Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte – Plot Summary

Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte

First published in 1847, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heightsis one of the most widely read and admired novels of English literature. The novel is admired not only for its thrilling tale of passion and vengeance but also for its power of imagery, its complex structure, and its ambiguity – the very elements that confounded its first critics. Emily Bronte lived her short life mostly at home, capturing her inspiration from the local landscape of the surrounding moorlands and the regional architecture of Yorkshire, as well as her personal experience of religion, folklore, illness and death, apart from her own fertile imagination. Dealing with the important themes of nature, cruelty, social status, and indestructibility of spirit, Wuthering Heights has surpassed Charlotte Bronte’s more successful Jane Eyre in academic and popular circles.

Wuthering Heights Plot Summary

Part I-Childhood

Set on the moors of Yorkshire in England, Wuthering Heights opens with remarks from Mr Lockwood, the recently arrived Thrushcross Grange tenant. He tells of his visit to Wuthering Heights, where he meets his landlord and friend, Mr Heathcliff; Joseph, the devout and surly old servant of Heathcliff; Earnshaw, an ignorant and poor young man; and the lovely Catherine Heathcliff, the widow of Heathcliff’s dead son.

The harsh weather is forcing Lockwood to spend the night. He finds several old books, the margins of which were used as a childhood diary by Catherine Earnshaw, the mother of the current Catherine. Looking at these pages, Lockwood learns about the childhood adventures of Heathcliff and the first Catherine, and about their oppression of Catherine ‘s brother, Hindley. Lockwood falls into a restless sleep, punctuated by nightmares in which the first Catherine Earnshaw enters the bedroom window and begs to be let in. He wakes up crying, and in doing so he wakes up to Heathcliff, who opens the window and begs Catherine to come back. On sunrise, Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange.

The next day, Lockwood, finding himself ill, persuades the servant, Nelly Dean, to sit down and speak to him. She tells how she grew up in Wuthering Heights, and how one night Mr Earnshaw brought home the enigmatic boy, Heathcliff, whom he had found hungry in Liverpool. Mr Earnshaw favours Heathcliff, making his son Hindley hate the interloper, but Heathcliff and the first Catherine are fast friends. Hindley is sent to college, but after Mr Eamshaw ‘s death, he returns with his wife and becomes the master of Wuthering Heights. Under Hindley’s tyranny, Catherine and Heathcliff are becoming more and more mischievous, their favourite pastime being to walk across the moors.

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On one such excursion, they were caught looking at the windows of the Thrushcross Grange, and Catherine was attacked by a bulldog and had to stay at the Grange for five weeks. In the meantime, Hindley prohibits Heathcliff from having any contact with Catherine.

Catherine’s returns much changed. Now she’s dressing and acting like a lady, and she’s been a friend to Edgar and Isabella Linton, the sisters who live at the Grange. Heathcliff feels her neglect sharply, and Catherine feels torn between the loyalty of her old friend and the attraction of her new companions. The new wife of Hindley, Frances, gives birth to a son, Hareton, and dies of intoxication, and Hindley starts to drink and becomes ever more tyrannical. Heathcliff is stripped of any schooling and is forced to serve as one of the servants of the Heights. As Edgar proposes to Catherine, she accepts but assures Nelly that she would never have done so if her brother hadn’t made Heathcliff into someone who would dishonour her from marrying. Heathcliff overhears this remark and flees Wuthering Heights before she goes on to explain to Nelly the extent of her feeling for Heathcliff.

“I cannot express it, but surely ………… do not talk of our separation again.”

Part II-Marriage and Death

Catherine and Edgar are married and seem happy until Heathcliff comes back, mysteriously wealthy and educated. He takes up residence at Wuthering Heights, where out of all his possessions he gambles Hindley. Heathcliff resumes his acquaintance with Catherine quickly, to her delight and to the annoyance of Edgar. Edgar ‘s sister Isabella continues to love Heathcliff, despite repeated warnings about his character. Heathcliff, desiring the inheritance of Isabella, continues to promote the attraction and he is irritated when Nelly tells Edgar of this courtship. There is a fight between Edgar and Heathcliff, and Heathcliff is banished from the Grange. Catherine refuses to feed three days to punish Edgar and forces herself into a feverish delirium. Edgar is nursing her back to a fragile state of health, while elope is Isabella and Heathcliff. Soon Isabella laments her marriage to the Heathcliff cruel. She writes to Nelly about her miserable life at Wuthering Heights and begs her to come.

