Wuthering Heights Chapters 1–2 Summary and Analysis
by Emily Brontë

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Chapters 1–2 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 1:

When the novel opens, it is the year 1801. Mr. Lockwood, the narrator, explains that he has recently begun renting Thrushcross Grange, a grand house in northern England. Lockwood recounts his day, beginning with his visit to his new landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, who lives nearby at Wuthering Heights. Lockwood describes himself as a misanthrope, claiming to have sought out a home in the remote countryside in order to enjoy some solitude. When Lockwood arrives at Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff gruffly greets him and reluctantly invites him inside. Heathcliff is taciturn and rude, yet Lockwood believes that they have similar personalities. Inside the house, Lockwood meets an elderly servant named Joseph, who is equally unwelcoming. Lockwood decides that Wuthering Heights is a very appropriate name for Heathcliff’s house, given the powerful and stormy winds that continually blow through the area.

Examining the interior of the house, Lockwood concludes that it looks like the sort of place where a “homely, northern farmer” might live. Lockwood is especially fascinated by the “singular contrast” between the rustic house and Heathcliff, who appears to be a member of the gentry. Lockwood is further intrigued by the contrasts he sees in Heathcliff’s appearance: he looks like a “dark-skinned gipsy” but dresses and speaks like a gentleman, and though he is handsome, he also looks quite morose. Assuming that Heathcliff is just like him, Lockwood hypothesizes that Heathcliff’s hostile attitude stems from a distaste for emotional displays of any sort. Lockwood explains that he understands this well, as only the previous summer he accidentally led a young woman to believe he was interested in her before reacting to her obvious affection with cold indifference. From this, people judged Lockwood to be “deliberately heartless,” a reputation he feels is unfair.

Lockwood attempts to pat one of Heathcliff’s dogs, and Heathcliff warns him that the dog is not a pet. When Heathcliff leaves the room, Lockwood makes faces and winks at the dogs, causing them to attack him. A young woman rushes out of the kitchen and rescues the indignant Lockwood while an unsympathetic Heathcliff blames him for upsetting the dogs in the first place. Heathcliff eventually relents, however, and admits that he is unused to having guests. Lockwood and Heathcliff sit down and chat pleasantly about Thrushcross Grange for a while, though Lockwood suspects that Heathcliff is merely trying to mend any offense he might have given to his new tenant. Lockwood finds Heathcliff quite intelligent and resolves to visit again the next day, even though Heathcliff obviously has no wish to see him again. 

Chapter 2:

The next day, Lockwood is initially inclined to stay indoors. However, one of the maids begins cleaning out the fireplace, and eager to escape the dust, Lockwood begins walking the four miles to Wuthering Heights. Just as he arrives, it begins to snow. Lockwood knocks on the door but receives no answer. Mentally cursing Heathcliff, he begins to bang on the door. Joseph appears from the barn and tells him that only the “missis” is home and that she will not let anyone in. Eventually, a young man leads Lockwood inside, where a beautiful young woman with a disagreeable expression sits by the fire. Lockwood assumes that this must be Heathcliff’s wife. Despite Lockwood’s attempts at polite conversation, the woman is very rude to him and demands to know whether he has been invited. Heathcliff appears and tells Lockwood that it was foolish to set out in a snowstorm. When Lockwood requests that someone from Wuthering Heights guide him back to Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff replies that they have no one to spare. Heathcliff is very hostile toward the young woman, and when Lockwood awkwardly remarks upon Heathcliff’s “amiable lady,” Heathcliff responds that his wife is dead. The young woman turns out to be Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law. Realizing...

(The entire section is 1,406 words.)