What is the time for the events of the entire book of Wuthering Heights?

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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The plot of Emily Bronte's novel  Wuthering Heights can be traced back to the year 1500 where presumably the name of the first Hareton Earnshaw is set in stone as the first tenant of the manor. However, the events that take place in the story begin on or around 1771, when Mr. Earnshaw brings the gypsy foundling, Heathcliff, to live in Wuthering Heights as a member of the family along with Mr. Earnshaw's children Catherine and Hindley.

The story of Catherine and Heathcliff's complicated childhood relationship extends all the way to 1777 when Mr. Earnshaw dies and Hindley becomes lord of the manor, abusing and humiliating Heathcliff until the latter escapes. Three years later, he returns to see Catherine marrying Edgar Linton.

Heathcliff is not a rich man,but a changed man. His only goal is to take revenge on those who humiliated him once. Catherine, Heathcliff's love, dies a year or two after his return, leaving him a completely broken man.

As Heathcliff's character ages, his anger intensifies. It is at the break of the next century that he takes over Thrushcross Grange. It is 1801 when he had taken young Catherine (Catherine's daughter) basically hostage and makes her marry his son, Linton. It is when Edgar Linton (Catherine's father) dies, and then after his own son Linton dies, that then Heathcliff can call himself master of the grange.

The story, which is told from the anecdotal accounts of Nelly, comes to the "present" time when Lockwood is sick and comes to stay at the Grange. By this time the year is 1802. Lockwood now knows the whole story of Heathcliff. The story ends a year later with the expected marriage of young Catherine and Hareton Earnshaw- This basically closes the circle of the Lintons, Heathcliff, and the Earnshaws. In all, the story of their lives covers over 40 years.

As far as the location of the story, we know that it first begins at Thrushcross Grange when Lockwood arrives in 1801 having rented the Grange. His landlord, Heathcliff himself, is a rich but wretched man who lives in isolation at Wuthering Heights.  Both homes are isolated manors in the middle of nowhere. Both places display elements of Gothic literature: An atmosphere of darkness, coldness, dampness, nostalgia, melancholy, and longing.  Both places hold mysteries and stories to tell, and in both places there has been a major loss.

Therefore, the length of time of the story and the state of isolation in which most of the story develops affects the central theme of the story in bringing the Gothic aspect of the narrative to a very descriptive level.

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