In Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë makes use of atmospheric conditions to emphasize events and highlight the mood of the characters in the story. The Yorkshire moors are known for their harsh beauty and sometimes desolate landscape. This theme of a rough countryside filled with hidden beauties and seasonal storms fits well into the storyline of Wuthering Heights.
The title of the novel and the name of the Earnshaw’s dwelling are used by Emily Brontë’s to project the overall mood of the book. She herself writes that the word “Wuthering [is] a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station (the Earnshaw house) is exposed in stormy weather” (p.2).
Many of the notable events that take place between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are accompanied by a change in the weather. Emily Brontë uses the weather to show the beginning of a transition from calm to turbulent events in the storyline.
The book starts with Lockwood’s arrival, a severe winter storm raging outside foreshadows the unfriendly environment he is about to enter and the chaotic events that he is going to witness through Nellie’s storytelling. When Nelly begins to tell the story of the two neighboring households, she describes Old Mr. Earnshaw setting out to Liverpool on a “fine summer morning” (p.34).
Yet, when Old Mr. Earnshaw dies she relates that “A high wind blustered around the house, and roared in the chimney; it sounded wild and stormy” (p. 41).
Emily Brontë often uses the weather to accentuate the personality traits and moods of the characters throughout the novel. The countryside’s sometimes savage weather compares well to Heathcliff’s temperament. Heathcliff disappears for days on end into this desolate landscape and seems to be most at home when wandering about in the moors. He is quick to fly into a rage, like a winter storm beating at Wuthering Heights with wind and hail.
Heathcliff’s storms of rage often abate, but they can fly into full force without care for anything or anyone around him like the force of Mother Nature on the moors. Like a winter storm, Heathcliff’s strength cannot remain with him forever. At the end of the novel, Heathcliff’s rage has abated, and he has lost the will to render any more harm, with his death a stormy period in the history of the Earnshaws’ and the Lintons’ has passed.
The final pages of this novel leave the reader with a feeling of content and happiness which has once again descended upon Wuthering Heights. Emily Brontë writes that the weather is “sweet and warm” (p.305), she has brought the ‘storm’ to an end.