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Table of Contents

Introduction to the Author
Synopsis of Wuthering Heights
Main Character List
Form is Content
Classifying Wuthering Heights
Links & References
Topics for Discussion
Film & Television Adaptations
Wuthering Heights in Popular Culture
Image Gallery

Page Key::
[OS] = Original Source
[DQ] = Discussion Question
[TR] = Trivia

This page was created by: Divya Kunapuli, Kate Cherven, Anne Wilcox, and Emily Lathrop in the Spring of 2011.

Emily Brontë: Absolute Individual, Free-Spirit or Tormented Genius?

"'She should have been a man- a great navigator... Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty; never have given way but with life'" (Nestor, xviii)

Emily Jane Brontë was the fifth of six children born July 30, 1818 in a Yorkshire village called Haworth. Her parents were Reverend Patrick and Maria Bronte. In 1821 her mother died of cancer. In 1824 her and her sisters attended the Cowan Bridge School, yet in 1825 her two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth died. Soon Emily and her two other sisters Charlotte and Anne and their brother Branwell, began to create works of literature in their home on the moors; they conducted poems, novels, journals and a monthly magazine. They even created an entire other world which involved an adventure story, called the Gondal cycle, and recorded them in miniature booklets. “Charlotte explains the inducement to write: ‘We were wholly dependent on ourselves and each other, on books and study, for the enjoyments and occupations of life. The highest stimulus, as well as the liveliest pleasure we had known from childhood upwards, lay in attempts at literary composition’” (Pauline Nestor). Around 1845 Emily begun writing Wuthering Heights and had it published in December 1847 by the publisher T. C. Newby. In the next year, December 19, 1848, Emily died of tuberculosis.

[OS] For further details regarding Emily Brontë's life, check out An Emily Brontë Chronology.

[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.

Synopsis of Wuthering Heights

"It is a book that generates tensions- between dream and reality, self and other, natural and supernatural, realism and melodrama, structural formality and emotional chaos- but leaves them unresolved" (Miller, viii).


Spoilers below!

Volume 1: Wuthering Heights begins with a man from London, Lockwood renting an old manor named Thrushcross Grange. He eventually meets his landlord, Heathcliff, a rather grim man, who lives at Wuthering Heights a few miles from Thrushcross Grange. When he stays at Wuthering Heights he convinces Nelly, the housekeeper, to tell him the history of Heathcliff and the rest of the residents of Wuthering Heights and he records them in his diary. Nelly tells him of her childhood working at Wuthering Heights for the Earnshaw family. One day, Mr. Earnshaw brings back a gypsy orphan boy named Heathcliff from a Liverpool trip and basically adopts him into their family. In the beginning the Earnshaw children, Hindley and Catherine, loathe the boy. Catherine eventually becomes very attached to him and Mr. Earnshaw actually begins to love Heathcliff over Hindley, causing Hindley to become bitter and cruel towards Heathcliff. When Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley inherits and comes back to Wuthering Heights from college. He brings with him his wife Frances and begins to treat Heathcliff as a servant. Catherine and Heathcliff remain inseparable and go to tease neighbors Edgar and Isabella Linton who live at Thrushcross Grange. One night they wander to Thrushcross Grange, hoping to tease Edgar and Isabella Linton, the cowardly, snobbish children who live there. Catherine is bitten by a dog and subsequently stays at Thrushcross Grange for a period of time, in which the Linton’s teach her to be a “proper lady”. While there, she begins to have feelings for Edgar Linton, complicating her feelings for her companion Heathcliff. Hindley’s wife Frances ends up dying giving birth to their son Hareton. This leads Hindley to become an alcoholic, furthering his cruelty towards Heathcliff. Soon, Catherine accepts a proposal of engagement from Edgar Linton, allowing her to further her social standing despite her love for Heathcliff. Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights for three years after hearing of Catherine’s decision to marry Edgar instead of him. When Heathcliff returns, he is bitter and vengeful. He has become very wealthy and loans money to Hindley, sending him into Heathcliff’s debt. When Hindley dies from alcoholism, Heathcliff gains control over Wuthering Heights and marries Isabella Linton, who he does not hide his disdain for. Catherine eventually forces herself to become ill to gain the attention of both Heathcliff and Edgar.

