Wuthering Heights

Use this comprehensive teachers' guide on Wuthering Heights to assist you in teaching this great work, with discussion questions and summaries of each chapter.
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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë
Wuthering Heights
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    Penguin Group

    Page numbers reference Penguin Putnam books.


    Wuthering Heights is a novel of revenge and romantic love. It tells the stories of two families: the Earnshaws who live at the Heights, at the edge of the moors, and the genteel and refined Lintons who live at Thrushcross Grange. When Mr. Earnshaw brings home a foundling to live in the family, complex feelings of jealousy and rivalry as well as a soulful alliance between Heathcliff and Catherine develop. Believing that he has been rejected by Catherine, Heathcliff leaves to make his fortune. When he returns, Catherine is married to Edgar Linton, but she still feels deeply attached to Heathcliff. Disaster follows for the two families as Heathcliff takes revenge on them all. Only the second generation, young Cathy and Hareton Earnshaw, survive to go beyond this destructive passion in their mutual love.

    Structurally the novel is rich and complex. There are two generations of characters, and the themes and relationships of the first generation are reflected in the second but with differences that increase our understanding. Brontë ’s use of point of view leads to many questions about the narrators who control the unraveling of events. It is as if the main characters are seen through a series of mirrors, each causing a certain amount of distortion. Without an omniscient voice controlling sympathies, the reader must get inside the characters’ minds, the one telling the story as well as the one about whom the story is being told. Probing this complex web of relationships and motives leads to intense psychological analysis, and in this way the novel mirrors life itself. Learning occurs in pieces and is always subject to revision.

    The themes of Wuthering Heights should appeal to the teenage student. The various power relationships involved with romantic love and vengeance depicted in the novel are also a part of the high school students’ social milieu. Teachers who make relevant connections between the themes and characters of the novel and the students’ own preoccupations will find this novel opens up discussion of many of the students’ concerns. The exercises suggested in this guide are designed to promote such connections. More activities and questions are offered than can be used so that teachers can choose those that help make reading and discussing the novel a meaningful experience for students.


    List of Characters

    The Earnshaw Family
    Hindley Catherine Heathcliff

    The Linton Family
    Edgar Isabella
    m. m.
    Catherine Earnshaw Heathcliff
    | |
    Young Catherine m. Linton

    Young Catherine marries Linton Heathcliff, but after the deaths of Linton and Heathcliff, she marries Hareton.

    Ellen (Nelly) Dean—the housekeeper and "stepsister" of the Earnshaw children. Nelly is raised with the children and serves them for over twenty years. She knows intimately the history of the family.

    Joseph—servant to Heathcliff

    Zillah—servant to Heathcliff

    Kenneth—the doctor

    Mr. Lockwood—tenant at Thrushcross Grange who becomes intrigued with the Earnshaw family history. Ellen Dean is his housekeeper.


    The novel can be divided into three main structural divisions for greater clarity in reading: Prologue, History of the Family, and the Epilogue.


    Chapter 1: 1801 – Lockwood, the new tenant at Thrushcross Grange, pays a visit to his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights. Lockwood finds himself strangely attracted to a man who seems even more reclusive than he.

    Chapter 2: Curiosity leads Lockwood to make a second visit the next day. This time he is snowed in and has plenty of time to discover the relationships among the occupants of the house: a young refined woman; a young man, obviously used to hard labor; and Heathcliff. Lockwood begins to have doubts about Heathcliff’s character when he sees him react savagely to the young woman.

    Chapter 3: Lockwood is put up for the night in one of the unused bedrooms which was the girlhood room of Catherine Earnshaw. There he discovers the books and writings of Catherine from the time when her brother Hindley was the master of the house. Lockwood falls into a fitful sleep with dreams that turn into nightmares. His cries arouse Heathcliff who thinks it is the ghost of Catherine calling out to him. After this sleepless night, Lockwood vows never to bother his neighbors again.

    History of the Family:

    Chapter 4: That evening, reviving a bit, Lockwood engages his housekeeper, Mrs. Dean, who had served the Earnshaws for many years, in a conversation about the inhabitants at Wuthering Heights. Mrs. Dean begins the history of the family at the time that the old master Mr. Earnshaw brings a foundling, later named Heathcliff, home to be raised as his own child. Catherine and Heathcliff become close friends, but Hindley's resentment at his father's protective attitude towards Heathcliff soon turns into hatred.

