In 1801, Mr. Lockwood becomes a tenant at Thrushcross Grange, an old farm owned by a Mr. Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights. In the early days of his tenancy, he makes two calls on his landlord. On his first visit, he meets Heathcliff, an abrupt, unsocial man who is surrounded by a pack of snarling, barking dogs. When he goes to Wuthering Heights a second time, he meets the other members of the strange household: a rude, unkempt but handsome young man named Hareton Earnshaw and a pretty young woman who is the widow of Heathcliff’s son.
During his visit, snow begins to fall. It covers the moor paths and makes travel impossible for a stranger in that bleak countryside. Heathcliff refuses to let one of the servants go with him as a guide but says that if he stays the night he can share Hareton’s bed or that of Joseph, a sour, canting old servant. When Mr. Lockwood tries to borrow Joseph’s lantern for the homeward journey, the old fellow sets the dogs on him, to the amusement of Hareton and Heathcliff. The visitor is finally rescued by Zillah, the cook, who hides him in an unused chamber of the house.
That night, Mr. Lockwood has a strange dream. Thinking that a branch is rattling against the window, he breaks the glass in his attempt to unhook the casement. As he reaches out to break off the fir branch outside, his fingers close on a small ice-cold hand, and a weeping voice begs to be let in. The unseen presence says that her name is Catherine Linton, and she tries to force a way through the broken casement; Mr. Lockwood screams.
Heathcliff appears in a state of great excitement and savagely orders Mr. Lockwood out of the room. Then he throws himself upon the bed by the shattered pane and begs the spirit to come in out of the dark and the storm. The voice is, however, heard no more—only the hiss of swirling snow and the wailing of a cold wind that blows out the smoking candle.
The housekeeper at Thrushcross Grange, Ellen Dean, is able to satisfy part of Mr. Lockwood’s curiosity about the happenings of that night and the strange household at Wuthering Heights, for she lived at Wuthering Heights as a child. Her story of the Earnshaws, Lintons, and Heathcliffs begins years before, when old Mr. Earnshaw was living at Wuthering Heights with his wife and two children, Hindley and Catherine. Once, on a trip to Liverpool, Mr. Earnshaw found a starving and homeless orphan, a ragged, dirty, urchin, dark as a Gypsy, whom he brought back with him to Wuthering Heights and christened Heathcliff—a name that was to serve the fourteen-year-old boy as both a given and a surname. Gradually, the orphan began to usurp the affections of Mr. Earnshaw, whose health was failing. Wuthering Heights became riddled with petty jealousies; old Joseph, the servant, augmented the bickering, and Catherine was much too fond of Heathcliff. At last, Hindley was sent away to school. A short time later, Mr. Earnshaw died.
When Hindley returned home for his father’s funeral, he brought a wife with him. As the new master of Wuthering Heights, he revenged himself on Heathcliff by treating him like a servant. Catherine became a wild and undisciplined hoyden who continued to be fond of Heathcliff.
One night, Catherine and Heathcliff tramped through the moors to Thrushcross Grange,...
(The entire section is 1356 words.)