Volume 2: Catherine eventually dies from this illness giving birth to her daughter, Catherine. Heathcliff almost curses her spirit, praying that she stays on Earth as a ghost to haunt him, anything to make sure that she does not leave him alone. After Catherine’s death, Isabella leaves for London and gives birth to their son, Linton. The story then jumps thirteen years into the future. Nelly is serving at Thrushcross Grange as Catherine’s nurse. Catherine is a lot like her mother and has no idea that Wuthering Heights exists. One day while walking on the Moors she meets Hareton. Shortly after this, Isabella dies and Linton is sent to live with Heathcliff, who greatly detests the boy. Three years later, Catherine meets Heathcliff on the moors and meets Linton at Wuthering Heights. Linton begins to pursue Catherine at the wish of Heathcliff, which would grant him some control on Thrushcross Grange and help him achieve revenge on Edgar for taking Catherine from him. Catherine eventually agrees to marry Linton and soon after Edgar dies, quickly followed by Linton’s. Heathcliff now owns both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. He makes Catherine live at Wuthering Heights basically be a servant and rents Thrushcross Grange to (our narrator) Lockwood. After Nelly is finished with her story, Lockwood ends his rent at Thrushcross Grange because he is so disgusted by the story. He returns six months later, however, and visits Nelly to check how everyone s doing. When Lockwood left, Catherine had hated Hareton for being uneducated but when he returns it seems that they have fallen in love. Heathcliff has become obsessed with the ghost of Catherine and after walking on the moors one night, dies. Hareton and Catherine inherit Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and will be married on New Year’s Day. The story ends with Lockwood visiting the graves of Catherine and Heathcliff.

[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.
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Who is Ellis Bell?

Name: Emily Jane Brontë
Pen Name: Ellis Bell
Born: July 30, 1818
Died: December 19, 1848
Publications: Wuthering Heights & assorted poems published in Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell

[OS] Portrait by Patrick Brontë
[TR] The Brontë sisters comprised of Currer Bell (Charlotte), Ellis Bell (Emily), and Acton Bell (Anne).
[TR] After the publication of Wuthering Heights, some skeptics maintained that the book was in fact written by Patrick, on the grounds that no woman from such circumscribed life could have written such a passionate story.

[OS] Portrait by Patrick Brontë
[TR] As children, the Brontë's created an imaginary kingdom named Angria (dominated by Charlotte and Patrick). Around 1831, Emily (13) and Anne (11) created an alternate kingdom of Gondol. Emily maintained her interest in Gondol for years and continued spinning out the fantasy till the end of her life.
[TR] When describing the novel, Charlotte told her biographer Elizabeth Gaskell, Shirley was "what Emily Brontë would have been had she been placed in health and prosperity."

Main Character List

Heathcliff: Found wandering on the streets of Liverpool by Mr. Earnshaw, who then takes the child of about seven or eight home with him. Heathcliff is treated with favoritism by Mr. Earnshaw, provoking hatred of Heathcliff from Earnshaw’s eldest son, Hindley. This hatred results in Heathcliff’s ill treatment and demotion to servant by Hindley after Mr. Earnshaw’s death. Ill treatment, and lack of education turn Heathcliff’s already moody temperament to evil, and the beginning of the novel chronicles Heathcliff’s descent into villainy. Although Heathcliff’s origin is never clear, he is described throughout as ‘dark’ and a ‘gypsy.’ These distinctions, coupled with his lack of manners or regard for others, make Heathcliff a societal misfit with no clear place, and someone who would have been viewed in Victorian times as an ‘Other.’

"He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentlemen- that is, as much a gentlemen as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss, with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure- and rather morose- possibly some people might suspect him of a degree of under-bred pride" (5).

Catherine (Cathy) Earnshaw (later Linton): The only daughter of the Earnshaw household, and close in age to Heathcliff. As the daughter of landed gentry she has a clear place in society, and as such is later schooled in ‘polite behavior’ by the Lintons. Throughout the novel she is described as ‘headstrong,’ ‘passionate,’ haughty,’ and ‘wicked.’ Catherine is characterized as having little regard for the feelings of others, and as being accustomed to having her own way. The violent and passionate side of her nature clashes with her place in society, and with the schooling she has had with the Lintons. These dual traits in her character, and her headstrong selfishness, put her at odds with the ideals of the Victorian age, and identify her with feminism, and later with the ‘New Women.’

"Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going- singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same. A wild, wick slip she was- but, she had the bonniest eye, and sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish; and, after all, I believe she meant no harm; for when once she made you cry in good earnest, it seldom happened that she would not keep you company, and oblige you to be quiet that you might comfort her" (42).

Ellen Dean (Nelly): A servant first of the Earnshaw household, then of the Linton. Nelly was raised with Heathcliff, Catherine, and Hindley Earnshaw, and seemed to enjoy the position of both their servant and playmate. Indeed, when she grew up, she served the dual role of servant and adviser/confidant for several other characters. Nelly is the principle narrator of the novel, telling the story to Mr. Lockwood, and it is through her eyes that we see the other characters. She is portrayed as wiser and more well educated that the normal servant of the day, and thus, as with several other characters, her place in society is nebulous.

"She was not a gossip, I feared, unless about her own affairs, and those could hardly interest me" (33).

Mr. Lockwood: The narrator of the frame tale. Lockwood meets Heathcliff, Hareton, and young Catherine when he moves into Thrushcross Grange as a tenant, and it is to him that Nelly tells the story of the events twenty years previous. Lockwood is a self-proclaimed misanthrope who contradictorily claims to be easily smitten, and seeks the company of his inhospitable neighbors frequently, presenting the problem of whether he lacks self-awareness, or is merely a picture of societal norms, so unlike many other characters in the novel.

"By this curious turn of disposition I have gained the reputation of deliberate heartlessness, how undeserved, I alone can appreciate" (6).

Young Catherine Linton (later Heathcliff): The daughter of Catherine and Edgar Linton, born on the night her mother died. Catherine is raised in a very sheltered fashion by her father and Ellen Dean. In her teen years she meets Linton Heathcliff, and is forced to marry him by his father. On her young husband’s almost immediate decease, she is forced to continue residing at Wuthering Heights, where she eventually develops a relationship with Hareton Earnshaw, and subsequently announces her intention to marry him. Formally, Catherine can be seen as an echo of her mother, who, through a more selfless character, as well as chance, avoids the same fate, and marries her true counterpart.

"She was slender, and apparently scarcely past girlhood: an admirable form, and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding: small features, very fair; flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging loose on her delicate neck; and eyes- had they been agreeable in expression, they would have been irresistible" (11).

Edgar Linton: Grew up at Thrushcross Grange, the estate neighboring Wuthering Heights, courted, and married Catherine Earnshaw, and fathered her daughter, young Catherine. Edgar represents a member of the civilized, Victorian society; polite, educated, refined, and lacking in fiery temper. He is Heathcliff’s direct opposite, and, with his wealth and standing, the socially correct choice for Catherine’s spouse.

"... a soft featured face... pensive and amiable in expression. It formed a sweet picture. The long light hair curled slightly on the temples; the eyes were large and serious; the figure almost too graceful" (67).

Isabella Linton (later Heathcliff): The younger sister of Edgar, who develops a fatal attraction to Heathcliff, and eventually marries him. She soon regrets her choice and runs away, dying some years later, far away from home. Isabella, like Edgar, represents the civilized Victorian society that the Earnshaws should be a part of. Her attraction to, and marriage with Heathcliff displays the realistically bad results attending attraction to a Byronic hero.

"We had all remarked, during some time, that Miss Linton fretted and pined over something. She grew cross and wearisome, snapping at and teasing Catherine, continually, at the imminent risk of exhausting her limited patience. We excused her to a certain extent, on the plea of ill health- she was dwindling and fading before our eyes" (101).

Hindley Earnshaw: The brother of Catherine Earnshaw, and the father of Hareton. Hindley hates Heathcliff and following Mr.Earnshaw's death, forcibly demotes him to the status of servant. Hindley dies young, a drunken wreck of a man, deprived of his inheritance, driven to a status lower than that at which he was born, by the man whose status he had hoped to ruin forever.

"Hindley was naught, and would never thrive as where he wandered" (41).

Hareton Earnshaw: The son of Hindley Earnshaw, raised primarily by Heathcliff. As a spite to Hareton's father, Heathcliff deliberately raises Hareton in ignorance and ignominy. Hareton remains in this state until he meets Catherine Linton, who awakens in him a desire for learning. His natural goodness and intelligence then unite to improve his character, and at the end of the novel, his and Catherine's engagement has been announced.