    Chapter 5: Hindley is sent off to college, and the strong bond between Catherine and Heathcliff grows as they are left to themselves to roam about the countryside. The child Catherine is full of energy and high spirits, which often puts her at odds with her father.

    Chapter 6: This tranquil time is changed by the death of Mr. Earnshaw. Hindley returns for the funeral with a new wife and takes his place as master. He banishes Heathcliff from the family, requiring him to give up his education to work as a servant. Still Catherine and Heathcliff manage to sneak away for rambles on the moor. On one of these excursions, they spy on the Linton family at Thrushcross Grange. When the watchdog bites Catherine's leg, she is attended by the Lintons while Heathcliff is sent home in disgrace.

    Chapter 7: Five weeks pass before Catherine returns home. She is a changed person, in appearance and manners. She now acts the part of the "lady." Heathcliff, meanwhile, has grown more ragged and dirty. Catherine still feels close to Heathcliff and doesn't understand why he resents the changes in her. But Heathcliff envies Edgar Linton, his appearance and prospects with Catherine, and resolves to revenge himself on Hindley, no matter how long it will take.

    At this point, Mrs. Dean interrupts her story, wanting to move on more quickly. Lockwood insists that she continue in the same style, not leaving out any details.

    Chapter 8: Mrs. Dean continues the story of the Earnshaw family. It is now the following summer, and a baby boy is born to Hindley and his wife. Mistress Earnshaw, who is sickly and consumptive, dies within the year, and the child, Hareton, is raised by Nelly Dean. Hindley gives in to desperate and dissipated mourning for his wife.

    Catherine, at fifteen, tries to balance her relationship with both the Linton children and Heathcliff. This causes difficulties for her since neither side likes the other. She is still Heathcliff's constant companion, but he has turned into a boorish, uncultivated person. Piqued by the situation, Catherine quarrels with Edgar, but it leads, paradoxically, to closer intimacy between them.

    Chapter 9: Catherine, seeking advice, confides to Nelly that Edgar has asked her to marry him, and she has accepted, even though she is convinced that it is Heathcliff she really loves. However, she cannot marry Heathcliff, given his social situation, and she thinks marriage to Edgar will secure Heathcliff's future. Unknown to Catherine, Heathcliff has overheard most of this conversation, except for Catherine's declaration of love for him. Heathcliff steals out of the room and leaves the countryside. Catherine is devastated by his loss and becomes seriously ill. Three years pass without any word from Heathcliff, and Catherine marries Edgar. This ends the first part of Mrs. Dean's story.

    Chapter 10: Lockwood becomes sick from his walk in the snow. It is four weeks before he is well enough to ask Mrs. Dean to continue the story.

    Edgar and Catherine enjoy a "honeymoon" period, but it ends with the return of Heathcliff. He is transformed into a tall, muscular, athletic, and mannered man. Catherine is overjoyed to have him back and insists that Edgar, who is of course jealous of her feelings for Heathcliff, accept him into the family. Edgar's sister, Isabella, becomes infatuated with Heathcliff and accuses her sister-in-law of monopolizing him. Catherine mocks Isabella's feelings by embarrassing her in front of Heathcliff. She doesn't change Isabella's mind, but instead plants an idea in Heathcliff's mind that such a marriage would enable him to inherit all the Linton lands. Meanwhile, Heathcliff is staying at Wuthering Heights with Hindley Earnshaw, who, regardless of the danger, has included Heathcliff in his nightly card games, hoping to win some money from him.

    Chapter 11: On Heathcliff's next visit to the Linton's, he meets Isabella in the garden and kisses her. Catherine is very put out and quarrels with Heathcliff. There is a violent scene between Edgar and Heathcliff when Edgar orders him never to come to the house again. Catherine becomes so upset that she locks herself in her room.

