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Introduction to the Author: Emily Brontë

"'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.


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

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!

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.


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



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Portrait by Patrick Brontë

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Portrait by Patrick Brontë

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

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.

"Quote TBA"

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 teazing 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).

To be included: Hindley Earnshaw, Hareton Earnshaw


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Character tree from Wikimedia Commons

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Unless otherwise noted, all textual excerpts refer to the Penguin Classics edition of Wuthering Heights.
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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, 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 the characters of 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 initially placing the two of them at odds with the Lintons. Heathcliff speaks to Nelly o 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).

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Does the novel side with societal norms or with simple human connection (s)?

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Religion vs. Supernatural: What is real and what is imagined in 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, that 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) Yet, there seems to be more influence of superstitions over the people 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). In this quote, we see that Heathcliff’s about the afterlife are not that of Judeo-Christian ideas, they are more based in spiritual/ supernatural understandings. This struggle between Christina beliefs and superstitions of the supernatural continue throughout the novel.

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What other characters in the novel struggle between religious beliefs and supernatural beliefs?

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Under construction...


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

"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 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, can both these types be true love or is one a more meaningful, a more powerful love then the other? Also I think this shows that both of these types of heavens ‘loves’ can’t coexist with one another, one will feel bored while the other feels it is suffocating. This gives the reader the idea that these two people could not be together because their ideas of heaven ‘love’ do not coincide, showing that they are not meant to be together.

More to be added soon...


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

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

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Youtube

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The chorus features Catherine's haunting words, "Let me in! I'm so cold".

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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.
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Image Gallery


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References

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

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Wuthering Heights title art from Wordle


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

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