"... his dress and speech were both rude, entirely devoid of the superiority observable in Mr. and Mrs. Heathcliff; his thick, brown curls were rough and uncultivated, his whiskers encroached bearishly over his cheeks, and his hands were embrowned like those of the common laborer; still his bearing was free, almost haughty, and he showed none of a domestic's assiduity in attending on the lady of the house" (11).

Linton Heathcliff: The son of Heathcliff and Isabella Linton. Linton, a sickly, delicate boy, is raised by his mother until her death, at which time he falls under his father's care, where he stays throughout his teen years and until his death before the age of twenty. Because of ill treatment and sickness, Linton becomes quarrelsome and self-centered. Towards the end of his life, he is forced by his father to marry his cousin, Catherine Linton, and it is while under her care that he dies.

"Linton's looks and movements were very languid, and his form extremely slight; but there was a grace in his manner that mitigated these defects, and rendered him not unpleasing" (216).

[OS] Character tree from Wikimedia Commons
[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.
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Topics for Discussion

Family vs. Outsiders: How does the history of two families and an outsider who tries to reconstruct that history complicate the novel?

Heathcliff is positioned at odds with members of the Earnshaw family and the world around him. This conflict arises from several sources: first, the dark and ‘gypsy-like’ aspect of Heathcliff’s countenance sets him apart from those around him. Then, in a world where family and name matter immensely, Heathcliff essentially has no name or family to speak of. He also initially has no land, placing him distinctly in another class, and apart from the landed gentry. All of these things place him at odds with the family and society around him. The second conflict between family and outsiders, however, is the conflict between Catherine and Heathcliff, and the radically different Lintons. Although Catherine is ostensibly from the same place in society as the Lintons, she is much more like Heathcliff than like them, a fact which initially places the two at odds with the Lintons. Heathcliff speaks to Nelly of his and Cathy's first encounter with the Linton's noting, “Both of us were able to look in by standing on the basement and clinging to the ledge, and we saw-ah! it was beautiful-a splendid place carpeted with crimson.... Edgar and his sister had it entirely to themselves.... Isabella.... lay screaming at the farther end of the room, shrieking. . .Edgar stood on the hearth weeping silently, and in the middle of the table sat a little dog, shaking its paw and yelping, which, from their mutual accusations, we understood they had nearly pulled in two between them. . .We laughed outright at the petted things; we did despise them! When would you catch me wishing to have what Catherine wanted? or find us by ourselves, seeking entertainment in yelling, and sobbing, and rolling on the ground, divided by the whole room?" (48).

[DQ] Does the novel side with societal norms or with simple human connection (s)?
[DQ] How does the novel characterize Cathy and Heathcliff's relationship in contrast with Cathy's friendship with the Lintons?
[DQ] Does Heathcliff's change in fortune make him less of an 'outsider'? Why or why not? Does this change intensify, or abate his conflict with the world around him?

Religion vs. Supernatural: What is real and what is imagined in Wuthering Heights?

Within the novel, one is able to see the struggles between religious ideas, and the ideas of the supernatural. The reader is never quite sure what is real or the imagination while inside Wuthering Heights. The character Joseph is the religious figure of the novel, always reciting from the Bible and damning the other character to hell for their sinful acts. If one argued that this was a religious novel, then Heathcliff is most likely the evil spirit or even the devil, which was how he was first described to the reader, “you must e’en take it as a gift of God; though it’s as dark almost as if it came from the devil” (36) With the idea that the devil is within a child who is now among them, the novel teeters on the line between religion and the supernatural. Yet, there seems to be more influence of superstitions over the people of Wuthering Heights then religious doctrines. The novel has supernatural occurrences of ghosts changing religious ideas of the afterlife, Heathcliff even asked Cathy to haunt him before her death, “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe – I know that ghosts have wondered on earth” (169). Readers are shown that Heathcliff’s ideas of the afterlife are not that of Judeo-Christian ideas, they are more based in spiritual/ supernatural understandings. Catherine also believes in a more spiritual form of live than a Christian one. Catherine expresses to Nelly her feelings of religion over a dream, “heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and all the angles were so angry they flung me out, into the middle of the earth on the top of Wuthering Heights; were I woke sobbing for joy” (81). The ideal afterlife for Christian’s at the time did not appeal to Catherine, and she wished to return back to earth, possibly expressing a Pagan belief in the afterlife. This struggle between Christian beliefs and superstitions of the supernatural persists throughout the novel.

