"Wuthering Heights" a Novel by Emily Brontë

Posted: September 24, 2007 in Classic Literature, Emily Brontë, Novel, Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontë’s only novel. It was first published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and a posthumous second edition was edited by her sister Charlotte. The name of the novel comes from the Yorkshire manor on the moors on which the story centres. (As an adjective, wuthering is a Yorkshire word referring to turbulent weather.) The narrative tells the tale of the all-encompassing and passionate, yet thwarted love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys both themselves and many around them.

Now considered a classic of English literature, Wuthering Heights’s innovative structure, which has been likened to a series of Matryoshka dolls,[1] met with mixed reviews by critics when it first appeared.[2][3] Though Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was originally considered the best of the Brontë sisters’ works, many subsequent critics of Wuthering Heights argued that its originality and achievement made it superior.[4] Wuthering Heights has also given rise to many adaptations and inspired works, including films, radio, television dramatisations, musicals and songs (notably the hit Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush) and opera.

Plot Summary
The narrative is non-linear, involving several flashbacks, and involves two narrators – Mr Lockwood and Nelly Dean. The novel opens in 1801, with Lockwood arriving at Thrushcross Grange, a grand house on the Yorkshire moors he is renting from the surly Heathcliff, who lives at nearby Wuthering Heights. Lockwood spends the night at Wuthering Heights and has a terrifying dream: the ghost of Catherine Linton, pleading to be admitted to the house from outside. Intrigued, Lockwood asks the housekeeper Nelly Dean to tell the story of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights.

Nelly takes over the narration and begins her story thirty years earlier, when Heathcliff, a foundling living on the streets of Liverpool, is brought to Wuthering Heights by the then-owner, Mr. Earnshaw and raised as his own. Earnshaw’s daughter Catherine becomes Heathcliff’s inseparable friend. Her brother Hindley, however, resents Heathcliff, seeing him as an interloper and rival. Earnshaw dies three years later, and Hindley (who has married a woman named Frances) takes over the estate. He brutalizes Heathcliff, forcing him to work as a hired hand. Catherine becomes friends with a neighbour family, the Lintons of Thrushcross Grange, who mellow her initially wild personality. She is especially attached to the refined and mild young Edgar Linton, whom Heathcliff instantaneously dislikes.

A year later, Hindley’s wife dies,apparently of consumption, shortly after giving birth to a son, Hareton; Hindley takes to drink. Some two years after that, Catherine agrees to marry Edgar. Nelly knows that this will crush Heathcliff, and Heathcliff overhears Catherine’s explanation that it would be “degrading” to marry him. Heathcliff storms out and leaves Wuthering Heights, not hearing Catherine’s continuing declarations that Heathcliff is as much a part of her as the rocks are to the earth beneath. Catherine marries Edgar, and is initially very happy. Some time later, Heathcliff returns, intent on destroying those who prevent him from being with Catherine. He has, mysteriously, become very wealthy, and has duped Hindley into making him the heir to Wuthering Heights. Intent on ruining Edgar, Heathcliff elopes with Edgar’s sister Isabella, which places him in a position to inherit Thrushcross Grange upon Edgar’s death.

Catherine becomes very ill after Heathcliff’s return and dies a few hours after giving birth to a daughter also named Catherine, or Cathy. Heathcliff becomes only more bitter and vengeful. Isabella flees her abusive marriage a month later, and subsequently gives birth to a boy, Linton. At around the same time, Hindley dies. Heathcliff takes ownership of Wuthering Heights, and vows to raise Hindley’s son Hareton with as much neglect as he had suffered at Hindley’s hands years earlier.

Twelve years later, the dying Isabella asks Edgar to raise her and Heathcliff’s son, Linton. However, Heathcliff finds out about this and takes the sickly, spoiled child to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff has nothing but contempt for his son, but delights in the idea of him ruling the property of his enemies. To that end, a few years later, Heathcliff attempts to persuade young Cathy to marry Linton. Cathy refuses, so Heathcliff kidnaps her and forces the two to marry. Soon after, Edgar Linton dies, followed shortly by Linton. This leaves Cathy a widow and a virtual prisoner at Wuthering Heights, as Heathcliff has gained complete control of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. It is at this point in the narrative that Lockwood arrives, taking possession of Thrushcross Grange, and hearing Nelly Dean’s story. Shocked, Lockwood leaves for London.

During his absence from the area, however, events reach a climax; Cathy gradually softens toward her rough, uneducated cousin Hareton, just as her mother grew tender towards Heathcliff. When Heathcliff realizes that Cathy and Hareton are in love, he abandons his life-long vendetta. He dies broken and tormented, and Catherine and Hareton marry. Heathcliff is buried next to Catherine (the elder), and the story concludes with Lockwood visiting the grave, unsure of what to feel.[source: wikipedia]

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