Heathcliff takes advantage of Nelly ‘s visit to ask for a meeting with Catherine who is pregnant. Nelly agrees reluctantly, and a few days later, while Edgar is at the church, Heathcliff enters the barn and sees Catherine for the last time. Edgar enters and finds that Heathcliff embraces Catherine, who’s fainted. Catherine died without ever fully regaining her senses, even though she gave birth to a daughter two hours before her death. Edgar and Heathcliff are both distracted by Catherine ‘s death, and Heathcliff begs her ghost to haunt her.

Days after Catherine died, Isabella appeared at the Grange, having fled the Heights. She swears that she’s not going to return, but she refuses to stay at the Grange because she fears that Heathcliff will find her there. She moves to the South of England and gives birth to a sickly boy named Linton.

Part III-The Second Generation

Soon after the escape of Isabella the doctor, Kenneth carries news of the passing of Hindley. Nelly wants Edgar to take in Hindley ‘s son Hareton, but Heathcliff vows he will take his child from Isabella if they take Hareton away from him. He claims he wants to see if Hindley’s child will be affected by the same mistreatment as Hindley ‘s abuse affected Heathcliff. Twelve years later, following her death, Isabella writes to her brother and asks him to take care of her son. Edgar brings home Linton but Heathcliff demands his son’s custody immediately. He reveals his plan to see Nelly rule his child over both Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights.

Young Catherine, Catherine ‘s daughter, and
Edgar is not aware of her cousin’s so close by, but one day she encounters Heathcliff and Hareton on a walk on the moor, and she gets to know Linton again. Heathcliff tells Nelly he hopes Linton will fall in love and marry and young Catherine will. He tells of how he converted Hareton, a naturally intelligent boy, into an ignorant brute, thus elevating his own poor and greedy son as master of Hareton. When Edgar hears of his daughter’s visit, he is doing his best to impress upon her Heathcliff’s evil nature and the importance of avoiding the Heights.

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Nonetheless, Catherine begins a secret correspondence with Linton which ends only when Nelly discovers the letters of love and threatens to tell Catherine ‘s father. However, Heathcliff convinces Catherine that Linton is dying of grief because of their broken correspondence, and Nelly concords reluctantly to accompany Catherine on a visit to the Highlands. The visit has culminated in a series of secret trips to the Heights by young Catherine.

Edgar puts a stop to the visits but ends up deciding to let Catherine and Linton meet on the moor for weekly strolls. Heathcliff, realizing that Edgar is near death, tricks Catherine and Nelly into reaching Wuthering Heights, where he imprisons them and pressures Catherine to get married to Linton, during the second of those excursions. Catherine convinces Linton to help her escape, and just in time, she arrives at the Grange to see her dying father. In her absence from the Heights, Heathcliff is pushing Linton to make Heathcliff the inheritor of all the land he and Catherine own. After the death of her father, young Catherine is forced to return to the Heights and tend to her dying husband. He dies soon after her arrival and the impoverished and lonely Catherine is forced to live on at the Heights.

Lockwood, the day after he heard that story
Visits the Heights and notifies them that he is leaving for London. Returning to settle some business months later, he finds Thrushcross Grange deserted and matters at the Heights have changed a lot.

Hareton and Catherine, once sworn rivals, fall in love, and Catherine supports Hareton in his efforts to better himself. Nelly is now working at the Heights, and as the lovers enjoy a stroll on the moor, Nelly tells Lockwood of the death of Heathcliff, which preceded four days of starvation during which he was haunted by his beloved Catherine ‘s dream. He was buried next to Catherine, as ordered, with the opposite sides of the two coffins separated so that their ashes could mingle, and the country folks say that occasionally a person walking on the moors will see the spirits of Heathcliff and Catherine roaming their old playground.

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