[DQ] Why does religion and supernatural beliefs seem to blend together at the Heights and in the minds of the characters?

Confinement: How is physical confinement portrayed in Wuthering Heights?

Wuthering Heights opens up to a scene of physical confinement, as Lockwood is at the mercy of Heathcliff and his eerie domicile. Even the darkness of the night emphasizes the dismal quality of the Grange, “It was so dark that I could not see the means of exit” (17). His options extremely limited, Lockwood surrenders to recovering at the Grange, “I was sick exceedingly, and dizzy and faint; and thus compelled, perforce, to accept lodgings under (Heathcliff’s) roof” (18). The use of “compelled” and “perforce” emphasizes his lack of control. Furthermore, Lockwood is taken to Catherine Earnshaw’s old bedroom and upon locating the bed he notes, “In fact, it formed a little closet, and the ledge of a window, which it enclosed, served as a table” (19). This places him within several layers of confinement- a home seething with conflict, a forbidden bedroom shrouded by mystery, and an enclosed bed that offers Lockwood security “against the vigilance of Heathcliff, and everyone else” (19). When he awakes from a nightmare to the sound of a branch against the window, Lockwood attempts to break off the branch by forcing his hand through the glass but to only be met with “the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand” (25). The ghost of Catherine clings on to his arm and pleads, “’Let me in- let me in’”, to which Lockwood responds, “’Let me go, if you want me to let you in!’” (25) While Lockwood appears captive within the walls of the Heights, Catherine is left wandering the moors (as a spirit) for twenty years while searching for a way to be let in. Moreover, Catherine’s lack of freedom is painfully obvious, as confinement essentially defines the course of her life. In childhood, she alternates between the constraint of the Heights and the freedom of the moors. The moors present an opportunity to escape Hindley’s oppressiveness, as Nelly admits, “it was one of (Catherine and Heathcliff’s) chief amusements to run away to the moors in the morning and remain there all day” (46). On their first visit to Thrushcross Grange, Catherine and Heathcliff are in awe of the freedom Edgar and Isabella seem to possess. However, when Catherine is bit by the Lintons’ dog, she is restricted by her injury to a couch at the Grange, further perpetuating her physical confinement.

[DQ] How is mental and societal confinement represented in the novel?
[DQ] What are some cases of self-imposed confinement presented in Wuthering Heights?

Savage vs. Civilized: How is human nature portrayed in Wuthering Heights?

The characters in Wuthering Heights, although different, fall into two distinct categories of human nature. The Earnshaws are savage, some more than others, whereas the Linton’s are civilized. The Earnshaws are wild and passionate. Catherine is the most savage in the family although Hindley isn’t close behind with his vengefulness and alcoholism. Even their father had a spirited nature. Nelly is an interesting part of this family because it isn’t clear whether she falls into the savage or civilized grouping since she exhibits both at certain times in the novel. Heathcliff is undoubtedly the most savage person in the novel, along with Catherine (since they are supposedly the same soul). This wildness is untamed and impossible to contain, which causes a great deal of strife in the novel. The Lintons, however, are everything a British family of class in this time period should be. They are well mannered, civilized, and even snobbish at times, if not boring. The contrast between the two families and their human natures creates a tense atmosphere in the novel, especially once Catherine begins trying to fit into the civilized nature even though she is undoubtedly born of the savage.

[DQ] How do the contrasting cases of human nature affect the way the novel functions? What is Bronte trying to convey with these two vastly different families?
[DQ] What role does suppression play in the novel? Why does Catherine suppress her true nature to try and become civilized? What does that say about human nature in general?

[OS] Wuthering Heights Photograph from Wylio.
[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.
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Form is Content

"Disturbed her? No! she has disturbed me, night and day, through eighteen years-incessantly-remorselessly-till yesternight; and yesternight I was tranquil. I dreamt I was sleeping the last sleep by that sleeper, with my heart stopped and my cheek frozen against hers" (289).

