Part of the famous Brontë literary family, Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights, her only novel. Much less is known of Emily than her two other literary sisters, Charlotte and Anne. Emily lived with her family at Haworth on the Yorkshire moors, and spent most of her life there. It was here that she developed a passion for the moors, which she expressed in the setting of Wuthering Heights. She went to the same school as the other Brontë sisters where Maria and Elizabeth died. Emily was very attached to her home at Yorkshire, and was much more reclusive than other members of her family. At her brother Branwell’s funeral, Emily caught a cold and later died of tuberculosis.
Like her siblings, Emily was an avid reader and relied on her imagination, an imagination that was to produce Wuthering Heights. Also like her sisters, Emily wrote under a pseudonym to disguise her gender, and chose the name “Ellis Bell”. Early reviewers of the novel presumed “Ellis Bell” to be male.
Whereas the other Brontë sisters produced work that was discernibly autobiographical in origin, Wuthering Heights is clearly a less autobiographical and more impersonal work. First published in 1847, the novel received bad reviews to the disappointment of the Brontë family. Emily died the year after publication at the age of 30, unaware that her novel was to become considered one of the greatest works of English literature ever written.
A unique and complex novel, the structure of Wuthering Heights comprises a series of flashbacks and overlapping time frames, however, the novel retains structural symmetry. The structure is further complicated by the intertwining relationships of the Linton and Earnshaw families. The novel spans three generations of these two families, the story linking the families and the generations through the theme of revenge.
The narration is told through multiple perspectives, and this contributes to the effect of the novel’s moral neutrality. Where the other two Brontë sisters used their work for didactic purposes and as social critique, Wuthering Heights stays close to the romantic themes of love and death, where the passion between Heathcliff and Cathy is the centre of the novel.
Wuthering Heights is most frequently described as gothic in style, and critics have analysed the novel’s influences, most frequently citing the work of Byron as an influence on Emily’s writing. The style combines direct storytelling and symbolic conflicts, producing an effect of emotional intensity.