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Wuthering Heights Summary

Oct 08, 1999 864 Words
Set in the wild, rugged country of Yorkshire in northern England during the late eighteenth century, Emily Bronte’s masterpiece novel, Wuthering Heights, clearly illustrates the conflict between the “principles of storm and calm”. The reoccurring theme of this story is captured by the intense, almost inhuman love between Catherine and Heathcliff and the numerous barriers preventing their union. The fascinating tale of Wuthering Heights is told mainly through the eyes of Nelly Dean, the former servant to the two great estates, to Mr. Lockwood, the current tenant of the Grange. The tale of Wuthering Heights begins with the respectable Earnshaw family. After a his trip to Liverpool, old Mr. Earnshaw returns home to Wuthering Heights with “a dirty, ragged, black-haired child” named Heathcliff. As he grows older, Heathcliff, to the dismay of Hindley Earnshaw, usurps the affections of not only Hindley’s father, but also that of his younger sister Catherine. Thereafter, in part due to his jealous behavior, Hindley is sent away to school. Years later due to old Mr. Earnshaw’s death, a married Hindley returns, now the master of Wuthering Heights. Intent on revenge, Hindley treats Heathcliff as a servant and frequently attempts to break Heathcliff and Catherine’s unique bond. Before Hindley can do more harm though, Fate seems to step in. Due to a leg injury, Catherine is forced to stay at Thrushcross Grange, the neighboring estate of Wuthering Heights, where she consequently meets Edgar and Isabella Linton and learns to act like a civilized, young lady. The return of Catherine to Wuthering Heights marks the apparent change in her personality and ultimately decides the course of her life. Uncomfortable with Catherine new refined appearance and rather condescending attitude towards him, Heathcliff becomes even more sullen and morose than before. Hearing Catherine’s conversation with Nelly, which reveals her choice of Edgar Linton as a suitable husband, rather than Heathcliff, a wild, penniless orphan, ultimately drives Heathcliff away. At first, Heathcliff’s disappearance elicits Catherine’s naturally fiery disposition, but eventually, Catherine marries Edgar and moves to Thrushcross Grange, and she becomes a calmer, civilized lady. The once peaceful life of Catherine and Edgar is disrupted once again though with the reappearance of Heathcliff, who has stayed in London for several years, improving his manners and education. Now living with his sworn enemy, Hindley, a pronounced drunkard since the death of his wife and birth of his son, Hareton, Heathcliff enacts the first step in his plans of revenge by eloping with Isabella, Edgar’s sister. Upon Heathcliff and Isabella’s return to Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff with Nelly’s aid manages one last, forbidden visit to the Grange, where Catherine, the expectant mother, is residing. Unfortunately, the shock of Heathcliff’s visit causes the premature birth of Catherine’s child and eventually Catherine dies. Insane with grief, Heathcliff works with a vengeance to achieve revenge against all those around him. Isabella, who now realizes her dire mistake, is unable to cope with Heathcliff any longer and escapes to London, where she gives birth to a sickly baby named Linton. Years later with the death of Hindley and Isabella, Wuthering Heights and Linton both become the possessions of Heathcliff. Aware of Heathcliff’s fiendish, vengeful nature, Edgar Linton is careful of his daughter’s acquaintances and whereabouts; he, however, is unsuccessful in his attempts to keep Cathy away from Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff, still unsatisfied with his revenge to those who have wronged him, plans to arrange a marriage between Cathy and his son, Linton. Due to Edgar Linton’s failing health and less watchful eye over his daughter, Heathcliff, through treachery and deceit, pursues the opportunity to arrange meetings between Cathy and Linton. He finally lures Cathy to Wuthering Heights and keeps her as prisoner overnight, forcing her to marry Linton. Edgar Linton’s untimely death forces Cathy back to Wuthering Heights, where she, for some time, nurses her dying husband, Linton. Linton dies soon after, and an unwilling Cathy also becomes bound to Heathcliff. Nelly Dean’s story, at this point, is brought to the present time, and after his recovery, Mr. Lockwood departs for London. The following autumn, Mr. Lockwood, on impulse, decides to return to Thrushcross Grange, where he finds Nelly, now living at Wuthering Heights. Nelly informs him of Heathcliff’s strange death three months before and the unlikely friendship that blossomed between Cathy and Hareton, who helped each other through the hardships of their lives. After his conversation with Nelly, Mr. Lockwood returns to the Grange, by way of the church, where he spots the three headstones of Catherine, Edgar, and Heathcliff. Without former schooling, Emily Bronte was only able to publish Wuthering Heights and a few other poem collections; her dramatic imagination and exquisite detail however, is clearly evident throughout the novel, especially the parting scene between Heathcliff and Catherine. Emily Bronte’s successful approach of the Yorkshire dialect, as well as her unfailing sense of sentence rhythm, also greatly add to the emotional response of the readers.

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