  • This quote pulls together several themes from the novel. First the themes of ghosts, and unquiet spirits, and the idea that Catherine and Heathcliff have mutually stormy and unquiet spirits. Throughout the novel, whenever they are separated, neither is completely calm or happy, and thus when they are separated by death, the result is the same, and both the living and the dead are tormented. Because of this, the quote implies, Catherine’s ghost has haunted Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights since her death - an idea that draws together the aforementioned idea of mere unquiet spirits, and the idea, hinted at throughout the novel, that ghosts exist, and haunt the living. Then, with ‘incessantly-remorselessly,’ the quote speaks of the incredibly close, and yet stormy relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy. Although they are never completely happy apart, when they are together Cathy's impetuosity and Heathcliff's dour stolidity often place them at odds. Finally, however, the quote hints, as indeed the whole book does, that perhaps Heathcliff and Cathy are made of the same stuff and destined for the same fate, despite everything else. Perhaps these two mutually stormy and unquiet spirits cannot be calmed until they are together eternally, and quieted with death.

"He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle and dance in a glorious jubilee. I said his heaven would be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk: I said I should fall asleep in his; and he said he could not breathe in mine..." (248).

  • This quote is spoken by Catherine (the second generation) and she is speaking to Nelly about her and Linton Heathcliff’s different ideas of heaven. This quote, I believe, sheds light on the conflicting ideas of what love should be, within the novel. Should love be about passion and exuberance, or should love be more tranquil and peaceful? These two ideas of love are always tested within the novel, by both generations. Could Edgar and Catherine Sr.’s love be a true love even if it is tranquil and compliant? Nelly questions Catherin’s love for Edgar when they are first engaged, “you love Mr. Edgar, because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and loves you” (79). To Nelly these reasons for loving someone do not seem enough, yet Catherin is convinced she is right and further explains why she chose Edgar, “He is now; and I have only to do with the present- I wish you would speak rationally” (79). Catherin believes her love for Edgar is rational and justified, but is that true love? Could rational love not be true love and the love Heathcliff and Catherine have for each other is the truer love because it was passionate and consumed their lives, “my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath- a source of little visible delight, but necessary” (82)? Can both of these be true love? Is one a more meaningful, a more powerful love then the other? I believe that the ideas of heaven and love are intertwined because of Catherin’s statement to Nelly about her right to marry and love Edgar, “I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven” (81). I believe this mirrors the quote Catherine Jr. says of her and Linton Heathcliff’s heavens, if one’s heaven doesn’t coincide with their lover’s, then the love the two have cannot survive. One lover will feel bored while the other feels he/she is being suffocated. We are able to see that Catherine Jr. is not meant for Linton, but who is rightfully meant for Catherine Sr.?

"And I pray one prayer-I repeat it till my tongue stiffens- Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you- haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe- I know that ghosts have wandered on Earth. Be with me always- take any form- drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” (169).

  • This quote helps to summarize Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship throughout the novel. They love, and sometimes hate, each other so much that they cannot bear to be parted, even in death. Heathcliff would rather curse her soul to roam Earth as a spirit than to live on Earth without her there in some form. It also highlights how destructive their love is by referring to Heathcliff as Catherine’s murderer.In Heathcliff’s eyes, they have murdered each other by their betrayals and vengefulness. They have both done so much to each other that their love has grown into something destructive and poisonous. Not only can Heathcliff not imagine a world without Catherine in it, in some form, he also cannot stand to let her reach Heaven without him since they are the same soul. In all reality, it is unlikely that the pair would be going to Heaven anyways and Heathcliff seems to acknowledge this. They seem much more suited to remain on the Moors in death where their untamed spirits can run free. The quote also sheds light on how they view each other as one being in two separate bodies. Throughout the novel they both refer to each other as their soul. They really believe that they are one and the same so it is not surprising that he would rather damn her to stay on Earth because if she were to leave him there alone, he would be missing half of himself. 

"He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman... I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort; I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling- to manifestations of mutual kindliness" (5).

