WUTHERING HEIGHTS – Emily Bronte
ABOUT THE NOVELIST
Wuthering Heights is the only novel of Emily Bronte, who died of tuberculosis in 1848 at the age of thirty. The story of her life, like that of her brother and sisters, has long since taken its place among the great Iiterary legends of Britain and possesses an almost mythic quality. The originality and intensity of her imagination, which led
her to produce a novel unique in English Literature, provide a fascinating subject for critical inquiry and psychological speculation. She was the daughter of an Irish clergyman whose background was Methodist but who was himself firmly of the Church of England. Emily was his fifth child. Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone’, So Emily Bronte appeared in the eyes of her sister, Charlotte. Her one novel, Wuthering Heights, published a year before her death in 1848 at the age of thirty, similarly stands alone as perhaps the most passionately original work in the English Language.
PLOT SUMMARY (STORY OF THE NOVEL)
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 his 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 Girange 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 orphan boy, who the family later names Heathclif Cathar 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. Hindley 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 near Yen are attacked by the Lintons dogs Grange, where the refined Linton family resides. After the scene 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 Wuthering Heights. she dresses and acts more like a lady. To humiliate Heathcliff, Hindley orders him to greet Catherine like all the other servants, Catherine insensitively calls Heathcliff dirty, comparing him to her elegant and pristine new friends, Edgar and Isabella Linton. When Mr. and Mrs. Linton allow young Edgar and Isabella to visit Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff lashes out at Edgar after being humiliated yet again by Hindley. Young Heathcliff vows revenge on Hindley, though Nelly counsels him to learn to forgive.
Frances eventually gives birth to a son, Hareton, though she dies soon after. Devastated, Hindley sinks into alcoholism, becoming even more erratic and abusive. During this time, Edgar Linton begins to court Catherine, who often feels caught in the middle of Edgar’s and Heathcliffs animosity toward one another.
One day, Catherine tells Nelly that Edgar has proposed and she has accepted. Catherine admits, however, that she would have gladly married Heathcliff over Edgar had Hindley not made him a lowly servant. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Heathcliff overhears her, and after hearing Catherine say it would “degrade” her to marry him, he leaves Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff thus does not hear the rest of Catherine and Nelly’s conversation, during which Catherine explains how deeply she loves Heathcliff.
After three years, Catherine and Edgar are married and live at Thrushcross Grange with Edgar’s sister, Isabella. Heathcliff finally returns, having mysteriously acquired a fortune during his time away. To everyone’s surprise, Heathcliff stays at Wuthering Heights with Hindley, who has now become a degenerate gambler.
Catherine is overjoyed to see Heathcliff once more, and he soon becomes a regular visitor at Thrushcross Grange. Edgar, however, still dislikes Heathcliff and is uncomfortable with Catherine and Heathcliffs unusual relationship. Knowing that Isabella is the heir to Edgar’s property, Heathcliff begins courting her. A confrontation finally occurs between Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar, and Heathcliff is ordered to leave by Edgar. The stress of the situation causes Catherine to fall ill, and she remains mentally and physically weak for months. Meanwhile, Heathcliff elopes with Isabella, causing Edgar to cut off all communication with Isabella. Increasingly frail, Catherine dies soon after giving birth to a daughter, who is also named Catherine.
Heathcliff is devastated by Catherine’s death and vows revenge on Edgar. Isabella eventually flees the increasingly abusive and violent atmosphere at Wuthering Heights for London. Several months later, she gives birth to a son, Linton Heathcliff, whom she raises alone. Upon Hindley’s death, Nelly realizes that Wuthering Heights has been mortgaged extensively to Heathcliff, who is now the de facto owner. As the years pass, Edgar is a doting father to young Cathy, though he takes pains to conceal the existence of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights from her. When Isabella dies, Edgar tries to adopt Linton (now twelve), but he is thwarted by Heathcliff, who demands that his son come to live with him at Wuthering Heights. Several years later, Cathy accidentally discovers both Wuthering Heights and her cousin Linton. This meeting puts Heathcliff’s larger revenge plot into motion: by forcing Cathy to marry the terminally ill Linton, Heathcliff ensures that he will gain control over both Edgar’s daughter and his family home.
Heathcliff eventually succeeds by kidnapping Cathy and forcing her to marry Linton. Edgar dies and Linton inherits Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff compels Cathy to move to Wuthering Heights, and Linton dies soon after, bequeathing all of his property to Heathcliff. The story has now caught up to the present, and Lockwood’s earlier visit to Wuthering Heights confirms that Heathcliff’s revenge has been a success. Heathcliff has raised Hindley’s promising son, Hareton, as a rude, uneducated servant, mirroring what Hindley once did to young Heathcliff. Heathcliff has also taken revenge on Edgar by gaining ownership of Thrushcross Grange and making Edgar’s beloved daughter miserable in the process. Disgusted by the whole affair, Lockwood decides to leave the area.
