In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, numerous references are made to different conditions of weather. Even the title of the novel suggests the storminess present in nearly the entire book. The often-changing weather serves to signify the characters personalities, as well as the changes that they go through during the course of their lives. In fact, the first incidence of a reference being made to the weather occurs with a thought of Mr. Lockwood. Wuthering being a significant provincial adjective, he says, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather (46).
Because Wuthering Heights has been built on the moors, wind blows fiercely during storms. At this point, Lockwood knows little about Heathcliff, but the significance of the houses name will become more apparent to him later in the novel. After getting settled into his new house at Thrushcross Grange, Lockwood decides to pay a visit to Heathcliff. He arrives at the house just as snow is starting to fall and observes the yard. On that bleak hilltop, he notes, the earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb (51).
While it was cold at his own house, it seems even colder here, and the weather is beginning to get worse. It isnt even until he is at the gate of Wuthering Heights that the snow starts to fall. As will later be shown, the earth at Wuthering Heights is as cold and hard as Heathcliffs heart. He provides Lockwood with little food or comforts at his arrival and does not attempt to be a gracious host. It is only with a great deal of gruffness that he decides to allow Lockwood to spend the night at his house until he can go home the next morning. This is one of the first indications of Heathcliffs lack of compassion for the rest of humanity.
The next day, Heathcliff offers to accompany Lockwood on his way back home, explaining that he will not be able to find the way on his own. While Lockwood thought he would be able to find his way home based on rocks sticking up along the path, he finds the hills to be one billowy, white ocean; the swells and falls… blotted out from the chart which my yesterdays walk left pictured in my mind (72-3). The long, winding path nearest to Wuthering Heights is much harder to travel than the one that leads to Thrushcross Grange, and it is easy to get lost.
The first path resembles Heathcliffs own path to the wild and contemptuous man he has become. If Wuthering Heights is hopelessness and desolation, Thrushcross Grange is peace and salvation. Heathcliff leaves Lockwood at this point, telling his tenant that he will be able to make it the rest of the way on his own. Heathcliff lives at Wuthering Heights because a desolate place is where he belongs, and his not walking the rest of the way to Thrushcross Grange is symbolic of his not being able, or even wanting, to travel toward happiness. Any happiness he had ended when Catherine died.
One big turning point marked by stormy weather in the book is the day Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights for the first time. After hearing Catherine say that she could never marry him, Heathcliffs heart is broken and he creeps out of the house. When Catherine realizes his absence, she gets extremely agitated, pacing from the gate to the door of the house and wondering where he could be. The weather in this scene is very ominous. It was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder, Nelly tells Lockwood (124). Not much later, a horrible storm begins.
There was a violent wind, Nelly says, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building… but the uproar passed away in twenty minutes, leaving us all unharmed, excepting Cathy, who got thoroughly drenched (125). Although it is the middle of summer, one of the times a storm like this one is unlikely occur, Heathcliffs disappearance seems to bring it about. Catherines relationship with Heathcliff is as mysterious and powerful as the storm, which is why she stands out in the downpour without giving a second thought to her wellbeing.
Their relationship has always been wild; they spent much of their childhood running among the moors, where they were unrestricted and free to be themselves. Heathcliff has run off into these moors again, in the midst of the storm. The violent storm, complete with lightning fierce enough to split a tree, symbolizes the wrenching split of their intense bond. The day preceding and morning after Catherines death are surprisingly beautiful. On the day before she dies, the sun is shining and the sound of a flowing brook can be heard through her window.
Though Catherine is near death, one good thing happens to her on that day Heathcliff comes to see her. Their reunion is bittersweet. He is anguished by her sickly appearance and riddled with guilt and despair, and she expresses fury at him that he abandoned her and that she is now dying because of it. But then they embrace, and nothing could possibly tear them apart. The two who were always in love and meant to be together finally are, unfortunately right before they will have to be torn apart for the final time. Very early the next morning, Catherine gives birth to Cathy and passes away two hours later.
She dies appropriately in darkness, but the next mornings sunshine fills the house with a soft glow. Edgar and Heathcliff are distraught and quiet, but the reason for the sunshine is that Cathy has found peace at last. Her brow smooth, her lids closed, her lips wearing the expression of a smile, Nelly says. No angel in heaven could be more beautiful than she appeared; and I partook of the infinite calm in which she lay (201). Catherines life had been filled with turmoil: the death of her father, Heathcliffs departure, marriage to someone she did not love, and long periods of illness.
Death was the only thing that brought her any relief from her suffering, and the sun shining from the heavens expressed the way she was finally free from pain. Years later, the young Cathy is grown and marries Heathcliffs son, Linton, who soon dies. She later falls in love with Hareton Earnshaw, who returns her love, and in this she finds happiness that her mother was never able to know. Heathcliff is angered, but one night he walks out of the house, and when he returns, his normally bitter countenance has changed to one of a strange happiness.
Warm, sunny spring days with bright blue skies follow his return for four days in which he refuses to eat anything and locks himself in his room. Then the weather changed. The next evening, it rained all night and into the morning. Nelly, taking a walk around the yard, noticed that Heathcliffs window was open and the rain was pouring in. The days leading to Heathcliffs death, he finally managed to make some peace with himself and the world, as Cathy had in her death. But his changing mood and changed behavior could not make him a better person than he always had been.
He died that night with a frightful, life-like gaze of exultation… and his parted lips, and sharp white teeth sneered too (365). It is difficult to know what Heathcliff was thinking in his final moments. While her death was surrounded by sunshine, he died during a night of merciless rain. Despite her fits of temper and selfishness, Catherine was always a warm-hearted person deep down, as shown by the way she would stay to console people after hurting their feelings when she was a child.
But Heathcliffs only expression of any compassion was toward Catherine; otherwise, he was as cold as the rain that soaked his lifeless corpse. The weather present at his death served as a fitting end to his tortured life. Emily Bronte makes good use of the weather in important parts of Wuthering Heights. The climates allow the reader insight into the minds, personalities, and situations of the characters, who are as complex as the settings in which they find themselves. Snow in the beginning of autumn is not surprising in a book where love is found, lost, and found again, sometimes in another person and sometimes in death.