Wuthering Heights Summary

Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights

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Wuthering Heights Summary

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Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, takes place in the early 1800s. The house known as Thrushcross Grange has just been let to a Mr. Lockwood. Lockwood rents from Mr. Heathcliff, who lives at the neighboring property, called Wuthering Heights. The story opens with Lockwood going to visit his landlord, only to find Mr. Heathcliff not at home. Instead, he encounters Mrs. Heathcliff and Hareton Earnshaw, both of whom Lockwood finds disagreeable. Outside, the weather worsens, and snow begins to fall. Neither Mrs. Heathcliff nor Hareton Earnshaw offer to help him back home. They don’t offer him refuge at Wuthering Heights, either. Lockwood has no choice but to try to find his own way home. On the way out of the house, a dog attacks him. Mr. Heathcliff arrives and, though he doesn’t want to, consents to allow Mr. Lockwood to stay the night, since it’s snowing and he is bleeding.

In the quarters he is given for his short stay at Wuthering Heights, Lockwood finds journals written by a girl named Catherine. He reads them until he drifts off and begins to dream. In his dream, he argues with a preacher, whose parishioners jump to his defense and begin attacking Mr. Lockwood. He is roused from his dream by a tapping sound. He can’t get the sound to go away, and ends up breaking a window to accomplish that task, encountering a ghost that calls herself Catherine Linton. Mr. Lockwood screams in fright, waking Mr. Heathcliff, who takes him home. The trip across the moors between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange is a snowy one that leaves Mr. Lockwood sick with a terrible cold.

One of his servants, Nelly Dean, was once the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights, and Mr. Lockwood asks her to tell him about the residents there in hopes that the stories will at least entertain him while he is sick. She begins by telling Lockwood about the Heathcliff, Linton, and Earnshaw family trees, which are confusing because many of the people in each family share similar names. What the reader must draw from this section and the background it provides is that Heathcliff was an orphan found and taken in by Mr. Earnshaw, who was the owner of Wuthering Heights, and that Hindley Earnshaw, his son, was terribly jealous of Heathcliff. The characters that Lockwood met at Wuthering Heights are Heathcliff, the former orphan; Mrs. Heathcliff, his daughter-in-law, who had married his son, Linton; and Hareton Earnshaw, who is Mrs. Heathcliff’s nephew and the child of Hindley.

The remainder of the novel fills in the details of the history between these families. Two years after taking in Heathcliff, Mr. Earnshaw perishes. Hindley, still jealous of Heathcliff, forces him to work in the fields. Heathcliff becomes and remains friends with Catherine Linton, née Earnshaw—Hindley’s sister. Heathcliff and Catherine are spying on Thrushcross Grange one day, and see two children, Isabella and Edgar Linton, almost kill a puppy. They try to run away so they won’t be caught spying, when one of the Linton’s dogs goes after Catherine, attacking her. The Lintons bring her into their home at Thrushcross Grange to heal, and she stays there for several weeks. Upon her return to Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s dress and demeanor have changed; she is well-mannered and her clothes are nice. This annoys Heathcliff.

Hindley, who has married a woman named Frances, has a son, whom he names names Hareton, in 1778. Frances dies shortly after giving birth. Her death causes Hindley to spiral into grief and he is unable to care for Hareton. Meanwhile, Catherine agrees to marry Edgar Linton, which greatly upsets Heathcliff, especially as Catherine had told Nelly that Heathcliff was, as an orphan of no means, inferior, and thus she could not marry him. Word of this declaration of Catherine’s gets back to Heathcliff, who disappears.