Wuthering Heights Characters
by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Wuthering Heights Characters

The main characters in Wuthering Heights are Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Edgar Linton, and Nelly Dean.

  • Catherine Earnshaw is a spirited but arrogant girl. Saddened when Heathcliff leaves her, she ultimately marries the wealthy Edgar Linton.
  • Heathcliff is a passionate man whose deep love for Catherine develops into a desire for retribution upon her death.

  • Edgar Linton is Catherine’s unassuming husband. He loves Catherine and treats her well. He dotes upon his daughter, Cathy.

  • Nelly Dean is one of the narrators of the story. She works as a servant at Thrushcross Grange, where she tells Mr. Lockwood the story of Wuthering Heights.

Download Wuthering Heights Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Characters

Catherine Earnshaw Linton

Though Catherine plays an important role in the book, readers learn that she died years before Nelly Dean and Lockwood sit down for their first conversation. Catherine is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw of Wuthering Heights, an estate located in the moors of the fictional Gimmerton Valley of Yorkshire. When Heathcliff first arrives at Wuthering Heights as a young child, Catherine is unhappy with his presence; soon, however, she and Heathcliff become best friends, and as they grow up together, they fall in love. Catherine has a strong personality, and there are two sides to her; Catherine is rebellious, impulsive, and headstrong, but she is also quite status-conscious. Despite her attachment to Heathcliff, Catherine marries Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange, a decision which suits her background but not her heart. Catherine’s inner struggle does not end with her marriage to Edgar, however, and when Heathcliff appears in her life again, Catherine is torn apart by her dueling desires to conform to societal expectations as Edgar’s wife and to reject them to be with Heathcliff. Her inability to choose ultimately causes her health to deteriorate, and she develops a “brain fever,” dying shortly after giving birth to her daughter Catherine.

Heathcliff

Heathcliff, the romantically appealing antihero of Wuthering Heights, is known only by his first name. Though Heathcliff displays some deeply hostile tendencies towards other characters in the novel, his troubled past and emotional complexity make him an intriguing character. Mr. Earnshaw first encounters young Heathcliff on the streets of Liverpool and brings him home to Wuthering Heights. Mr. Earnshaw clearly favors Heathcliff over his son, Hindley; and the tensions that stem from this childhood rivalry and from the color of Heathcliff’s skin endure for decades. Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is intense and reciprocated, but because Heathcliff has no family, and therefore, no name, wealth, nor social status, he is an unsuitable match for Catherine. When he learns of Catherine’s intention to marry Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff disappears from Wuthering Heights for three years. He returns having made his fortune, and his disruptive presence drives a wedge between Catherine and Edgar, who are now married, ultimately leading to Catherine’s death. Heathcliff is broken by Catherine’s death and spends much of the novel exacting revenge on those who have wronged him, taking his rage and frustration out on anyone who crosses his path.

John Lockwood

John Lockwood is the narrator of Wuthering Heights , but his foolishness and tendency to commit social blunders indicate that he may not be a reliable source of information. The novel begins with Lockwood and ends with Lockwood. As Heathcliff’s tenant, Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange, a property adjacent to Wuthering Heights. In his conversations with the housekeeper Nelly Dean, he learns the story of Catherine and Heathcliff’s great love and the destructive consequences of their relationship on the Earnshaw and Linton families, recording what he hears from Nelly in his journal. Lockwood has some interesting experiences during his stay in Gimmerton: he has an encounter with the ghost of Catherine, gets lost on the moors, and overhears...

(The entire section is 1,662 words.)