuthering Heights. Also, the novel provokes greater consideration of morality than the usual action-driven Gothic novel. These factors allowed Brontë to write a chilling, captivating novel which holds the reader’s attention by creating an aura of mystery and unanswered questions.

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The Brontes Mystery and Suspense in the Wuthering Heights. (2023, Feb 20). Retrieved from

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