Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Wuthering Heights is a story of passionate love that encompasses two generations of two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons. It is a framed tale narrated by two different characters, one with intimate knowledge of the families (Nelly Dean) and one unacquainted with their history. The first narrator is the stranger, Mr. Lockwood. A wealthy, educated man, Lockwood has chosen to rent a house in the isolated moors, saying that he has wearied of society. Yet his actions belie his words: He pursues a friendship with Heathcliff despite the latter’s objections and seeks information about all the citizens of the neighborhood. Lockwood is steeped in the conventions of his class, and he consistently misjudges the people he meets at Wuthering Heights. He assumes that Hareton Earnshaw, the rightful owner of Wuthering Heights, is a servant and that Catherine Linton is a demure wife to Heathcliff. His statements, even about himself, are untrustworthy, requiring the corrective of Nelly Dean’s narrative.
Lockwood cultivates Nelly Dean’s friendship when a long illness, brought on by his foolish attempt to visit Heathcliff during a snowstorm, keeps him bedridden for weeks. Nelly has been reared with the Earnshaws and has been a servant in both households. She has observed much of the central drama between the two families, but her statements, too, are colored by prejudice. Nelly dislikes Catherine Earnshaw, who behaved selfishly and treated the servants...
(The entire section is 492 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Yorkshire. Region comprising three English counties—North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and South Yorkshire—in northern central England. The properties of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange are located in this region of Yorkshire’s lonely, wild, and sparsely populated moors. The moors are characterized by spacious, open grassland and the heather that grows abundantly throughout the region.
Wuthering Heights. Estate of the Earnshaw family located on England’s Yorkshire moors. Wuthering Heights is described by Mr. Lockwood, a tenant at neighboring Thrushcross Grange, as desolate and the ideal home of a misanthropist. Lockwood explains that “wuthering” is a local word used to describe the tumultuous and stormy conditions that are common at Wuthering Heights. The house itself seems dark and forbidding, with a decidedly Gothic physical and spiritual atmosphere. Upon entering the gates of Wuthering Heights for the first time, Lockwood points out its general state of disrepair, especially noting the carvings of griffins at the threshold. Mr. Lockwood also observes that Heathcliff appears as a gentleman, in sharp contrast to the house itself, while the young Catherine Linton Heathcliff appears wild and untamed. He finds in time, though, that in reality the opposite is true.
As the novel progresses and the house passes from one owner to the next, in and out of the Earnshaw family, it is evident that the physical state of the house is somehow connected with the emotional state of its inhabitants. While the elder Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw live, the house retains a more civilized feeling, but as first Hindley Earnshaw and then Heathcliff obtain ownership, the atmosphere of the house becomes darker and more brooding. Like Heathcliff, the current master of the property, the house steadily deteriorates until the height of its disrepair is...
(The entire section is 790 words.)
Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
When it was first published, Wuthering Heights received almost no attention from critics, and what little there was proved to be negative. Critical opinion deemed the book immoral, and Charlotte Brontë felt moved to apologize for it after Emily’s death by saying that her sister wrote during the feverish stages of tuberculosis. To publish at all, the Brontë sisters chose to submit their works using male pseudonyms because they believed that it would be impossible to market their poems and novels otherwise. They experienced many rejections and were never recompensed fairly for the value of their work. When their identity was revealed, many critics expressed surprise (that the novels could be written by inexperienced women who lived in isolated circumstances) and shock (that the violence and passion of Wuthering Heights could be conceived by a woman at all). There has even been a serious attempt made to prove that Emily’s brother, Branwell, was the true author of Wuthering Heights.
This reaction suggests the reluctance of the Victorian public to accept challenges to the dominant belief that women were beneficent moral influences whose primary function was to provide a pure environment for men who, of necessity, sullied themselves in the world of work. Wuthering Heights provides no overt rebellion against this view, but the depiction of female characters who display anger, passion, and a desire for independence demonstrates Emily Brontë’s judgment that women were suited to a wider sphere of action.
Contemporary feminist critics have seen Catherine Earnshaw as a character for whom no meaningful choices are possible. Her self-starvation and periods of madness can be read as signs of female powerlessness and rage. Even her death can be seen as the last resort of the oppressed, a kind of willed suicide which she announces is her only form of revenge against both Edgar Linton and Heathcliff for thwarting her true nature. The second half of the novel, focusing on Catherine Linton, is then an assertion of Victorian society’s values countering Catherine Earnshaw’s desire to be self-determining. Catherine Linton is beautiful in a conventional way, and she dutifully serves as daughter, wife, nurse, and teacher. Yet, compared to her mother’s, her story has much less drama and fails to persuade the reader of its truth. In fact, it best serves to highlight the unique and deeply felt nature of her mother’s subjugation.
Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
1. How does Lockwood describe the Yorkshire section of England?
2. What makes Lockwood enter the gate, despite Heathcliff’s rudeness?
3. Whose name does Lockwood see carved into the threshold, and why can’t he ask about it?
4. What does Lockwood’s instinct tell him about Heathcliff’s reserved manner?
5. Why does Heathcliff leave Lockwood alone with his dogs?
6. What does Lockwood do to cause the dog to attack him?
7. How do Joseph and Heathcliff react to Lockwood’s cry for help?
8. What reasons does Lockwood give for deciding not to make a further issue about his attack?
9. What final...
(The entire section is 281 words.)
Chapter 2 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Lockwood decide to return to the Heights?
2. Who lets Lockwood into the house?
3. How does Lockwood make himself look foolish to the young woman in the kitchen?
4. How does Lockwood respond when she asks him if he has been invited to stay for tea?
5. Who does Lockwood at first assume the young lady to be?
6. What does Lockwood intend to do when he incorrectly assumes she is married to Hareton?
7. Who unexpectedly tries to accompany Lockwood home?
8. How is Cathy related to Heathcliff?
9. What causes Lockwood to run out of the house?
10. Who comes to Lockwood’s aid when he...
(The entire section is 254 words.)
Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
1. What does Lockwood discover on the window ledge?
2. What is described in Catherine’s diary?
3. How does Catherine view Hindley and his wife?
4. What torments Lockwood during his first dream?
5. What wakens Lockwood from this dream?
6. Who begs to be allowed into the room?
7. How does Lockwood get free from the child’s grasp?
8. How many years has the child’s ghost been wandering?
9. What is Heathcliff’s reaction to Lockwood’s screams?
10. Why does Heathcliff raise his hand to Cathy?
1. Lockwood discovers a few mildewed books piled...
(The entire section is 259 words.)
Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Heathcliff live at the Heights instead of the Grange?
2. How is Cathy related to Hareton?
3. Who are the last remaining members of the Earnshaw and Linton families, respectively?
4. Under what circumstances did Heathcliff arrive at the Heights?
5. How did Heathcliff get his name?
6. What was the cause of Hindley’s alienation from his father?
7. What sort of relationship did Heathcliff have with Hindley?
8. Where is Hindley when his father dies?
9. How does Catherine generally behave?
10. How do Catherine and Heathcliff react to Earnshaw’s death?
(The entire section is 274 words.)
Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers
1. What surprise does Hindley bring when he returns home?
2. What is Nelly’s opinion of Frances?
3. What stern measures does Hindley impose on Heathcliff?
4. What circumstances cause Catherine to remain at the Grange?
5. How do the Lintons treat Heathcliff?
6. How has Catherine changed during her stay at the Grange?
7. When does Nelly begin to feel guilty about Heathcliff?
8. What does Heathcliff want Nelly to help him do?
9. What advice does Nelly give Heathcliff?
10. What causes Heathcliff to swear everlasting revenge on Hindley?
(The entire section is 295 words.)
Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
1. What is Mr. Kenneth’s diagnosis of Frances’ condition?
2. Who will care for Hareton once Frances dies?
3. How does Hindley react to Frances’ death?
4. What happens to the household?
5. What is Nelly’s opinion of Catherine’s attitude?
6. How does Catherine maintain “a double character”?
7. At the age of sixteen, how does Heathcliff appear?
8. What is Heathcliff’s complaint when he visits Catherine?
9. What does Catherine do to drive Edgar away?
10. What advice does Nelly give Edgar?
1. Mr. Kenneth believes that tuberculosis...
(The entire section is 235 words.)
Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
1. What are Hareton’s feelings for his father?
2. Why does Hindley dangle Hareton over the stair rail?
3. Who saves Hareton?
4. Why is Heathcliff angry with himself?
5. Why does Catherine say she loves Edgar?
6. What fault does Nelly find with Catherine’s answer?
7. What bothers Catherine about her decision to marry?
8. What causes Heathcliff to run away?
9. How does Catherine become ill?
10. Why must Nelly leave Hareton?
1. Hareton is terrified of his father, never knowing if he will be kissed or killed.
2. Hindley is angered...
(The entire section is 226 words.)
Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Lockwood so pleased when Heathcliff visits?
2. What information about Heathcliff does Lockwood wish to know?
3. What has Catherine’s life been like at the Grange?
4. After how many years does Heathcliff return?
5. How does Catherine react to his return?
6. Why is Heathcliff living at Wuthering Heights?
7. Who becomes infatuated with Heathcliff?
8. Why does this cause Edgar distress?
9. How does Catherine react to Isabella’s interest in Heathcliff?
10. How does Catherine embarrass Isabella?
1. Lockwood has been alone, recuperating...
(The entire section is 235 words.)