Several months later, Lockwood visits Wuthering Heights once more. He is surprised to hear that Heathcliff is dead, his desire for revenge having been overshadowed by his desire to be reunited with Catherine. According to Nelly, Heathcliff began behaving
strangely and claimed he was “within sight of heaven” after spending a night wandering on the moors. A few days later, he died.
Since his death, several villagers claim to have seen Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s ghosts walking through the moors. Lockwood is surprised to hear that Cathy and Hareton are now in love and plan to be married in the New Year. Nelly tells Lockwood that she and the young couple plan to move back into Thrushcross Grange after the wedding. Leaving Wuthering Heights, Lockwood wanders over to the graves of Edgar, Catherine, and Heathcliff, certain in the belief that they are finally at peace.
THE SETTING OF THE NOVEL
All the action of Wuthering Heights takes place in or around two neighbouring houses on the Yorkshire moors- Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The actual date of first publication was in 1847.
GENRE: Gothic novel (designed to both horrify and fascinate readers with scenes of passion and cruely; supernatural elements; and a dard, foreboding atmosphere); also realist fiction (incorporates vivid circumstantial detail into a consistently and minutely thought-out plot, dealing mostly with the relationship of the characters to one another).
POINT OF VIEW: Most of the events of the novel are narrated in Nelly’s voice, from Nelly’s point of view, focusing only on what she can see and hear, or what she can find out about indirectly.
Nelly frequently comments on what the other characters think and feel, and on what their motivations are, but these comments are all based on her own interpretations of the other characters- she is not an omniscient character.
TONE: It is not easy to infer the author’s attitude toward the events
of the novel. The melodramatic quality of the first half of the novel suggest that Bronte views Catherine and Heathcliff’s doomed love as a tragedy of lost potential and wasted passion. However, the outcome of the second half of the novel suggests that Bronte is more interested in celebrating the renewal and rebirth brought about by the passage of time, and the rise of a new generation, than she is in mourning Heathcliff and Catherine.
MAJOR CONFLICTS: Heathcliff’s great natural abilities, strength of character, and love for Catherine Earnshaw all enable him to raise himself from humble beginnings to the status of a wealthy gentleman, but his need to revenge himself for Hindley’s abuse and Catherine’s betrayal leads him into twisted life of cruelty and hatred; Catherine is torn between her love for Heathcliff and
her desire to be a gentle-woman and her decision to marry the genteel Edgar Linton drags almost all the novel’s characters into conflict with Heathcliff.
RISING ACTION: Heathcliff’s arival at Wuthering Heights, Hindley’s abusive treatment of Heathcliff and Cathcrine’s first visit to Thrushcross Grange set the major conflicts in motion; once Heathcliff hears Catherine say it would “degrade her to marry him, the conversation between Nelly and Catherine, which he secretly overhears, drịves him to run away and pursue his vengeance.
CLIMAX: Catherine’s death is the culmination of the conflict
between herself and Heathcliff and removes any possibility that
their conflict could be resolved positively; after Catherine’s death.
Heathcliff merely extends and deepens his drives toward revenge
FALLING ACTION: Heathcliff destroys Isabella and drives her away, takes possession of young Linton, forces Catherine and Linton to marry, inherits Thrushcross Grange, than loses interest in the whole project and dies; Hareton and young Catherine are to be engaged to be married, promising end to the cycle ofrevenge.
FORESHADOWING: Lockwood’s initial visit to Wuthering Heights which the mysterious relationships and lurking resentments between the characters create an air of mystery; Lockwood’s ghostly nightmares, during the night he spends in Catherine’s old bed, pre-figure many of the events of the rest of the novel.
NARRATOR: Lockwood. a newcomer to the locale of Wuthering Heights, narrates the entire novel as an entry in his diary. The story that Lockwood records is told to him by Nelly, a servant, and Lockwood writes most of the narrates in her voice, describing how she told it to him. Some parts of Nelly’s story are narrated by other
characters, such as when Nelly receives a letter from Isabella and recites its contents verbatim.
PROTAGONISTS IN THE NOVEL:
THEMES IN THE NOVEL:
- The destructiveness of a love that never changes;
- The precariousness of social class.
MOTIFS USED IN THE NOVEL:
- the conflict between nature and culture.
SYMBOLS USED IN THE NOVEL:
- The moors,