Wuthering Heights : Themes, Characters and Plot Summary

Published on 08-Oct-2022

Theme Summary

The novel "Wuthering Heights" by the author Emily Bronte is relatively contemporary, revolving around the major themes of 'Revenge' and 'Racism' contorted into the cruel existence of Heathcliff that further perpetrated other lives. Bronte explores other minor themes such as 'marriage' and 'isolation' that come together, creating a concussion of 'Un-consummated love" between Heathcliff and Catherine that prevails to be the story's main conflict.

The novel provided an insight into the early history of the Victorian Era, when social class was differentiated by race and skin color. "Wuthering Heights" is a baffling journey of the protagonist, Heathcliff, going from being a slave to the master and ultimately to his lonely death, leaving the audience contemplating social class issues and revenge.

Wuthering Heights

Characters

  • Heathcliff- The protagonist of the story. Dark-skinned with gypsy-like features. He was abused as a child and treated like a slave. In adulthood turned bitter and revengeful, posing abuse on others. 
  • Catherine Earnshaw- Grew up in the opposite manner of Heathcliff. Heathcliff's love interest. He marries Edgar later, which causes Heathcliff to be heartbroken and evil. 
  • Hindley Earnshaw- Catherine's brother. Participated in bullying Heathcliff along with Edgar. Father of Hareton. Loses his property to Heathcliff.
  • Edgar Linton- Wealthy white man with status. Catherine's husband and Cathy's father. 
  • Isabella Linton- Edgar’s sister and Heathcliff’s wife. She dies sometime after giving birth to Linton Heathcliff. 
  • Cathy Linton- Catherine and Edgar's daughter. Falls in love with Linton Heathcliff  and ends up marrying him, but he dies. Stays locked up in Wuthering Heights until he dies. She ends up marrying her cousin. 
  • Linton Heathcliff – Isabella and Heathcliff's son. Heathcliff threatened him to marry Cathy. Dies at an early age.
  • Hareton Earnshaw- Abused by Heathcliff while growing up as a punishment for his father's wrongdoings. He stays in marriage his whole life like a slave with no education until Cathy comes along and educates him after marriage. 
  • Lockwood- The new tenant of Thrushcross Grange. Gets to know about Heathcliff's life from Nelly.
  • Nelly Dean- Housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange, acquainted by Catherine after Heathcliff's Death. Narrates the entire story to Lockwood. 

Plot Summary

The story begins in England around 1801 when Lockwood visits an isolated House named Wuthering Heights. Lockwood intends to buy the neighboring house on lease named Thrushcross Grange under Heathcliff, who also owns Wuthering House. At first glance, Lockwood's impression of Heathcliff is anything but warm. He describes the man as cold and rough with dark gypsy-like skin. On the first visit, Lockwood is injured by one of Heathcliff's untamed dogs, resulting in him staying at the house. 

The servants of Heathcliff move Lockwood to a large room where he finds a journal attached to the bed's headboard, describing the miserable childhood of Catherine and Heathcliff. Out of nowhere, Lockwood hears the wanton moans of a woman crying.

The moans turned out to be from a ghost crying out her identity of being "Catherine," who has "come home." On the other hand, Heathcliff rushes towards the ghost, calling for it to approach him, but the ghost disappears. The following day, Nelly, the housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange, narrates to a wondering Lockwood about Heathcliff's past with Catherine. 

When he was a child, Heathcliff was brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, Catherine and Hindley's Father. His appearance differed from the Earnshaws with a "Ragged black-haired child." Catherine and Edgar hated Heathcliff growing up as their father was fond of the boy. Eventually, Edgar went to University for further studies, and Catherine remained back at Wuthering Heights with Heathcliff, slowly warming up to him and becoming very close. After the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley inherited his father's property, becoming the new owner of Wuthering Heights.

After his father's demise, he treated Heathcliff worse than a slave. Catherine's kindness was the only escape from the abuse but also rushed out of his grasp as Catherine meets Edgar Linton at Thrushcross Grange and starts spending more time with him, growing distant from Heathcliff. Hindley and Edgar began bullying and abusing Heathcliff together.

Edgar even marries Catherine, leaving Heathcliff heartbroken and swears to take revenge over both Edgar and Hindley. Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, and Catherine moves to Thrushcross Grange with her husband Edgar and his sister Isabella Linton. 

Three years later, Heathcliff returns to Catherine at Thrushcross Grange, but Edgar doesn't welcome his presence despite his wife's joy at seeing her old friend. Heathcliff decides to marry Isabella, the inheritor of the Linton fortune, to begin his quest for revenge. Even more infuriated with Heathcliff's wedding with his sister, Edgar cuts his relations with her. Isabella faces a cruel reality after marriage as her husband abuses her as a means to take revenge on Edgar.

She becomes pregnant in Heathcliff's captivity but manages to escape to London after Catherine's death. Catherine also dies while giving birth to Cathy, their daughter. Heathcliff begs his former love to haunt him as a ghost. On the other hand, Hindley dies of alcoholism years after his wife's death, leaving Hareton, his son, behind at Wuthering Heights, at Heathcliff's merciless hands. 

Nelly then narrates how she took a trip to Wuthering Heights to visit the orphan Hareton but was horrified to whiteness him being treated as a lowly enslaved person as his father once did to Heathcliff. Cathy also visits Wuthering Heights to meet his cousin but looking at his un-kept, uneducated mannerism oppresses him like a lowly servant. 

On the other side, Isabella dies, leaving a lanky-looking timid boy Linton Heathcliff behind, who was later sent to Wuthering Heights to live with his father. Heathcliff then orchestrates a further plan of getting Linton to marry Cathy so his son could take over all of Edgar Linton's fortunes. He invites Cathy to meet Linton at Wuthering Heights after she turns sixteen, and true to his plans, both of them fall in love.

The couple, however, ends up having a huge argument over the marriage proposal regarding Heathcliff's relationship with Catherine. Still, Catherine ends up marrying Linton to save him from his father's wrath, who has otherwise threatened to kill him. 

Heathcliff ends up tormenting them before their marriage and locks Cathy up in Wuthering Heights. Cathy escapes from there and goes back to her father, and he dies, leaving her alone. After Edgar's death, Heathcliff plans to lease Thrushcross out and make a profit. Soon after, Linton dies of illness, and Cathy is left with nothing at the cruel hands of Heathcliff. 

Nelly ends the narration, and the story revolves back to Lockwood, who ends up going back to England without leasing the property. After a few years, Lockwood returns to Wuthering Heights, finding the house more lively than before.

He meets Nelly again, who informs him that Heathcliff died alone in the pouring rain after going completely insane in his thirst for revenge and Catherine's hunting memories. Now Cathy and Hareton owned the Wuthering Heights as they lived together as a happily married couple.

 

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