Gender’s Double Standard Throughout “Wuthering Heights”

A recurring theme in Wuthering Heights is the way in which the speaker frames differences in gender, as well as the standard for each gender that characters are expected to meet. Catherine is looked kindly upon for her favorable, “feminine” qualities, like her beauty and quiet intelligence, but this is very much in spite of her less favorable, less “ladylike” qualities, speaking to her strong will and temperament. Heathcliff also insults Linton’s mother in Chapter 20, calling her a slut — yet another instance in which a man judges a woman based on characteristics perceived to be more or less feminine by societal norms at the time. This double standard is a pattern throughout the book; we can even go back to Chapter 8, for example, and examine the instance in which Catherine is looked down upon for her “unladylike temper” with Edgar, when they get into a small fight. This bit of sexism in such a dated book highlights what little value people placed on women in the age at the time, as well as the everyday ways in which women would be judged and characterized for personality, for example.

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