Chapters 11 and 12 Questions and Answers
1. What vision causes Nelly to rush to the Heights?
2. What does she discover about Hareton?
3. How does Catherine learn of Heathcliff’s attentions to Isabella?
4. How does Catherine react?
5. When does Edgar confront Heathcliff and order him to leave?
6. Why does Edgar hit Heathcliff?
7. What demand does Edgar make of Catherine?
8. How does Catherine react to Edgar’s order?
9. Why doesn’t Nelly take Catherine’s hysteria seriously?
10. What news does Kenneth bring of Isabella?
1. Nelly sees an omen of Hindley’s impending death.
(The entire section is 188 words.)
Chapters 13 and 14 Questions and Answers
1. Is Catherine’s recuperation completed?
2. What gives Edgar further hopes for her recovery?
3. What does Isabella write to Edgar?
4. How does Isabella now regard her husband?
5. What impression does Isabella get of Hindley?
6. Why does Hindley warn Isabella to lock her bedroom door?
7. What does Nelly ask Edgar to do?
8. How does Isabella appear when Nelly visits her?
9. Why does Isabella tell Nelly she cannot return home?
10. What requests does Heathcliff make of Nelly?
1. No, while Catherine’s return to physical health is coming slowly,...
(The entire section is 256 words.)
Chapters 15 and 16 Questions and Answers
1. What does Catherine do with Heathcliff’s letter?
2. What does Catherine accuse Heathcliff and Edgar of doing?
3. What about Heathcliff and Catherine’s embrace disturbs Nelly?
4. Why won’t Catherine let go of Heathcliff, even as Edgar approaches?
5. How does Edgar react when he sees Catherine in Heathcliff’s arms?
6. When does Catherine finally die?
7. How do Edgar and Heathcliff mourn Catherine?
8. What does Heathcliff pray for when Catherine dies?
9. Who is absent from her funeral?
10. Where is she buried?
1. Catherine lets the...
(The entire section is 244 words.)
Chapter 17 Questions and Answers
1. Why has Isabella returned to the Grange?
2. What plan did Hindley have for Heathcliff after the funeral?
3. Why does Isabella warn Heathcliff of Hindley’s trap?
4. What prevents Heathcliff from beating Hindley to death?
5. How does Isabella finally get away from Heathcliff?
6. How does Nelly’s response to Isabella’s criticisms of Heathcliff show that her feelings toward him have mellowed?
7. Who has helped Edgar overcome his grief at losing his wife?
8. Where does Isabella go after her escape?
9. How does Hindley dies?
10. Why does Edgar decide not to fight Heathcliff regarding...
(The entire section is 290 words.)
Chapters 18 and 19 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Cathy want to visit Pennistone Crag?
2. Where does Nelly locate Cathy?
3. How did Cathy and Hareton meet?
4. For whom does Cathy mistake Hareton?
5. Why doesn’t Cathy believe Hareton is her cousin?
6. What are some of Nelly’s observations regarding Hareton?
7. How has Joseph treated Hareton?
8. How do the villagers speak of Heathcliff?
9. How does Linton arrive at the Grange?
10. Why does Edgar agree to let Linton go to his father the following morning?
1. Bored by her restrictions to Thrushcross Park, Cathy wants to explore...
(The entire section is 284 words.)
Chapters 20 and 21 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Nelly feel sorry for Linton when he leaves his uncle’s house?
2. How do Joseph and Heathcliff react when they meet Linton?
3. What does Linton say to Nelly when she leaves?
4. How do Hareton and Linton get along?
5. What plan does Heathcliff have for Linton and Cathy?
6. Why does Cathy leave Wuthering Heights upset with Edgar?
7. How does Heathcliff embarrass Hareton?
8. How do Linton and Cathy develop their relationship?
9. What are Cathy’s feeling for Linton?
10. How does Nelly put a stop to their correspondence.
1. Nelly feels...
(The entire section is 291 words.)
Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers
1. Who does Cathy say she loves more than herself?
2. How does Cathy become Heathcliff’s momentary captive audience?
3. Why does Heathcliff say Linton is dying?
4. Why does Nelly grudgingly permit Cathy to check on Linton?
5. About what do Cathy and Linton quarrel?
6. What makes Cathy feel guilty about the quarrel?
7. Why does Cathy feel compelled to return the next day?
8. Why is Edgar unaware of Cathy’s visit to Linton?
9. How long does Nelly remain ill?
10. During that time, what has Cathy been doing?
1. Cathy loves her father more than...
(The entire section is 250 words.)
Chapter 24 Questions and Answers
1. What makes Nelly suspicious about Cathy’s behavior?
2. Who has been assisting Cathy in getting to the Heights?
3. How does Nelly react to Cathy’s lie?
4. Who helps make Cathy’s visits to Linton pleasant?
5. What different visions of heaven do Cathy and Linton have?
6. Why does Cathy call Hareton a “dunce”?
7. Of what does Nelly accuse Cathy?
8. Of whom does Linton remind Joseph, watching him pound at the door and scream?
9. What causes Cathy to forgive Linton?
10. What does Edgar consent to do for Linton?
1. Cathy makes unfounded...
(The entire section is 269 words.)
