Last Updated on July 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2260
Mr. Lockwood Sees a Ghost (Chapters 1–3): Mr. Lockwood has rented Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire. He is intrigued by his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, who lives in a manor called Wuthering Heights. Lockwood spends the night at Wuthering Heights after suffering a nosebleed, which was caused by Heathcliff’s dogs. Heathcliff’s housekeeper, Zillah, escorts Lockwood to a room that Heathcliff forbids anyone from entering. Lockwood finds three names etched into the wooden bedframe: Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, and Catherine Linton. He also reads an entry from Catherine Earnshaw’s diary. While he sleeps, he dreams about the window breaking and a child grabbing his hand from outside. The child says she is Catherine Linton and that she has been trying to get inside the room for 20 years. He yells, and Heathcliff bursts into the room, angry that Lockwood is sleeping there. He is outraged when Lockwood, who is distraught from the dream, says that Catherine Linton should be punished. Heathcliff weeps, opens the window, and calls for Catherine to come inside.
Nelly Begins Telling Mr. Lockwood About Heathcliff’s Story (Chapter 4): Ellen—or Nelly—Dean, Mr. Lockwood’s housekeeper, tells the story of how Heathcliff came to own Wuthering Heights. The manor belonged to an old family called the Earnshaws, the patriarch of which adopted Heathcliff after finding him as a child on the streets of Liverpool. Mr. Earnshaw’s daughter, Catherine, liked Heathcliff right away, but his son, Hindley, hated him. The children’s mother frequently sided with Hindley whenever he and Heathcliff fought. She died only two years after Heathcliff moved to Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw Grow Close (Chapter 5): The story shifts to Nelly’s perspective as she recounts Heathcliff’s past: As Mr. Earnshaw’s health declines, he sends Hindley away to college, because he is intolerant of his son’s abuse of Heathcliff. Meanwhile, Heathcliff and Catherine become quite close. They comfort each other on the night of Mr. Earnshaw’s death as a storm rages outside.
Catherine Stays with the Lintons (Chapter 6): Hindley returns to Wuthering Heights with his new wife, Frances, and promptly orders Heathcliff to perform manual labor instead of continuing his education. Heathcliff and Catherine carry on as before, running around on the moors. Late one night, however, Heathcliff returns without her. He and Catherine were spying on Edgar and Isabella Linton when their laughing caught the Lintons’ attention. They tried to run away, but one of the Lintons’ dogs bit Catherine’s foot. Upon learning that Catherine is an Earnshaw, the Lintons insisted that she stay with them until her foot healed. However, they sent Heathcliff away because they did not like his appearance. Mr. Linton visits Hindley the next day and scolds him for allowing her to run around on the moors. Hindley is embarrassed and blames Heathcliff, forbidding him to see or to speak to Catherine ever again.
Catherine Marries Edgar Linton (Chapters 7–9): Catherine remains with the Lintons for five weeks and continues to spend time with them after returning to Wuthering Heights. The Lintons look on Heathcliff disparagingly. Edgar insults Heathcliff’s appearance, and Heathcliff throws applesauce in Edgar’s face. After Hindley locks Heathcliff in the attic, Heathcliff swears to Nelly that he will have revenge on Edgar. That summer, Hindley’s wife dies after giving birth to their son, Hareton, and Hindley descends into depression and alcoholism. Catherine continues to see the Lintons, behaving like a proper lady in their company but resuming her rambunctious behavior when she is with Heathcliff. She now treats Heathcliff as though he were beneath her, but she loves him. She agrees to marry Edgar, telling Nelly that marrying Heathcliff would be degrading. Heathcliff overhears the conversation but disappears before he can hear Catherine talk about how much she loves him—and how she intends to use her money to help him escape from Hindley after she is married. Catherine frantically searches for Heathcliff on the moors and is caught in a big storm. However, she cannot find him and catches a fever that she then transmits to Mr. and Mrs. Linton, who die of it. Three years pass, and Catherine and Edgar marry.
