Foreshadowing in Wuthering Heights creates narrative interest and suspense. In the initial chapters, Lockwood is confused by the strange inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. The clues he picks up foreshadow plotlines which will later be revealed, drawing the reader into the tale. For example, when Heathcliff explains that Cathy Linton is his daughter-in-law, Lockwood notices he sends “a particular look in her direction, a look of hatred.” This expression on Heathcliff’s face foreshadows the revelation of his embittered past, particularly the marriage between Catherine Earnshaw and Edgar Linton. Foreshadowing is also significant in the novel because of the multi-generational storylines and the sense that characters’ destinies are being controlled by events that happened before they were ever born.
Cathy’s Unhappiness in Love
When Lockwood spends the night at Wuthering Heights, he notices how a window ledge has “writing scratched in the paint… a name repeated in all kinds of characters.” The variations on Cathy’s name with different surnames (Earnshaw, Heathcliff, and Linton) foreshadows how Cathy’s life will be unhappy because she is torn between different identities and different men. She will also become a pawn in male power struggles and class conflict when she is just trying to make a happy life for herself. Thus, the childish writing of a girl trying on married names furthers an ominous tone and reflects how Cathy’s innocence will ultimately be lost.
The Arrival of Linton
Nelly Dean recounts how Mr. Earnshaw returned from a trip to Liverpool with a young boy who was “starving, and houseless and as good as dumb.” Earnshaw decides to have the boy live with him, and even though it is clear that Heathcliff will not be treated as one of the family, he is given “the name of a son who died in childhood.” Heathcliff’s arrival into his adopted family foreshadows how many years later his own son, Linton, will arrive at Thrushcross Grange after the death of his mother. Although Linton is greeted more fondly by Edgar and Cathy Linton because of his family relationship, he will not be allowed to stay. Heathcliff’s unhappy inability to integrate into a family foreshadows how his son will end up torn between two families who are divided against each other.
After Lockwood experiences nightmares and ghostly visions while sleeping in an oak-paneled bed at Wuthering Heights, he goes to sleep in another room. He looks back and sees that Heathcliff has “got on to the bed and wrenched open the lattice.” Heathcliff also begs Catherine to come back to him one more time. This action foreshadows how, at the end of the novel, Heathcliff will be found dead on the same bed with the window wide open. His calling to Catherine during this time also hints at his desperate desire to be spiritually reunited with his beloved in the afterlife.