Throughout Wuthering Heights, weather serves as a twofold symbolism, characterizing the tumultuous physical estate of the Heights, as well as foreshadowing conflicts and events.
Upon his first visit to Wuthering Heights, Mr. Lockwood notes the severe “atmospheric tumult to which [the estate] is exposed” (2). This tumult is not only literal weather, as the house is perpetually subjected to fierce winds and unrelenting storms, but it is also symbolic of the emotional and anthropogenic turmoil that occurs at Wuthering Heights. The household, both physical building and the members inside it, writhes under the alcoholic abuse of Hindley, the religious hypocrisy of Joseph, the cold manipulations of Cathy, and the moral depravity of Heathcliff. Neither the desperation of the weather-beaten estate nor the wickedness of the people inside cause the other to be; these two conditions, physical and emotional, exist simultaneously. The relentless, damaging weather is the literal manifestation of the perpetual depravity and deleterious relationships of the humans who reside within the estate’s afflicted walls.
In addition, weather foreshadows events and discoveries in the story, most notably: Heathcliff’s disappearance after overhearing Cathy and Nelly’s conversation. Nelly describes the evening he left, saying “it was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder” (96). At this point, the reader is not aware that Heathcliff has left interminably, but the dark, ominous setting of the night and impending storm imply oncoming heartbreak and turmoil. As the night progresses and Heathcliff does not return, the weather severely worsens, as “the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building” (96). This violent climax of the storm, as well as the collapsing of the tree, symbolizes the collapse of Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship. The damaging effects of the wind and thunder serve to finalize their separation and determine that Heathcliff’s absence is permanent. At least until Chapter 10, anyway.