Wuthering Heights Book Summary - Wuthering Heights Book explained in key points
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Wuthering Heights summary

Emily Brontë

A Passionate Tale of Revenge Fueled by Unfulfilled Love and Loss

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    Wuthering Heights
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    Early years: Heathcliff and Catherine

    The year is 1801.

    The narrator, Lockwood, is staying in Yorkshire, in a house named Thrushcross Grange. One day he decides to visit his landlord, who lives in a farmhouse on the moors. It’s known as Wuthering Heights.

    The atmosphere at the house is tense, and the landlord, Heathcliff, comes across as rude and misanthropic.

    On another visit to Wuthering Heights, a snowstorm forces Lockwood to stay overnight. He has a vivid, disturbing nightmare – a little girl appears at his bedroom window, begging him to let her in. She says her name is Catherine.

    Lockwood’s screams of terror wake up his host. After hearing about Lockwood’s nightmare, Heathcliff rushes to the bedroom window, tearfully begging Catherine to return.

    Lockwood is disturbed but intrigued. He wants to know more about Heathcliff and Catherine. Apparently, she used to live at Wuthering Heights, but she died years ago.

    Lockwood returns home to Thrushcross Grange, and talks to the housekeeper, Nelly Dean. She knew both Heathcliff and Catherine very well, so she can tell Lockwood the whole story.

    Nelly begins her tale, starting with events from 30 years ago.

    The Earnshaw family lives at Wuthering Heights. There are two children – Hindley and Catherine.

    One day, Mr. Earnshaw returns home from a trip with a new addition to the family – an orphaned child. His name is Heathcliff.

    Heathcliff’s arrival creates tension in the family, and Hindley hates him from the beginning. He bullies and beats his adoptive brother.

    But Catherine and Heathcliff become close, then inseparable. And as they grow up, their bond only develops into intense love.

    However, at the age of 15, Catherine decides that even though she loves Heathcliff deeply, she won’t marry him. She plans to marry her neighbor, the more respectable Edgar Linton.

    Catherine expresses her thoughts and feelings in a conversation with the housekeeper, Nelly, unaware that Heathcliff is eavesdropping. When Heathcliff hears Catherine say that it would degrade her to marry him, he slips out of the room and vanishes.

    Later that evening, when Catherine realizes that Heathcliff is nowhere to be found, she’s extremely agitated. She goes outside during a thunderstorm, gets drenched, and becomes feverish. Her illness lasts for days.

    And still, there’s no sign of Heathcliff.

    Three years pass before the young lovers see each other again.


    Heathcliff and Catherine’s intense relationship is the beating heart of Wuthering Heights. The sheer elemental force of their bond drives the plot, acting as a catalyst for subsequent events.

    Although Wuthering Heights could be described as a love story, it’s not romantic in the conventional sense. It’s about a dark, destructive kind of love. You might even call it toxic.

    Heathcliff and Catherine become so close to one another that they lose their sense of self. Catherine even states, “I am Heathcliff.”

    But that all changes when Heathcliff discovers that Catherine plans to marry Edgar Linton. To say that Heathcliff feels rejected is an understatement. His sense of hurt and anger is an important motivator from this point on.

    But to truly understand Heathcliff, we also need to pay attention to his relationship with his other adoptive sibling, Hindley. Growing up, Heathcliff is abused by Hindley both physically and emotionally. And because they live together, there’s no escape.

    So gradually, Heathcliff starts to plot his revenge.

    “I'm trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back,” he tells Nelly. “I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last.”

    As we’ll soon see, Heathcliff isn’t a character who forgives and forgets. He’s motivated by love but also by another equally powerful force – hatred.

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    What is Wuthering Heights about?

    Wuthering Heights (1847) is a masterpiece of English literature. Set in Yorkshire, it tells the story of two families and their intense, often tumultuous relationships – in particular, the stormy romance between Heathcliff and Catherine.

    Best quote from Wuthering Heights

    My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, Im well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I AM Heathcliff! Catherine

    —Emily Brontë
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    Who should read Wuthering Heights?

    • Fans of family sagas
    • People drawn to unconventional love stories and antiheroes
    • Anyone interested in classic novels of the nineteenth century

    About the Author

    Emily Brontë was an English novelist and poet and the sister of the writers Anne and Charlotte Brontë. Wuthering Heights was her only novel; she died only a year after its publication, at the age of 30.

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