  • Lockwood attempts to explain the enigmatic presence of Heathcliff in this instance. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the novel, as Heathcliff is the most powerful, brutal, and mysterious character. Lockwood's assertion that he is a "dark-skinned gypsy" and a "gentlemen" reinforce Heathcliff's ambiguous social status (also seen when he first arrives at the Heights). Lockwood is not the first to be confused by Heathcliff's character, but he is certainly eager to interpret him any way possible. Lockwood claims, "by instinct", that Heathcliff is a kindred soul- which as the novel plays out seems rather absurd. This complicates Lockwood's reliability as a narrator, as he seems to be prone to misjudgments. By reducing Heathcliff's complexities for "an aversion to showy displays of feeling", Lockwood positions himself as both foolish (as later actions regarding Heathcliff and Lockwood's relationship indicate) and a questionable narrator. Apart from Lockwood's silly interpretation, Heathcliff's mysterious appearance dominates the first few scenes of Wuthering Heights and sets up the strange and often painful events that follow (as they are recounted to the reader).

[OS] Photograph from Wylio.
[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.
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Wuthering Heights: The Great Gothic Novel or Epic Romance?

Wuthering Heights as Gothic Fiction:
Gothic fiction as a genre came into being in the 1760's and became extremely popular in the 1790's. Although often considered to be sensationalist, the genre has been characterized as a repository of the fears and uncertainties of the societies that consumed it. Popular Gothic themes are: the supernatural, the uncanny (or unheimlich, in the original German), horror/terror, and the imprisonment or plight of a young heroine, or alternately the fate of a 'fallen woman.'

"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!'" (25)

Wuthering Heights presents many of the themes mentioned above, including a preoccupation with the supernatural (presenting ghosts, demonic characterizations, etc.), horror/terror (Lockwood's dream of the ghostly Catherine, and any dealings with corpses), and the imprisonment of a young heroine, (young Catherine, who is held prisoner and forced to marry Linton by Heathcliff). In addition, the overarching distrust and fear of Heathcliff as an "Other" speaks to the societal fear in the Victorian age of anything "unnatural" or "other."

[OS] For more information on the Gothic, see Hogle, Jerrold E., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Literature. Cambridge:Cambridge University, 2010. Print.

Wuthering Heights as the Romantic Novel:
Romanticism (also called the Romantic Era) was an creative, literary and scholarly movement in the second half of the 1700’s in England. It is believed to be a revolt against aristocratic social and political standards of the Age of Enlightenment, and the response against the scientific explanation of nature. The contemporary idea of a romantic character is expressed in Byronic (Lord Byron) standards of a talented, misunderstood outsider, following his creative nature rather than the customary ways of modern society. Romanticism also legitimized the individual imagination as a significant power, which allowed independence from traditional ideas of structure and art.

"Nelly, I am Heathcliff- he’s always, always, in my mind- not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself- but, as my own being- so, don’t talk of our separation again- it is impracticable” (82-83).

[OS] Click here for a list of "Romantic Elements" in Wuthering Heights.

[OS] Wuthering Heights cover art from Wylio.
[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.
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Links & References

[OS] Adams, Ruth M. “Wuthering Heights: The Land East of Eden”. Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 13.1 (1958): 58-62. Click to read

In this essay the author compares Wuthering Heights to the land east of Eden where Cain and his family dwell. This story is found in Genesis and is a place where morals have no real place and nothing is what it should be. The author goes on to explain that much like the land east of Eden, Wuthering Heights contaminates outsiders with vindictiveness and jealousy.  The essay helps show the morality of the characters and why that is important to the work as a whole. 

[OS] Berlinger, Manette. “’I am Heathcliff’: Lockwood’s Role in Wuthering Heights.” Bronte Studies 35.3 (2010): 185-193.ingentaconnect. Web. 1 April 2011. Click to Read

This article posits an odd connection of twinship between Lockwood and Heathcliff. Although Lockwood has traditionally been looked on as quite different from Heathcliff (despite the former’s avowal that they are alike), Berlinger points out that the entire novel is made up of opposites who are nevertheless somehow connected. She furthermore advances the idea that Heathcliff’s and Lockwood’s personal journeys parallel each other, even while they display the differences of the two characters.

[OS] Carroll, Joseph. "The Cuckoo's History: Human Nature in Wuthering Heights." Philosophy and Literature 32.2 (2008): 241-257. Project MUSE. Web. 30 March 2011. Click to Read

This article looks at the novel from the perspective of human nature, both the traditional idea of natural human interaction, and the Darwinian idea. The article posits that Heathcliff and Cathy are antithetical to traditional ideas of human interaction and nature, and that Heathcliff, as an ethical other, presents a threat to the familial hierarchy present in the world of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. In the plot of the novel, the tragic tale of Heathcliff and Cathy, which disrupts human nature, must be resolved through the romantic comedy ending of the second part, the article says, turning to theatrical form to describe the novel’s two sections.

