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Introduction to the Author: Emily Brontë

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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).

Warning

Spoilers below!


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Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Wuthering Heights.

Who is Ellis Bell?


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The Brontë sisters comprised of Currer Bell (Charlotte), Ellis Bell (Emily), and Acton Bell (Anne).

Also under construction...

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 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. This 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 ‘gipsy.’ These distinctions, coupled with his lack of manners or regard for others, make Heathcliff a societal misfit, with no clear place, and someone who could 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): Serves as the only daughter of the Earnshaw household and close in age to Heathcliff. She is therefore the daughter of landed gentry with a clear place in society, and 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 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 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, as she tells 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 while contradictorily claiming to be easily smitten, and seeking 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 develops eventually 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 in the estate neighboring Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, 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 societal choice for Catherine’s spouse.

"In other words, I must wish for Edgar Linton's great blue eyes, and even forehead" (58).

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.

"Quote TBA"


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Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Wuthering Heights.

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" (Need page number)

  • This quote pulls together several themes from the novel. First the themes of ghosts, and unquiet spirits; the idea that Catherine and Heathcliff have mutually stormy and unquiet spirits, and that Catherine’s ghost has haunted Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights since her death. Then, with ‘incessantly-remorselessly,’ the quote speaks of the incredibly close, and yet stormy relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy. Finally, it hints, as the whole book does, that perhaps Heathcliff and Cathy are made of the same stuff and destined for the same fate.

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Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Wuthering Heights.

Topics for Discussion

This is where you post links, documents, or other useful resources that you found in relation to your author.

Wuthering Heights in Popular Culture

"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:

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Youtube

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Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, won for Best Cinematography

1992 film, Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights:

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Youtube

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Notable for omitting the second generation story. Also jump started Ralph Fiennes career!

2003 MTV adaptation, Wuthering Heights:

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Youtube

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Features a popular, modern-day soundtrack.

2009 ITV television adaptation, Wuthering Heights:

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Youtube

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Aired as a two-part drama series and stars Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley.


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Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Wuthering Heights. All Trivia is credited to IMDb (Internet Movie Database).

Legacy of Wuthering Heights

"'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

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

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What happens when Wuthering Heights meets Twilight? Meet Wuthering Bites.

Wuthering Heights in the 2003 sleeper hit, Cold Mountain:

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Youtube

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


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

Image Gallery


References

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Classics, 1995. Print.


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

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