The Role of Books in Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte's 1847 masterpiece of English literature, Wuthering Heights, is a very deep and complex book that cannot simply be classified as a love story since there is no traditional happy ending for the primary characters and the heroine dies halfway through the book. This book is such a classic because Bronte has the ability to transform characters feelings onto the paper like no one else can. One important theme that relates to most of the characters in Wuthering Heights is that of books and the role they play throughout the story. There is no simple response to this question since the answer differs with each individual character. It is evident, though, that books are very important to the various relationships encountered in this story and that they can be interpreted in many different ways.
The first incident in which books play a role in this story is also one of the most powerful scenes in the entire book.
It occurs when Mr. Lockwood has determined that he must stay the night at Wuthering Heights, his landlord's estate. Heathcliff's servant, Zillah, shows Mr. Lockwood to his room and cautions him to "hide his candle and not make a noise" since Heathcliff would not willingly approve of his staying in that room. Just after Mr. Lockwood enters the room, he discovers three names carved over and over onto the ledge near the window, Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, and Catherine Linton. Mr. Lockwood begins paging through and examining the collection of books he determines to be Catherine's. The books, he notices, have been well used judging from their dilapidation and "scarcely one chapter had escaped a pen-and-ink commentary at least, the appearance of one covering every morsel of blank that the printer had left." After a short time, Mr. Lockwood dozes off but is awaken quickly by the sound of tapping on the casement window. He sleepily decides that it is the rapping of a nearby tree branch and goes back to sleep. Not much later, he dreams that he is again awakened by the same sound and tries to open the window and break off the source of the distraction. He cannot open it and, breaking the glass, reaches for the branch. To his absolute horror, he finds himself grasping a little ice-cold hand while "a most melancholy voice" sobs, "Let me in let me in!" In a sense of panic, Mr. Lockwood screams, "Who are you?" The young voice replies, "Catherine Linton, I'm home; I'd lost my way on the moor!" In his terror Mr. Lockwood agrees to let the girl in if she will just let go of his wrist. She does but Mr. Lockwood piles a mound of books over the broken window in the shape of a pyramid. The books begin to creep forward and just when they seem about to topple, Mr. Lockwood screams and awakens.
This scene shows the important role books take on in Wuthering Heights. They seem to have the power to transport Mr. Lockwood between the realms of the real world and the spiritual world. Mr. Lockwood fell asleep reading Catherine's old books which contained Catherine's diary. While dreaming, Mr. Lockwood was in the spiritual world because he was able to communicate and even touch Catherine who had been dead for more than fifteen years. By piling up the books on the windowsill, he was able to bring himself back to the real world and create a barrier which Catherine's ghost was not able to cross. This shows that the books also can play two roles at the same time, they are both creating and destroying. They were able to create a way for Catherine to make her spirit's presence known and they also destroyed it by acting as a blockade between her and Mr. Lockwood.
Another example of the role books play in Wuthering Heights is the scene where the second Catherine and Linton get in a fight. Linton has asked Cathy to spend more time with him whenever Heathcliff is hunting on the moors. Linton then tells her that she will love him more than she loves her father, therefore they should get married. This angers Catherine who replies, "No! I should never love anybody better than Papa." Linton then took it one step too far by adding, "Your mother hated your father: now then." This enrages Cathy who, in her passion, "gave the chair a violent push, and caused him to fall against one arm." This puts the sickly Linton in a coughing fit, which caused Cathy to forget her anger and feel sorry for the boy. Cathy is about to leave when her cousin throws a tantrum and demands that Cathy keep seeing him. In the weeks that follow, Cathy goes to Wuthering Heights daily to visit Linton. They talk and walk into the moors and rekindle their relationship by reading books.
This is a good example of the creating forces that books possess in this novel. They are able to create relationships and renew lost ones. Moreover, they act as a channeling device for Cathy's emotions. Cathy has very powerful emotions and by reading with Linton, she is able to channel some of them away and not get so angry with Linton.
There are two sides to books in this story as there are two sides to Catherine, her joyful and free Heathcliff side and her civilized and caged Edgar side. In this example where they act as a positive or creating force, books can represent what Heathcliff is to Catherine, true love. Where they act as a blocking or destroying force, like when they were placed by Mr. Lockwood to keep Catherine out, they represent Edgar.
In the novel, as a whole, books are generally portrayed as good, although the opposite is also apparent in places. Likewise, illiterate characters, such as Hareton, are portrayed to be evil. Throughout his childhood, Hareton was shielded from education hence he grows up miserable and mean. When he begins having a relationship with Catherine after Linton has died, he is shown to have more human qualities such as love and compassion. It happens that this change took place just after he decided he would learn to read. Hareton's change from an angry child to caring adult happened from the effect the books had on him. The theme of books in this novel can be interpreted many ways, but it is certain that their role is very intertwined with the emotions and relationships of the characters of Wuthering Heights.