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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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What is Heathcliff's core quest/mission in Wuthering Heights? Provide examples of his reasoning for doing this.

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Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, is a story that spans two generations.

At the story's beginning, Mr. Earnshaw, who is the master at Wuthering Heights, one day brings home an orphan from Liverpool. He intends to raise the boy, Heathcliff, as one of the family. Heathcliff and Catherine, Earnshaw's daughter, become very close. Hindley, her brother, is jealous of the attention his father shows Heathcliff. He goes off to school and Mr. Earnshaw dies. Hindley returns to Wuthering Heights, its new master, with a wife. Hindley loses no time in treating Heathcliff like a servant.

Catherine, who was injured by a dog bite and must stay at the neighboring Grange for five weeks, returns greatly changed in dress and manner. She seems a stranger to Heathcliff, and treats him differently. Eventually Heathcliff runs away, but when he returns, he is educated and has money. He is intent on vengeance.

In the meantime, Catherine has married Edgar Linton who lives at the Grange. From this point on, Heathcliff does all he can to win Wuthering Heights for himself: he is obsessed with the idea. He wins the estate from Hindley through gambling, and ultimately marries Isabella, Edgar's sister, for her inheritance. Heathcliff does all of this for the sake of Wuthering Heights. Isabella finally leaves him, in fear, and moves far away, giving birth to a frail baby boy.

Catherine and Heathcliff renew their friendship, much to Edgar's distaste. Heathcliff goes to visit her one day—she is very pregnant. When Edgar returns home, Heathcliff is holding the unconscious Catherine who has fainted. She gives birth to a daughter without ever waking up, and then she dies. Both men are devastated. Heathcliff forces Edgar to allow Hindley's son (at Hindley's death) to live with Heathcliff, still intent on revenge for the way Hindley treated him as a child. When Isabella dies, she sends her son, Linton, to Edgar, but Heathcliff demands to have his own son with him.

Heathcliff raises the children; he is still intent on controlling them so that he can control the Heights. One day, Catherine's daughter, young Catherine, happens to meet Heathcliff, Hareton, and see Linton again. After a time, when Catherine visits the Heights, Heathcliff forces her to marry Linton. When she runs home to be with her dying father, Heathcliff forces the unwell Linton to sign all of his and Catherine's property over to Heathcliff. Young Catherine returns in time to nurse her dying husband. When Linton passes, she is alone and must live at the Heights.

The story began with a traveler from London—Lockwood—learning about Wuthering Heights from the servant Nelly. When he returns some months later, Heathcliff has died, and Catherine and Hareton are in love.

In his last days, Heathcliff was haunted—as he had wished—by Catherine's ghost. When he dies, Heathcliff was buried next to Catherine, with both sides of their coffins open so that over time, their ashes could intermingle. At last, they were "reunited."

Heathcliff loved Catherine from the time he was a child. I think he wanted her in his life more than anything because she accepted him for who he was and genuinely cared about him when they were children. When he lost her, the only thing he could have was Wuthering Heights, and it brought him no satisfaction. His obsession hurt a lot of innocent people, and never made him happy, but I believe his obsession with Wuthering Heights helped him to ease his sense of loss in losing Catherine.

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