Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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Overview

Wuthering Heights is a multigenerational story of love and revenge that revolves around the inhabitants of a desolate farmhouse called Wuthering Heights and its owner Heathcliff.

  • Mr. Lockwood narrates his visit to Wuthering Heights, where he meets Heathcliff and learns the history of the house and its miserable inhabitants.

  • Mr. Earnshaw, the former owner of the house, adopts a boy called Heathcliff. Mr. Earnshaw's daughter, Catherine, falls in love with Heathcliff, but their love is doomed and they both marry other people.

  • Catherine marries Edgar Linton, a wealthy neighbor, and dies after giving birth to a daughter named Cathy. Heathcliff marries Edgar’s sister to inherit her money.

  • Devastated by Catherine's death, Heathcliff enacts revenge on the next generation, which includes his son Linton, his nephew Hareton, and Catherine's daughter. 

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Summary

Wuthering Heights is narrated through the diary of Mr. Lockwood as he writes down both his own experiences and the recollections of others. Desiring solitude, Lockwood has recently begun renting Thrushcross Grange, a remote house in the Yorkshire Moors of Northern England. One day, he decides to visit Wuthering Heights, the nearby home of his new landlord, Heathcliff. At Wuthering Heights, Lockwood encounters several strange and unpleasant characters: Cathy, Heathcliff’s beautiful but rude daughter-in-law; Hareton Earnshaw, an uncivilized yet prideful young man; Joseph, a surly old servant; and Heathcliff, the misanthropic owner of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Mystified by the obvious animosity between the occupants of Wuthering Heights, Lockwood returns for a second visit but is forced to spend the night when a snowstorm hits. In the middle of the night, Lockwood is awakened by a ghostly child who calls herself Catherine Linton and begs to be let in through the window. Utterly terrified, Lockwood wakes Heathcliff, who then proceeds to throw open the window and call out to the ghost, begging it to return. Desperate to leave this haunted house and its eerie residents, Lockwood sets off for Thrushcross Grange as soon as possible.

After returning home, Lockwood asks the housekeeper at Thrushcross Grange, Nelly Dean, whether she knows anything about the strange occupants of Wuthering Heights. Nelly explains that she grew up as a servant at the Heights and is well acquainted with the history of the house. Taking over the narration, Nelly begins her story nearly thirty years earlier, when Wuthering Heights was owned by the Earnshaw family: Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw and their two young children, Catherine and Hindley. One day, Mr. Earnshaw returns from a trip with a swarthy young orphan boy, who the family later names Heathcliff. Catherine warms to Heathcliff and the two become fast friends, while Hindley, jealous of Mr. Earnshaw’s obvious preference for his adopted son, resents and abuses Heathcliff. As the conflict between Heathcliff and Hindley grows, Mr. Earnshaw finally decides to resolve the situation by sending Hindley away to college. When Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns from school with his new wife, Frances, and takes control of Wuthering Heights.

Almost immediately, Hindley reduces Heathcliff to the position of a servant. Though Heathcliff’s life is now full of difficult and degrading work, his friendship with Catherine keeps him going. Hindey is utterly devoted to Frances and, as a result, gives little thought to Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s upbringing. Largely unmonitored, they spend their childhoods wandering through the moors and misbehaving together. On one of their adventures, they sneak over to nearby Thrushcross Grange, where the refined Linton family resides. After the children are attacked by the Lintons’ dogs while spying through the windows, the Lintons take Catherine in but turn Heathcliff—who they call a “frightful thing”—away. Catherine stays with the Lintons for several weeks as her dog bite heals. When Catherine finally returns to...

(The entire section is 3,354 words.)