Heathcliff Returns (Chapters 10–11): Heathcliff returns approximately six months after Catherine and Edgar’s wedding. He tells them that he wanted to see Catherine and exact his revenge on Hindley before ending his life. However, Catherine’s enthusiasm at his return convinces him to change his mind. Heathcliff stays at Wuthering Heights at Hindley’s invitation, which Hindley offers after discovering that Heathcliff is now rich. Catherine and Isabella visit Wuthering Heights often and Isabella becomes infatuated with Heathcliff, despite Catherine’s and Nelly’s warnings. Catherine offers to convince Edgar to allow Heathcliff to marry Isabella, but Heathcliff says that she wronged him by marrying Edgar and that he intends to avenge himself. Edgar appears, having been told by Nelly that Heathcliff and Catherine are alone together. Edgar orders Heathcliff to leave. When Heathcliff refuses, Edgar summons his servants for help, but Catherine closes the doors so that Edgar will have to confront Heathcliff alone. Edgar manages to escape, and Heathcliff leaves. Edgar is outraged and tells Catherine she must choose between him and Heathcliff. She refuses to choose, and locks herself in her bedroom for three days without food. Edgar also tells Isabella to avoid Heathcliff or be disowned.
Heathcliff and Isabella are Married (Chapters 12–14): Catherine is unwell after spending three days in her room. She believes she is dying and tells Nelly that she cannot rest until she can be with Heathcliff. Edgar is shocked by her appearance and calls for the doctor, who is confident that Catherine will recover. That evening, Isabella elopes with Heathcliff, and Edgar declares that she has estranged herself by doing so. Edgar focuses on Catherine, for her health is not improving much and she is now pregnant. Isabella writes to Nelly, describing her horrible experience as Heathcliff’s wife. Life at Wuthering Heights is terrible; Heathcliff is abusive, and Hareton, Hindley, and Joseph—the Earnshaws’ long-time servant—are no better. Hindley, whose alcoholism and gambling have worsened, plans to murder Heathcliff. Isabella begs Nelly to visit her, but Heathcliff takes up most of Nelly’s time by asking about Catherine when she does visit. He threatens to hold Nelly hostage unless she helps him see Catherine, and she agrees to bring a letter back to Thrushcross Grange.
Catherine Dies (Chapters 15–17): Nelly delivers Heathcliff’s letter to Catherine while Edgar is at church. Heathcliff suddenly appears, and Catherine declares that he and Edgar broke her heart. Still, she asks him for forgiveness. Heathcliff replies that he can forgive her for what she did to him, but he cannot forgive her for what she has done to herself. Edgar returns, but Catherine begs Heathcliff not to leave. She collapses, and Heathcliff catches her and promptly puts her in Edgar’s arms, urging him to take care of her. Heathcliff waits in the garden for news. Catherine dies two hours after giving birth to a daughter—also named Catherine—two months prematurely. Heathcliff is not surprised when Nelly tells him the news. He begs Catherine to haunt him for the rest of his life so they can be together. Shortly after Catherine’s funeral, Isabella escapes from Heathcliff and settles down near London before giving birth to a sickly son, Linton. Hindley dies six months after Catherine, and Wuthering Heights is transferred to Heathcliff. Heathcliff refuses to allow Hareton, the rightful heir to Wuthering Heights, to leave or receive an education.
Cathy Meets Hareton (Chapters 18–20): Years pass. Catherine Linton, or Cathy, is thirteen years old. Edgar never allows her to leave home without a chaperone, so she has no idea that Wuthering Heights exists. One day, Edgar learns that Isabella is dying and leaves for London. Cathy sneaks out of Thrushcross Grange and encounters Hareton on her way to Penistone Crags. They get along immediately, but Cathy soon thinks less of him when Nelly tells her that he is not the son of the master of Wuthering Heights. She is offended to learn that Hareton is her cousin, and she tries to discount the claim by revealing that her father is bringing her actual cousin—the son of a gentleman—from London. She fawns over Linton when he arrives at Thrushcross Grange, but his stay is short-lived when Heathcliff demands that his son be brought to him. Nelly tries to comfort Linton, who is generally frail and whiny, by saying that Heathcliff is a good person. However, upon arrival, Heathcliff cruelly refers to Linton as his property and disparages Isabella’s character. Linton begs Nelly not to abandon him, but she has no choice but to leave.
