Bronte’s descriptions of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are representative of the characters inhabiting them and their disposition at the time. The descriptions of the landscape, although not frequent in the first section of the novel, give an additional dimension to the characters, especially Heathcliff and Catherine, and also indicate that obviously there is much more to their pasts to be revealed.
Bronte’s first description of Wuthering Heights sets the tone for letting the reader into Heathcliff’s complex and tumultuous life, as she expresses her choice of words with “’Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather” (2). The appearance of Wuthering Heights during Lockwood’s visit is quite symbolic of Heathcliff and the despair that we do not yet know about. It is fitting that Heathcliff is described as “morose … some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride” (3). Lockwood describes a “grotesque carving” (2) at the threshold of Wuthering Heights, which also seems to be metaphoric of Heathcliff’s inner turmoil.
Later on in the novel, when Ellen is walking to Wuthering Heights, she describes a “weather-worn block … a hole near the bottom still full of snail-shells and pebbles, which we were very fond of storing there with more perishable things” (102). This is symbolic of Heathcliff on many levels -- the void in his life without Catherine, and possibly innocence or remnants of his early years still present in his mind.
During Heathcliff’s childhood, the Lintons’ occupation of Thrushcross Grange portrays the estate as a bit of a mystery. When Heathcliff peeks in the house, what he sees is “beautiful -- a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables … shimmering with little soft tapers” (43 - 44). The children are alone in a beautiful house, yet they are sad: “Isabella … lay screaming … Edgar stood on the hearth weeping silently, and in the middle of the table sat a little dog, shaking its paw and yelping” (44). While it may appear that the Linton children have wealth and nothing to be sad about, it is quite symbolic that wealth does not buy happiness.
I found Emily Bronte’s use of the weather and seasons to be quite interesting, similar to the way that Charlotte Bronte uses the seasons and elements in Jane Eyre. During Lockwood’s visit to Wuthering Heights, the weather is described as “misty and cold” (6). This is both foreshadowing of what he is about to experience and symbolic of the emptiness in Heathcliff’s life. Catherine’s longing for a different life are expressed when Bronte writes, “There was no moon, and everything beneath lay in darkness: not a light gleamed from any house, far or near -- all had been extinguished long ago; and those at Wuthering Heights were never visible -- still she asserted she caught their shining” (119). Before Catherine dies, “the scarcely perceptible wind fluttered its leaves at intervals” (148). She longs for Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff, as “[a]t Wuthering Heights [the bells] always sounded on quiet days following a great thaw or a season of steady rain” (148). The contrast of seasons, spring and fall, are contrasting what is about to happen to Catherine -- while her cycle is ending, her daughter’s is soon to begin. Additionally, after Catherine’s death, “the weather broke; the wind shifted from south to north-east, and brought rain first, then sleet and snow” (160). The turbulent weather is symbolic of what everyone feels -- the rain symbolizes a new beginning, and the beginning of winter is representative of the loss of Catherine -- life will not be the same for Heathcliff without Catherine.
I think that special attention should be paid to the use of thorns in the scenery and their use as a metaphor. Upon a re-read of the first descriptions of Wuthering Heights, I noticed a passage in which Bronte writes, “the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun” (2). This description is interesting when compared to a passage later on, after Catherine has gone to live at Thrushcross Grange. Bronte writes that Catherine living there “was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn” (86). The fact that Catherine is referred to as a “thorn” certainly broadens the implications of the earlier description of Wuthering Heights, as it not only foreshadows her “haunting,” but it also seems to say that although Catherine was at Thrushcross Grange, her soul still remains at Wuthering Heights with Heathcliff.
I think that when reading the second half of the novel, it will be interesting to continue to pay attention to the descriptions concerning Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross grange, and to consider what feelings are being conveyed with the changes in seasons.