Wuthering Heights is one of the classical works of English literature. The book was met with harsh criticism when it was published. One of the reasons for such a negative response is the novel’s unusual themes. They made it hard for the book to fit into one genre. Modern researchers consider it to be a gothic and romantic tragedy at the same time.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is her first and only published novel. It received notable exposure in the literary world. Modern readers refer to the book as one of the iconic works of classical literature. But Brontë’s work did not receive the same praise at first. The critics of the author focused on physical and mental abuse in the book. As a result, it challenged the way society thinks of class, ethics, gender, and religion. Even though there are dark themes, it also has romantic traits. This makes the novel vague in terms of its genre.
The most apparent genre that the book fits in is gothic tragedy. From the beginning, the novel depicts a remote and dark village. It can also be a horror story due to the ghosts and flashbacks to the past. There are primary traits of gothic fiction which was a new genre at that time:
- Description of paranormal events.
- Remote, unusual, and gloomy settings.
- Characters motivated by cruel intentions.
The trend in the plot is the people who “endlessly betray, mistreat, enact violence and revenge upon each other.” Immoral choices and dark settings make the book one of the first gothic tragedies. It questions the concepts of morality, love, and family by showing them in a grotesque light. Many readers thought the novel was shocking but realistic because of that.
Thus, it is also vital to mention the role of other genres of the book.
The novel’s dark setting, depictions of cruelty, and discussions of class are not the only prominent traits. It also fits into the niche of Romantic literature. The plot is set in the Romantic period and reflects some of the era’s values and themes. For example, the author describes the love triangle of Catherine Earnshaw Linton, Edgar Linton, and Heathcliff. The book depicts nature as a strong, fatal, and mystic force. It is a trait common in Romantic literature. Romanticism’s idea of escape from the Industrial Revolution’s progress is also present in the book. For example, the distant setting of Wuthering Heights.
There is another genre of Wuthering Heights – domestic fiction. It is the result of the mix of romantic and gothic traits of the novel. It is a sample of Victorian literature’s depiction of a women-centered Romantic plot. This is a new genre for the era as well. The book covers the topics of marriage, family, and women’s role in society. It is common for the genre’s characters to be practical or ideal women. They mainly have a societal or interpersonal conflict as the plot’s focal point. Some great examples of such novels are Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.