Wuthering Heights

Use this comprehensive teachers' guide on Wuthering Heights to assist you in teaching this great work, with discussion questions and summaries of each chapter.
Teaching Strategies:
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Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

These activities are designed to analyze the information and ideas which students have gathered before and while reading the novel. They can be initiated at any time and modified to promote discussion and analysis.

1. Each small group will be assigned one of the main characters in the novel. Together list the main traits of this character. Choose a passage from the novel which best exemplifies the character. Read this passage and summarize your ideas about the character for the class. Then role play characters interacting with one another in several different scenarios:

a. Continue the conversation between Heathcliff and Catherine (after Nelly has left the room) on the afternoon of their quarrel.

b. Create the conversation between Isabella and Heathcliff in the garden on the day they eloped.

c. Create the conversation between Isabella and Linton when he comes to her bedside near the end of her life.

d. Create the interior conversation Heathcliff has with himself on the night he steals into the parlor to hold the dead Catherine's body in his arms.

The possibilities of scenes and created conversations are limitless, depending on time and the number of students you wish to participate in any one group.

2. Is Nelly Dean a good and loyal servant or is she manipulative and scheming? Pose this question to a panel of judges. Appoint a committee for Nelly's defense. Appoint a prosecuting committee. Use a debate format in which each group can make their presentation with a follow-up rebuttal. Each student in the class will get to make a judgment on Nelly's character, listing the arguments that convinced them.

3. How would this story be different if told from another point of view? Rewrite a key section, using a character other than Nelly Dean as the person telling the story.

4. Imagine Lockwood retelling the story of the Linton and Earnshaw families on his return to society. Write thumbnail sketches of the characters Heathcliff, Nelly, Young Cathy, and Hareton as they appeared to Lockwood. Note: In order to do this writing, you must have a clear idea of Lockwood's character and the way in which he views others.

5. Imagine Lockwood has to find a tenant to take over the Grange to live out the rest of his rental contract. How would he describe the location and the social life? Write a brief newspaper ad that would convince people to relocate to the country. Discuss what Lockwood would definitely leave out of his description.

6. Write Heathcliff's obituary. How would his life be described? How would he be remembered?

7. As a group select what you consider the key scenes in the unfolding of the action of the novel. Then work together to decide how to present theses scenes most effectively and dramatically. Each group will present their "play" of the novel, using correct chronological sequencing of events.

8. Write a letter from one character to another character, expressing the person's feelings and relationship to other characters.

9. Read one of Emily Brontë's poems about love, such as "Remembrance":

Cold in the earth – and the deep snow piled above thee
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my Only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave?

Cold in the earth, and fifteen wild Decembers
From those brown hills, have melted into spring –
Faithful indeed is the spirit and remembers
After such years of change and suffering!

No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me
All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given –
All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee.

(The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë. Ed. C.W. Hatfield. New York: Columbia University Press, 1941.)

Freely write about the connections between the poem and the love relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff.

10. View a video of the novel. One popular version stars Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff and Anna Calder-Marshall as Catherine. Watch for the significant changes between the novel and film. How does the director control our sympathy for Catherine and Heathcliff? (Wuthering Heights. Screenplay by Patrick Tilly. Produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson. Directed by Robert Fuest. England: American International Production, 1971.)

11. A technique called cybernetic strategy enables you to build on the analysis and responses to the novel of your classmates. Your teacher writes one different thought-provoking question on each of five sheets of poster-sized paper, and places the sheets, equally spaced, on the walls around the room with five chairs clustered around each sheet. The class is divided into groups of five, with each group assigned one sheet as their home base. Each group brainstorms and writes down their answers to each question. After five-seven minutes the teacher directs the groups to move to the next sheet and to add to the answers on that sheet. If there is time, the groups move around to all of the questions again, with subsequent moves limited to three-five minutes. At the end of the moves, the groups return to their home base to clarify and consolidate the answers. Then a member from each group reports to the whole class the synthesized answer for that group's question. (Note: Here are some synthesizing questions; these also can be done orally or as journal entries.

a. Compare and contrast the characters of Catherine and Young Cathy, Heathcliff and Hareton.

b. Identify (list) all the "love" relationships in the novel. What motivates each relationship or what is a person attracted to in the other?

c. List all the crucial events that Nelly influences. What are Nelly's motives?

d. List the characteristics of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. How do the descriptions reflect differences between the Earnshaws and the Lintons?)

12. The love relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff mirrors the love between Young Cathy and Hareton. How do the younger characters resemble their older counterparts? List the traits of Catherine; then list the traits of Cathy. How is the daughter like the mother? List the traits of Heathcliff and the traits of Hareton, the boy Heathcliff judges to be more his offspring than his own son, Linton. How is Hareton like Heathcliff? Then in the next stage consider how each of the younger generation is different from their "parents."

13. Study the theme of love as power by examining Old Earnshaw's relationship with his children and Heathcliff. What connections are established between love and control? How is the pattern of loving and withholding love continued in subsequent generations?

14. Read a modern novel of love across classes. How is it similar; how does it differ? (See bibliography)

15. As a group, describe a fictional situation of vengeance that could take place in a modern high school setting. Compare and contrast your story with Heathcliff's revenge. Discuss what motivates the avenger and the ultimate effect of the vengeful act.

16, Make a chart of Catherine's behavior after Heathcliff's return. What judgment does it lead you to make about her character? To what extent is she responsible for the events that follow?

17. Freely write about the feelings of Heathcliff after he leaves Wuthering Heights, convinced that he has been rejected by Catherine, and his return three years later. How does he feel when he first sees Catherine again? What does he say he has planned to do after seeing her? Why does he change his mind? When does he initiate his plan for revenge? How does it begin to develop? How would their lives have been different if Heathcliff had never returned?

18. How does Brontë maintain our sympathy for Catherine and Heathcliff even when their behavior becomes increasingly selfish and destructive?

19. Five reviews of Wuthering Heights from January 1848 were found in Emily's writing desk after her death. Here is a short excerpt from Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper, January 15, 1848: "In Wuthering Heights the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity, and the most diabolical hate and vengeance, and anon comes passages of powerful testimony to the supreme power of love – even over demons in the human form. The women in the book are of a strange fiendish-angelic nature, tantalizing, and terrible, and the men are indescribable out of the book itself." What is the review's analysis of the novel? Do you agree/disagree with the reviewer's comment? Why or why not? (The Brontës: The Critical Heritage. Ed. Miriam Allott. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1974.)

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