    Chapter 12: By the time Catherine lets Nelly into her room, she is sick from fever and delirium. Concerned with Catherine's health, the family doesn't realize, until it is too late, that Isabella has eloped with Heathcliff. Nelly had discovered her absence earlier but told no one, wanting to spare the family more confusion and pain.

    Chapter 13: Catherine suffers through a long illness but slowly begins to recuperate. Meanwhile Isabella and Heathcliff return to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff's cruel and evil nature is now apparent to Isabella.

    Chapter 14: Nelly goes to Wuthering Heights to see Isabella, even though her brother considers her "lost" to him and insists on no communication between the two families. However, Heathcliff desires to see Catherine again and forces Nelly to play his go-between. He says Edgar can never love Catherine as fully as he does and implies that he would kill Edgar if he thought Catherine wouldn't miss him. Nelly finally gives into his threats and agrees to carry a letter to Catherine.

    There is another pause in the narrative. When the story picks up again, Lockwood is the narrator, telling the story in Mrs. Dean's "own words."

    Chapter 15: Catherine is physically and mentally altered by her illness; she is listless and withdrawn, clearly marked for an early death. Heathcliff realizes this as soon as he sees her. She accuses him of having broken her heart and torments him with her prediction that he will live to forget her. She wishes that they would never be parted, and refuses to release her hold on him even when her husband enters. She falls into a faint from which she never awakens.

    Chapter 16: That night a premature infant, young Catherine, is born and Catherine Linton dies. Heathcliff, who has kept a vigil in the garden, knows she is dead before Nelly comes to tell him. He begs Catherine to haunt him, not to leave him alone in this world.

    Chapter 17: The next afternoon, Isabella, who is running away from Heathcliff, stops at the house and describes the violent fight between Hindley Earnshaw and Heathcliff. She is bleeding from a knife wound to the head, brought on by her own taunts to Heathcliff that he murdered Catherine. Her son, named Linton, is born a few months later, south of London.

    Six months later, Hindley Earnshaw, just 27, dies. It is discovered that Heathcliff owns all the Earnshaw land. Earnshaw's son, Hareton, is penniless, completely depended on Heathcliff for everything.

    Chapter 18: Twelve years pass. Young Catherine, called Miss Cathy, has grown up, never going far from home. Isabella, near death, calls Edgar to her side so she can entrust her son Linton to him. Cathy, tired of waiting for her father, decides to do some exploring on her own and ends up at Wuthering Heights. There she meets Hareton who is now eighteen and learns that he is a cousin. She is upset to discover this unlikely connection, but agrees to keep her visit a secret.

    Chapter 19: Edgar returns home with his nephew, a "pale, delicate, effeminate boy." Linton is sickly and frail and quite moody, but Cathy is hopeful of making him a pet, soothing his nerves by taking care of him. However, Heathcliff demands that his son be sent to him immediately.

    Chapter 20: The next morning Nelly takes Linton to Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff's plan to own all the Linton land through his son's inheritance now becomes apparent. He values the boy for this alone and will not harm him, even though he considers him a puny, weak thing.

    Chapter 21: Time passes pleasantly until Cathy's sixteenth birthday. In a ramble over the moors, she meets Heathcliff, who invites her to his home to meet his son. He confides to Nelly that he wants the two cousins to fall in love, so as to avoid any legal questions when Linton inherits the property of his uncle.

    Cathy, refusing to believe her father's description of Heathcliff's character, sets up a secret correspondence with Linton. When Nelly discovers the notes, she forces Cathy to stop writing at the risk of her father's displeasure.

    Chapter 22: At the end of the summer, Mr. Linton gets cold that he can not shake off, and the family begins to fear for his health. Heathcliff, passing on the road one day, meets Cathy who has been on a walk. He accuses her of playing with young Linton's feelings, saying the boy is so depressed that he has made himself sick enough to die. Cathy insists that she must see for herself, and Nelly gives in, hoping that Linton's behavior will prove the falseness of Heathcliff's words.

    Chapter 23: They find young Linton more frail and sickly than before. He also complains at Cathy's treatment of him, repeating his father's accusations against Mr. Linton. He demands that Cathy continue to visit him to cure him. Nelly protests that the visits must not be repeated.

