A worthwhile exercise is to review the years in which Wuthering Heights is listed as a free-response essay choice, review those prompts, and commit to paper, and to recall, quotes or points to support the thesis that you come up with for each.
To put each on a 3×5″ card: sublime.
Musing on themes:
Love. The consequence of not listening to the love that is—or isn’t—in our hearts. How love grows, evolves, fades, dies, becomes hatred. Cathy says her love for Edgar will be “like foliage…Time will change it, as winter does the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath—a source of little visible delight, but necessary” (ix 74).
But what would happen if Cathy said “I choose to marry Heathcliff”? To keep her station, she needs to marry a landowner—the origin of the term landlord—or be the mother of the male heir to such. Hindley does not like Heathcliff, has thrown him out of any “adopted son” status he had with Mr. Earnshaw, and Hareton is already the heir to the Heights. She has no skill or trade. Heathcliff is in station a servant. Sure she can marry him—and face the real risk of poverty.
Morally-ambiguous characters: how we wish they’d revisit that prompt, hey?
Evil. The villain. Is Heathcliff evil? Is he justified? “I never relent in exacting my due, from anyone” (xxxi 240). Heathcliff says this to Lockwood when he thinks his tenant is asking for a change of lease, but it is a credo of Heathcliff’s. And how! Is he getting a just revenge? Was he wronged first? Be careful! recall the example of the gift of horses to young Heathcliff and Hindley.
Is Linton a villain? (Were your brain to have legs it’d jump from its seat.) Again, is he justified in his actions?
Strong women. Catherine and Catherine. Is Ellen Dean/Nellie/Nell a strong woman? Nell speaks her mind even though she could be dismissed/severed/ released/”fired” at any time without legal recourse or protection. (Indeed, she’s threatened with that several times.)