How might one briefly summarize Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is the story told to a visitor to town, named Lockwood. He learns about Heathcliff, orphaned on the streets of London and brought home to live with Mr. Earnshaw and his two children, Catherine and Hindley. Catherine and Heathcliff like each other; Hindley hates Heathcliff.

Mr. Earnshaw dies years later; Heathcliff and Catherine are best of friends. Hindley returns home (with a wife), the new "lord of the manor." When Catherine is hurt while on the moors with Heathcliff, she recuperates at a neighbor's home. Hindley tells Heathcliff he can never see Catherine again. She returns home several weeks later, more socially conscious. The neighbor, Edgar, proposes marriage and Catherine accepts. Hindley's wife dies, leaving behind Hareton (their son); Hindley begins to drink. Heathcliff is relegated to the position of a servant at the Heights, and Catherine abandons him. She tells Nelly, a servant at the Heights, that she could never marry Heathcliff because of their "social differences;" he overhears and runs away. However, he does not hear Catherine say:

If all else perished, and [Heathcliff] remained, I should still continue to be; and, if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would turn to a mighty stranger...My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change winter changes the trees—my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath—a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he is always, always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but as my own being.

Still Catherine marries Edgar. Years later, Heathcliff returns. He is refined, but a dark soul. While living at the Heights, he gambles with Linton and wins much of what Linton owns. Heathcliff woos Edgar's sister, Isabella, though he does not love her. Edgar tells Heathcliff never to return to the Grange. Catherine is furious and pregnant; she becomes sick. Isabella and Heathcliff marry, but Heathcliff is cruel. Heathcliff sneaks back to the Grange to see Catherine once more. When Edgar returns, Catherine has fainted in Heathcliff's arms. She dies, never fully regaining consciousness.

About twelve o'clock that night was born the Catherine you saw at Wuthering Heights: a puny, several months' child; and two hours after the mother died...

Heathcliff's only wish is that Catherine haunt him for the remainder of his days. Isabella runs away and swears never to return; she gives birth to a baby boy, Linton. Lindley dies, drunk. Heathcliff lives at the Heights with Hareton. Twelve years pass, Isabella dies and Linton (Heathcliff's son) comes to the Heights. "Miss Cathy," Edgar's daughter, meets Linton for the first time on the moor.

Young Catherine and Linton fall in love. Edgar is dying; Heathcliff forces Catherine to marry Linton, who is also sick. Heathcliff demands that Linton make him heir to the Grange and the Heights. Young Catherine escapes in time to see her father die, and then returns to Linton. Soon he dies.

Lockwood leaves town. Returning after seven months, he finds Young Catherine and Hareton are in love. Heathcliff has died—he arranged to have his casket buried next to Catherine's so their "dust" could mingle in the earth. "The country folks" are sure the two haunt the moors, but at their graves, Lockwood notes: anyone could imagine unquiet slumber for the sleepers in that quiet earth.


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Wuthering Heights

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