Wuthering Heights is the only novel by the nineteenth-century English writer Emily Bronte (sister of Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre.) It was first published in 1847 and the author named as ‘Ellis Bell' but it was not well received, reviewers read it as morbid and unnatural but it later came to be regarded as a masterpiece of sophisticated structure, evocative description and poetic grandeur. Wuthering Heights drew on elements of Gothic and Romantic literature to create an imaginative tale of passion, hate and love, set on the Yorkshire moors.
The story is narrated by a new neighbouring tenant and later by the housekeeper and thus the tale unravels in the form of flashbacks and time shifts. The elder Earnshaw, owner of ‘Wuthering Heights' returns from Liverpool with Heathcliff, an urchin he has found on the and wants to rear as one of his own children. Heathcliff is passionate and ferocious and forms a deep but tempestuous attachment to Earnshaw's daughter Catherine but is bullied by his son Hindley. Earnshaw dies and Heathcliff runs away after overhearing Catherine declare to the housekeeper Nelly Dean that it would degrade her to marry him. Heathcliff returns three years later, enriched and finds Catherine marred to Edgar Linton. Hindley is now a hardened gambler, widowed with a son Hareton. Heathcliff marries Edgar's sister Isabella and sadistically ill-treats her. Overwhelmed by Heathcliff's passionate declarations, Catherine dies giving birth to Cathy. He brings Hareton and Hindley under his power and brutalizes Hareton in revenge for his father's past cruelty. Heathcliff lures Cathy to his house and forces a marriage between her and his son Linton to secure her estate. Sickly Linton dies and an affection develops between the imprisoned Cathy and the ignorant Hareton, who she tries to educate. Heathcliff, now weary of revenge, longs for death to reunite him with Catherine. At his death, there is a promise of final peace and unity between the poetry and savagery of nature and the prosaic, materialistic comforts of domestic civilization with the marriage of Hareton and Cathy.
The book compares the harsh and violent landscape of the Yorkshire moors with the destructive passions of the protagonists. The lives and emotions of Wuthering Heights are austere and unforgiving. In contrast to this world is that of the calm ordered Thrushcross Grange, home of the more civilized, refined and trivial Linton siblings and later of the naive tenant who attempts to befriend Heathcliff. Critics suggest that Heathcliff may be Earnshaw's illegitimate son and the text is infused with themes of incest and turmoil in the natural order of things. Heathcliff is an immensely passionate, sexually charged and destructive character; a Byronic hero in the eyes of his masochistic wife Isabella.