    Chapter 24: Nelly becomes sick and is laid up for three weeks. During this time, Cathy continues her secret visits to Linton in the evenings. When Nelly discovers her secret, Cathy describes her visits and her attempts to amuse Linton, usually without good results. Every time Cathy wants to end the visits, the boy blames his ill nature on his sickness. Mr. Linton insists that the visits be stopped.

    Chapter 25: The narrated events of the novel have now reached just one year before 1801, the year Lockwood first came to Wuthering Heights. Edgar Linton, who feels he is dying, fears that young Linton Heathcliff is only a tool of Heathcliff's revenge and forbids any more visits between the cousins. However, he allows them to write each other. Edgar realizes that Cathy will be left without an inheritance unless she marries Linton Heathcliff.

    Chapter 26: Young Linton is also quite ill, failing rapidly. He hardly has the energy to visit with Cathy, but his fear of his father makes him beg her to come again the next week.

    Chapter 27: On the next visit, Linton is even more abject terror, saying he cannot enter the house without Cathy. Heathcliff has devised a plan to kidnap Cathy and not release her until she marries Linton, even though he knows that her father is near death. In the morning, Cathy is taken to be married while Nelly is kept locked up.

    Chapter 28: After five days, Nelly is released and returns to the Grange to find Mr. Edgar near death. Cathy manages to break out of Wuthering Heights just in time to comfort her father in his last hours.

    Chapter 29: The evening after the funeral, Heathcliff arrives at the Grange to demand Cathy's return to Linton's side. He tells Nelly that he has had Catherine's grave opened and has made plans to be buried next to her when he dies so that their dust can mingle. Heathcliff is still haunted by Catherine. He feels her spirit, but he is in torment because she refuses to show herself.

    Chapter 30: Young Linton dies, and Cathy is forced to continue living at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff now owns all the Earnshaw and Linton property. This chapter concludes Mrs. Dean's story.

    Chapter 31: Lockwood, felling much better after his long illness, rides over to Wuthering Heights to tell Heathcliff that he doesn't intend to stay on at the Grange at the end of his year. Not much has changed among the members of the household. Cathy is still obstinate and continues to badger Hareton. But there are slight changes in Heathcliff; he is more restless, anxious, and troubled than Lockwood has seen him before.


    Chapter 32: Eight months pass. In September, Lockwood is in the vicinity of the Grange and decides to visit Wuthering Heights to pay off his account. He learns that Heathcliff has been dead for three months. Nelly describes how Cathy and Hareton were reconciled and became fast friends, while at the same time Heathcliff became more and more estranged from the family.

    Chapter 33: Nelly continues the tale. Heathcliff hardly notices what is happening around him. When Cathy stands up to him, he is caught by the look in her eyes that reminds him of Catherine. Hareton also closely resembles Catherine. Heathcliff realizes that everywhere he looks he sees reminders of Catherine. He is tormented and haunted by his desire to be reunited with Catherine.

    Chapter 34: These are the last days of Heathcliff. He stops eating and sleeping; he restlessly roams through the countryside and home, seeing Catherine wherever he looks. Finally, Nelly discovers him in Catherine's bed, dead. He is buried as he wished, next to the grave of Catherine. Now the country folk swear that his restless spirit still walks.

    Young Catherine and Hareton will be married on the new year and move to the Grange to begin their life together, leaving behind the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff.

    Chronological History of the Linton and Earnshaw Families

    1772: Old Mr. Earnshaw finds a starving, orphaned child in the streets of Liverpool while on a business trip and brings him home to be raised with his children – Hindley, fourteen, and Catherine, six; the child is christened Heathcliff.

    June, 1778: Hareton Earnshaw, Hindley's child, is born.

    1780: Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights.

    1783: Edgar Linton marries Catherine Earnshaw.

    1784: Catherine Linton dies and her baby Catherine is born. Isabella runs away from Wuthering Heights after the funeral of Catherine; Linton, son of Isabella and Heathcliff, is born in the south, near London. Hindley Earnshaw dies.

    1801: Catherine Linton and Linton Heathcliff are married. Edgar Linton dies. Linton Heathcliff dies within weeks of his uncle's death.

    April, 1802: Heathcliff dies.

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