[OS] Jaret McKinstry, Susan. “Desire’s Dreams: Power and Passion in ‘Wuthering Heights’”. College Literature, 12.2 (1985):141-146. Click to read

This essay takes an extremely interesting take on the novel, viewing the main characters as children. The author strips down their motives and desires and explains them in a way that pitches childhood against adulthood and romantic love against social acceptance. The writer takes the stance that the main point of the novel is that love and desire, to these characters, are worth dying for and are of the utmost importance. 

[OS] Rena-Dozier, Emily. "Gothic Criticisms: Wuthering Heights and Nineteenth-Century Literary History." ELH 77.3 (2010): 757-775. Project MUSE. Web. 30 March 2011. Click to read

This article notes that nineteenth century literary critics were profoundly uneasy about Wuthering Heights, and that, although the novel is more frequently discussed today, recent critics still are unsure of what to do with it. The article posits that Wuthering Heights is a reaction to this uneasiness about certain forms, and that the novel combines and fleshes out the two genres popular at the time of its creation; the Domestic and the Gothic. The article claims that the novel brings out the dark roots of the domestic, and that its narrative intricacies parallel the narrative intricacies in the literary critiques of Emily Bronte and her novel.

[OS] Test your knowledge of Wuthering Heights: Click here!

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Film & Television Adaptations

"Emily Brontë's masterpiece must be one of the most frequently adapted novels in the canon. Its wide dissemination has given it the status of a modern myth, and it has inspired films and plays, sequels and poetry, an opera, a musical and a number one pop song" (Miller, viii).

1939 Academy Award winning film, Wuthering Heights:

[OS] Youtube
[TR] Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, won for Best Cinematography

1992 film, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights:

[OS] Youtube
[TR] Notable for omitting the second generation story. Also jump started Ralph Fiennes career!

2003 MTV adaptation, Wuthering Heights:

[OS] Youtube
[TR] Features a popular, modern-day soundtrack.

2009 ITV television adaptation, Wuthering Heights:

[OS] Youtube
[TR] Aired as a two-part drama series and features Heathcliff, Cathy, Edgar, and Isabella approximately seven years older during most of the adaptation than they were in the novel.

[OS] Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to: Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.
[OS] All Trivia is credited to the Internet Movie Database.
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Wuthering Heights in Popular Culture

"'Wuthering Heights,'" she said, without hesitation.
The urge in my hand was growing beyond control. 'But that's unreasonable. You're talking about a work of genius'" (62).
-Breakfast at Tiffany's

[OS] Capote, Truman. Breakfast at Tiffany's. New York: Vintage Books, 1958. Print.

[TR] Is Wuthering Heights Bella and Edward's (of Twilight fame) favorite book?

[TR] What happens when Wuthering Heights meets Twilight? Meet Wuthering Bites.

Wuthering Heights in the 2003 sleeper hit, Cold Mountain:

[OS] Youtube
[TR] Ada (Nicole Kidman) reads to Ruby (Renée Zellweger) an excerpt from Wuthering Heights and discusses whether Catherine should marry Heathcliff or Linton.

Kate Bush's 1978 UK hit single, "Wuthering Heights":

[OS] Youtube
[TR] The chorus features Catherine's haunting words, "Let me in! I'm so cold".

[OS] Wuthering Heights: A Musical Adaptation (2008)
[TR] Includes four original songs: "Dark Passion", "Women", "Heathcliff's Prayer", and "I love The Wind."

"Women" From Wuthering Heights: A Musical Adaptation, Directed by Mark Ryan:

[OS] Youtube

[TR] Heath Ledger and sister, Kathy, were named after Heathcliff and Catherine.

[OS] Wuthering Heights has inspired a role-playing game, created by Philippe Tromeur. Click to play.
[TR]The Forge reviewed Tromeur's game and concluded: "Despite its parodic and overwrought subject matter, Wuthering Heights is a solid role-playing package. It's playable, it's fun, it's original, and it works."

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Image Gallery

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