Emily Brontë first published “Wuthering Heights”, her romance novel in 1847. The story unfolds in the wild and desolate moors of Yorkshire, England, where the Brontë sisters are from. And centers around the passionate and tumultuous love story of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw.
The romance is a literary classic for several reasons. First and foremost, the novel’s intricate and powerful storytelling captivates readers and keeps them engaged from start to finish. The complex and unforgettable characters, such as Heathcliff and Catherine, have left a lasting impact on literature and popular culture.
The narrative explores the destructive impact of vengeance on both individuals and families. As generations pass, the story reveals the cyclical nature of love and hate. With the next generation facing the consequences of the actions of their predecessors.
Over the years, Wuthering Heights has received critical acclaim for its literary merit and profound exploration of human nature. It has become a staple of English literature curricula and remains widely read and beloved by readers worldwide.
Summary of Wuthering Heights
The story begins with Mr. Lockwood, a wealthy young man from the south of England, arriving at Thrushcross Grange in the desolate Yorkshire hills. He has rented the property from Heathcliff, the enigmatic owner of nearby Wuthering Heights. The strange and eerie atmosphere surrounding Wuthering Heights and its inhabitants intrigues Lockwood.
There to meet Heathcliff and discuss his tenancy, the rough and unfriendly household meets Lockwood with hostility. He witnesses a series of disturbing events, including a ghostly visitation of a woman named Catherine Linton, who appears at his window, begging to be let in.
Intrigued by these mysteries, Lockwood inquires about the history of Wuthering Heights from the housekeeper, Nelly Dean. Nelly begins to recount the story of the Earnshaw family, particularly focusing on Heathcliff’s past.
The story shifts to the late 18th century when Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights, brings a young orphan boy named Heathcliff into his home. Raised alongside Earnshaw’s own children, Catherine and Hindley, Heathcliff forms a deep bond with Catherine. However, Hindley despises Heathcliff, and their relationship is marked by rivalry and animosity.
As they grow older, Catherine and Heathcliff’s bond intensifies and evolves into a passionate and all-consuming love. Catherine confesses to Nelly that she loves Heathcliff but cannot marry him because of their differing social statuses. Instead, she decides to marry Edgar Linton, a kind and wealthy neighbor from Thrushcross Grange. Despite not being in love with him.
Catherine’s marriage to Edgar devastates Heathcliff, and his bitterness and desire for revenge grow. He becomes obsessed with the idea of revenge on those who have wronged him and seizes every opportunity to inflict suffering on Hindley and Edgar, as well as their families.
The novel further explores the lives of the next generation, focusing on Catherine and Edgar’s daughter, also named Catherine, and Heathcliff’s son, Linton. As the two young Catherines grow up together, Linton’s weak and manipulative nature becomes apparent, and he becomes a pawn in Heathcliff’s schemes.
Heathcliff’s relentless quest for vengeance leads to the ruin of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Tragedy strikes as characters suffer untimely deaths and endure immense emotional pain.
In the end, after the death of Heathcliff, peace seems to return to the moors, and the younger Catherine marries her childhood friend and true love, Hareton Earnshaw, the last remaining member of the Earnshaw family.
Emily Brontë’s evocative prose, vivid characters, and haunting setting make the novel a true literary masterpiece and a classic in English literature.
The novel also explores themes of love, revenge, and social class in a way that was groundbreaking for its time. Brontë’s raw and intense portrayal of human emotions and relationships continues to resonate with readers across generations.
Emily Brontë uses two main points of view (POVs) to narrate the story:
- Lockwood’s POV: Mr. Lockwood, a tenant at Thrushcross Grange, serves as the primary narrator for the frame story. He introduces the readers to the events at Wuthering Heights by recounting his own experiences and interactions with the inhabitants. Lockwood’s POV provides an outsider’s perspective on the events, as he is an observer and not directly involved in the main story.
- Nelly Dean’s POV: Nelly Dean, the housekeeper at both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, serves as the primary narrator for the core story. She recounts the events of the past, including the complex relationships between Heathcliff, Catherine Earnshaw, and the other characters. Nelly’s POV offers an insider’s perspective, as she is intimately connected to the characters and has witnessed their lives unfold firsthand.
These two narrative voices, Lockwood and Nelly Dean, work together to provide a multi-layered and comprehensive account of the events and emotions that shape the story of “Wuthering Heights.” While Lockwood’s POV introduces the novel and frames the story, Nelly Dean’s POV takes center stage in narrating the main events and providing insights into the characters’ motivations and actions.
literary devices in Wuthering Heights
Definition: Foreshadowing is a literary device used to hint at or suggest future events in the story. Example: “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” (Chapter 3) Explanation: This quote foreshadows the peaceful rest and eternal sleep of Catherine and Heathcliff after their tumultuous lives.
Definition: Symbolism is the use of objects, characters, or actions to represent abstract ideas or concepts. Example: “I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.” (Chapter 9) Explanation: In this quote, Catherine uses the metaphor of dreams and wine to symbolize the profound impact her experiences have had on her thoughts and emotions.
Definition: Parallelism is the repetition of words, phrases, or sentence structures to create rhythm and emphasize certain ideas. Example: “Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.” (Chapter 28) Explanation: In this quote, the parallel structure emphasizes the consequences of treachery and violence and their impact on both the perpetrators and their victims.
Definition: Imagery is the use of descriptive language to create vivid mental images and sensory experiences for the reader. Example: “The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in–let me in!’” (Chapter 3) Explanation: This vivid imagery of a haunting figure at the window evokes a sense of fear and unease, adding to the novel’s Gothic and eerie atmosphere.
Definition: Irony is the use of words or situations to convey a meaning opposite to their literal or expected sense. Example: “Terror made me cruel.” (Chapter 4) Explanation: This quote illustrates situational irony, as the fear experienced by the speaker (Heathcliff) leads him to act in a cruel and aggressive manner.