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"Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontė is an engrossing story of love's often destructive powers set against the destructive power of nature. Brontė tells this complex tale by using one of literatures’ most common devices, that of repetition. In her enthralling tale of romance and tragedy, it seems that nothing ever ends, everything continues in a cycle. One of the repetition devices used in the story is the recycling of character names. Also, characteristics are repeated through generations of characters and another use of repetition is the prevalence of abuse.
Repetition of names is first noticed when Catherine Linton, whose maiden name is Catherine Earnshaw, names her daughter after herself. Catherine Earnshaw, although truly in love with Heathcliff, marries the rich and graceful Edgar Linton, as she says ‘it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff’. Unlike her mother, young Catherine gives into compassion and marries Hareton Earnshaw. Thus, the name of Catherine Earnshaw is recycled and the story starts and ends with a woman of the same name. Likewise, Isabella Heathcliff names her son 'Linton', which was the name of her brother, and so, the name Linton is also repeated in the novel. Repetition of names indirectly shows repetition of characters. It is as if they have not died; they re-appear, through their children. This is not only shown through their names, but through their personalities also.
Furthermore, another piece of repetition in the novel is similar characteristics between the first and second generation of characters. For instance, Linton Heathcliff resembles the worst of both of his parents. He is demanding like Heathcliff, yet weak and simpering like Isabella. An illustration of this would be how he treats young Catherine when she visits him. He says “I’m ill tonight, Catherine, love, and you must have all the talk, and let me listen. Come and sit by me. I was sure you wouldn’t break your word and I’ll make you promise again, before you go.” Here, he is showing his weakness by stating that he is ill, yet at the same time remains insistent by making Catherine promise to him. Also, Catherine dies before being able to even communicate and build a relationship with her daughter, yet young Catherine, through her actions, resembles her mother in various ways. The significance of this is that it displays the relationship between the characters, and how the same situations seem to haunt the same person, Heathcliff, throughout the book. As soon as Catherine dies, Heathcliff says “Take any form – drive me mad – but do not leave me, in this abyss, where I cannot find you!” Therefore, he feels haunted by her presence for the rest of his life, although she is dead. However, the love stories of both Catherines end differently. The mother does not marry the one she has truly fallen for, but for the one that will make her most powerful, and the daughter does the opposite, the one she falls in love with is the one she marries, although beforehand is forced by Heathcliff to marry Linton. Both Catherines, though, are headstrong and arrogant, and manipulate others – Catherine by controlling the will of others, and the younger Catherine by trying to gain sympathy. In one way or another, they have hurt those closest to them.
Similarly, a repetition of abuse is evident, through Heathcliff, in both the first and second half of the book. Heathcliff was found on the streets of Liverpool by Mr. Earnshaw, and was brought into Wuthering Heights as his adopted son. Mr. Earnshaw’s son, Hindley, despises Heathcliff from the moment he sets his eyes on him. When Hindley becomes master of Wuthering Heights, he degrades Heathcliff, sending him to the stables to work as a common laborer. Heathcliff takes revenge on Hindley through his son Hareton – Heathcliff treats Hareton with the same abuse he received. Heathcliff forces Hareton to work as a servant in his own home, and treats him severely. Heathcliff, having once been the victim of Hareton’s father’s abuse, knows the pain Hareton is going through, yet feels no remorse, as he says “I can sympathise with all his feelings, having felt them myself. I know what he suffers now, for instance, exactly: it is merely a beginning of what he shall suffer, though. I’ve got him faster than his scoundrel of a father served me and lower.”
Repetition in a novel is a frequent pattern used in stories; it explains relationships between certain characters, and helps to define the plot of the novel. In Wuthering Heights, this is one of the most powerful literary devices used, and is shown most frequently. In the second half of the story, various similarities appear through the second generation of characters: their names, their personalities and their actions; Young Catherine having a strong resemblance to her mother, Linton showing the worst of his parents, and the repetition of abuse through Heathcliff.