Recap: An 1800’s novel about romance, Wuthering Heights is narrated by Mr. Lockwood, a new tenant at the Wuthering Heights estate in England. His landlord is the gruff, unhappy Mr. Heathcliff. During Lockwood’s time at Wuthering Heights, he becomes ill and learns the history of the estate. He hears the story from Ellen, or Nelly, the maid who has served the families of both estates on the hill — Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
He hears about Heathcliff, an orphan who was adopted by Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights. Earnshaw was the drunken father to two children — Catherine and Hindley. Catherine and Heathcliff become close childhood friends and siblings, but the bond they form goes much deeper. Meanwhile, Hindley hates Heathcliff for abruptly entering his family and forming such a close relationship with Catherine.
Enter the Linton family, who lives at Thrushcross Grange. When Heathcliff and Catherine one day decide to spy on the Lintons, Catherine is attacked by their dog and then stays at their estate until her condition improves. She returns to Wuthering Heights a changed girl — a girl that’s now formed a relationship with Edgar Linton. Catherine is a beautiful, but stubborn girl who’s now in love with and loved by two men from two different estates and two very different backgrounds: Heathcliff, a poor orphan and Edgar, a rich, upstanding boy.
When Catherine and Edgar ultimately marry, it changes the course not only for Heathcliff, but for Edgar’s sister, Isabella, and the next generation of children at Wuthering Heights.
Analysis: If you couldn’t already guess, Wuthering Heights can be confusing. In fact, for much of the novel, I continued to read Spark Notes and Wikipedia pages online to keep track of the characters. It seems like every other chapter, someone is either getting married, getting ill, or dying. Not to mention, many of them keep family names and pass them on to their children. At times, it’s hard to decipher who the author, Emily Bronte, is talking about.
That being said, Wuthering Heights has one overwhelming obvious theme: passionate love and passionate hatred, and the way these two ideas can implode on two families. When Catherine chooses Edgar over Heathcliff, it’s clear that she’s choosing status over love, a move that deeply affects Heathcliff. Always a mischievous boy, he grows up to be an upstanding gentleman in an attempt to change Catherine’s mind. But when that doesn’t work and she ultimately succumbs to sickness and death, Heathcliff feels empty. He becomes a horribly, angry man with no love to share — not even for his niece (Catherine’s daughter, Cathy) and nephew. That climactic moment also deepens the fury between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton, who hold grudges against each other for the rest of their lives until it affects their children as well.
Wuthering Heights is a modern-day soap opera in 1800’s novel form. It’s dark, complicated, and heated — complete with ghosts, visions, fickle, unhappy women, and the most unlikable main character — Heathcliff.
MVP: Ellen, the servant. She’s a little yenta, who details all the fights and romances at the Heights and the Grange. She knows it all and is willing to spill. But she maintains friendships with the characters nonetheless. She is the most dependable, likeable character, who bluntly tells it like it is.
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