Cathy and Linton Grow Closer (Chapters 21–22): Cathy is initially devastated when Linton is forced to move away, but she gradually forgets about him. Three years later, she and Nelly see Heathcliff and Hareton on the road. Cathy does not remember Hareton but suspects that they have met before. Heathcliff insists that Cathy and Nelly accompany him back to Wuthering Heights, where Cathy and Linton are reunited once again. Heathcliff tells Nelly that he hopes that they will marry. Cathy later confronts Edgar about hiding her relatives from her and he tries to explain his history with Heathcliff. She sees how much her father despises Heathcliff and promises never to see Linton again. Secretly, she and Linton begin writing letters to each other, but Nelly discovers them and forces Cathy to end the correspondence. That winter, Edgar becomes ill and Cathy spends all of her time with Nelly. Heathcliff encounters Cathy outside and reprimands her for not writing to Linton anymore. He insists that Linton is now sicker because of it, and Cathy is so guilty that she agrees to go visit him at Wuthering Heights, even though Nelly insists that Heathcliff is lying.
Cathy Begins Meeting Linton in Secret (Chapter 23–25): Linton complains about Cathy’s not visiting him and mentions the prospect of marrying Cathy. Back at Thrushcross Grange, Cathy falls to the rank of caretaker, in which role she serves both her father and Nelly, who caught a cold from riding to and from Wuthering Heights in the rain. At night, Cathy sneaks over to Wuthering Heights to see Linton. Nelly eventually discovers the secret visits and reveals everything to Edgar. Edgar forbids Cathy from visiting Wuthering Heights again but agrees to allow Linton to visit Thrushcross Grange. However, Linton is now too ill to make the trip, so Edgar tells Cathy that she can meet Linton on the moors—and marry him, too, if it will make her happy.
Heathcliff Forces Cathy to Marry Linton (Chapters 26–29): Nelly accompanies Cathy to meet Linton, but he is so weak that he cannot walk far from Wuthering Heights. He looks nervous and more physically diminished than when she saw him last. However, he insists that he is improving. The following Thursday, Cathy and Nelly return for the next scheduled visit. Linton appears very nervous and reveals that Heathcliff is pressuring him to court Cathy. Heathcliff appears, asking about Edgar’s health and confiding in Nelly that he fears Linton will die before Edgar does. He invites Nelly and Cathy back to Wuthering Heights and, though her father has forbidden it, Cathy agrees because Linton is scared to return without her. Upon reaching Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff locks Nelly and Cathy away, refusing to release them until Cathy marries Linton. After five days, she agrees. Linton helps her escape Wuthering Heights in time to see her father before he dies. After Edgar’s funeral, Heathcliff brings Cathy to live at Wuthering Heights. Nelly wants to move to Wuthering Heights, but Heathcliff keeps her at the Grange and forbids her from visiting.
Cathy and Hareton Fall in Love (Chapters 30–33): Linton dies shortly after his wedding to Cathy. The narration returns to Mr. Lockwood, who leaves Thrushcross Grange, relieved to be away from the locals. Six months later, he returns to Wuthering Heights to find that Nelly is living there because Zillah moved away. Nelly tells him that Cathy and Hareton have fallen in love after Hareton shot himself in the foot and Cathy was ordered to care for him. At first, they argued, but soon they grew to care for each other. Cathy has even agreed to teach Hareton how to read. Heathcliff, meanwhile, is less interested in enacting his revenge on Cathy and Hareton, because they remind him so much of his own relationship with Catherine.
Heathcliff Dies (Chapter 34): Heathcliff descends into madness, first by refusing to eat more than one meal per day. A few days later, he spends all night out on the moors. Heathcliff appears to have mood swings and acts strangely. Nelly is startled when she finds him talking to what seems to be a ghost, and she hears him uttering Catherine’s name. Heathcliff reminds Nelly of his wish to be buried beside Catherine. The next day, he sequesters himself in his room and refuses to see the doctor. The next morning, Nelly finds him dead on the floor, soaked through from having opened the window during a rainstorm the night before. Heathcliff is buried beside Catherine, as he wanted. Cathy and Hareton are soon to be married and will then move to Thrushcross Grange. The villagers talk about seeing Heathcliff’s ghost wandering the moors with another ghost at night, but Lockwood writes that he cannot fathom “how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”