Chapters 25 and 26 Questions and Answers
1. What surprises Nelly about the passage of time?
2. How does Nelly know Lockwood has fallen in love with Cathy?
3. Does Nelly believe that Linton will soon die?
4. What is unusual about Cathy’s seventeenth birthday?
5. How does Cathy mistake her father’s condition?
6. Of what does Linton wish to convince Edgar?
7. What shocks Cathy and Nelly when they meet Linton in the moor?
8. Why can we assume Linton insists on Cathy waiting half an hour?
9. What excuses for his poor condition does Linton ask Cathy to give her father?
10. Why can we assume Linton wants Cathy to misrepresent his...
(The entire section is 270 words.)
Chapter 27 Questions and Answers
1. Whom does Edgar believe Linton takes after?
2. Of what does Cathy accuse Linton when she comes to meet him?
3. What reason does Linton give for wanting her to stay?
4. Why is Heathcliff interested in learning how long Edgar is expected to live?
5. What directions have Heathcliff given Linton about how to behave with Cathy?
6. How does Nelly respond when Heathcliff asks her to take Linton inside?
7. How does Heathcliff induce Cathy and Nelly to enter the house?
8. What does Heathcliff say he would do to Linton and Cathy, if he lived in a less civilized country?
9. Why do the servants at the Grange...
(The entire section is 308 words.)
Chapters 28 and 29 Questions and Answers
1. What does Zillah believe has happened to Nelly?
2. Why does Nelly tell Linton she is shedding tears?
3. How does Linton stand to see Heathcliff strike Cathy?
4. How does Edgar plan to alter his will?
5. After the four men return without Cathy, what does Nelly resolve to do?
6. Why was the lawyer late in responding to Nelly’s summons?
7. Why does Heathcliff believe Cathy will learn to hate Linton?
8. What happened the night of Catherine’s funeral?
9. What has been killing Heathcliff slowly, over the years?
10. Why can’t Cathy bring her pony to the Heights?
(The entire section is 314 words.)
Chapters 30 and 31 Questions and Answers
1. Why is Zillah so unfriendly towards Cathy?
2. Who aides Cathy in nursing Linton?
3. How does Hareton react to Linton’s death?
4. Why does Zillah remain behind when Heathcliff is gone and Joseph is at church?
5. What does Hareton do while Cathy sits reading by the fire?
6. Why is Cathy forced to sit in the kitchen with Hareton and Zillah?
7. What decision does Lockwood make concerning the Grange?
8. Why can Cathy not answer Nelly’s letter?
9. How does Lockwood try to spare Hareton’s feelings?
10. How does Heathcliff react to the news of Lockwood’s departure?
(The entire section is 286 words.)
Chapters 32 and 33 Questions and Answers
1. How long has Lockwood been away from Yorkshire?
2. What is different about Hareton’s appearance?
3. About what do Nelly and Joseph argue?
4. Why did Heathcliff remove Nelly from the Grange?
5. How does Cathy tempt Hareton into accepting her book?
6. In what manner does Cathy finally win Hareton over?
7. Why does Nelly advise Cathy to be discrete about Hareton?
8. Why is Joseph angry at Hareton?
9. What does Hareton tell Cathy regarding Heathcliff?
10. What change in himself does Heathcliff sense?
1. Lockwood is returning after three...
(The entire section is 232 words.)
Chapter 34 Questions and Answers
1. What time of year does Heathcliff’s death take place?
2. What perplexes Cathy about Heathcliff’s behavior?
3. For how many days does Heathcliff bewilder everyone?
4. How does Heathcliff respond to Nelly’s asking him why he is behaving so oddly?
5. Why does Nelly decide she is being foolish to wonder if Heathcliff is a ghoul or a vampire?
6. About what do Joseph and Heathcliff converse?
7. To what does Nelly attribute Heathcliff’s unseen vision?
8. What does Heathcliff say he wishes he could do with his property?
9. What has Heathcliff died from?
10. How does Lockwood bid Nelly...
(The entire section is 268 words.)
Ideas for Group Discussions
Compare and Contrast
Topics for Further Study
What Do I Read Next?
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë: The Artist as a Free Woman. Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1983. Discusses not only the novel but also Brontë’s personal life and tragedies, the fantasy worlds created by her and her siblings, and her poetry. Provides an incisive look at the novel’s structure and an in-depth study of the personalities and motivations of the main characters.
Everitt, Alastair, ed. Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. London: Frank Cass, 1967. A collection of introductory critical explorations of the novel that examine such fundamental issues as structure, narrative strategies, origins, the...
(The entire section is 225 words.)