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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a novel about the destructive love story between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff’s, and how the former sought for heartbreaking and deadly revenge on his tormentors. Revenge, Love, Dreams, Society, torment are the major subjects in the Wuthering Heights.
The masterpiece, published in 1847 under the author pseudonym “Ellis Bell,” has received wide acclamation from readers and critics for its profound teaching, artistry, and unique themes. The book perfectly depicts real-life scenarios that can educate on how to have a proper love that is non-destructive. It additionally explains why people do not have to judge or criticize others. Wuthering Heights greatly teaches against bullying, bad morals, and poor upbringing.
In the late winter months of 1801, a man named Lockwood rents a manor house called Thrushcross Grange in the isolated moor country of England. Here, he meets his dour landlord, Heathcliff, a wealthy man who lives in the ancient manor of Wuthering Heights, four miles away from the Grange. In this wild, stormy countryside, Lockwood asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him the story of Heathcliff and the strange denizens of Wuthering Heights. Nelly consents and Lockwood writes down his recollections of her tale in his diary; these written recollections form the main part of Wuthering Heights.
Nelly remembers her childhood. As a young girl, she works as a servant at Wuthering Heights for the owner of the manor, Mr. Earnshaw, and his family. One day, Mr. Earnshaw goes to Liverpool and returns home with an orphan boy whom he will raise with his own children. At first, the Earnshaw children—a boy named Hindley and his younger sister Catherine—detest the dark-skinned Heathcliff. But Catherine quickly comes to love him, and the two soon grow inseparable, spending their days playing on the moors. After his wife’s death, Mr. Earnshaw grows to prefer Heathcliff to his own son, and when Hindley continues his cruelty to Heathcliff, Mr. Earnshaw sends Hindley away to college, keeping Heathcliff nearby.
Three years later, Mr. Earnshaw dies, and Hindley inherits Wuthering Heights. He returns with a wife, Frances, and immediately seeks revenge on Heathcliff. Once an orphan, later a pampered and favored son, Heathcliff now finds himself treated as a common laborer, forced to work in the fields. Heathcliff continues his close relationship with Catherine, however. One night they wander to Thrushcross Grange, hoping to tease Edgar and Isabella Linton, the cowardly, snobbish children who live there. Catherine is bitten by a dog and is forced to stay at the Grange to recuperate for five weeks, during which time Mrs. Linton works to make her a proper young lady. By the time Catherine returns, she has become infatuated with Edgar, and her relationship with Heathcliff grows more complicated.
When Frances dies after giving birth to a baby boy named Hareton, Hindley descends into the depths of alcoholism and behaves even more cruelly and abusively toward Heathcliff. Eventually, Catherine’s desire for social advancement prompts her to become engaged to Edgar Linton, despite her overpowering love for Heathcliff. Heathcliff runs away from Wuthering Heights, staying away for three years, and returning shortly after Catherine and Edgar’s marriage.
When Heathcliff returns, he immediately sets about seeking revenge on all who have wronged him. Having come into vast and mysterious wealth, he deviously lends money to the drunken Hindley, knowing that Hindley will increase his debts and fall into deeper despondency. When Hindley dies, Heathcliff inherits the manor. He also places himself in line to inherit Thrushcross Grange by marrying Isabella Linton, whom he treats very cruelly. Catherine becomes ill, gives birth to a daughter, and dies. Heathcliff begs her spirit to remain on Earth—she may take whatever form she will, she may haunt him, drive him mad—just as long as she does not leave him alone. Shortly thereafter, Isabella flees to London and gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, named Linton, after her family. She keeps the boy with her there.
Thirteen years pass, during which Nelly Dean serves as Catherine’s daughter’s nursemaid at Thrushcross Grange. Young Catherine is beautiful and headstrong like her mother, but her temperament is modified by her father’s gentler influence. Young Catherine grows up at the Grange with no knowledge of Wuthering Heights; one day, however, wandering through the moors, she discovers the manor, meets Hareton, and plays together with him. Soon afterward, Isabella dies, and Linton comes to live with Heathcliff. Heathcliff treats his sickly, whining son even more cruelly than he treated the boy’s mother.
Three years later, Catherine meets Heathcliff on the moors and makes a visit to Wuthering Heights to meet Linton. She and Linton begin a secret romance conducted entirely through letters. When Nelly destroys Catherine’s collection of letters, the girl begins sneaking out at night to spend time with her frail young lover, who asks her to come back and nurse him back to health. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Linton is pursuing Catherine only because Heathcliff is forcing him to; Heathcliff hopes that if Catherine marries Linton, his legal claim upon Thrushcross Grange—and his revenge upon Edgar Linton—will be complete. One day, as Edgar Linton grows ill and nears death, Heathcliff lures Nelly and Catherine back to Wuthering Heights and holds them prisoner until Catherine marries Linton. Soon after the marriage, Edgar dies, and his death is quickly followed by the death of the sickly Linton. Heathcliff now controls both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. He forces Catherine to live at Wuthering Heights and act as a common servant, while he rents Thrushcross Grange to Lockwood.
Nelly’s story ends as she reaches the present. Lockwood, appalled, ends his tenancy at Thrushcross Grange and returns to London. However, six months later, he pays a visit to Nelly and learns of further developments in the story. Although Catherine originally mocked Hareton’s ignorance and illiteracy (in an act of retribution, Heathcliff ended Hareton’s education after Hindley died), Catherine grows to love Hareton as they live together at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff becomes more and more obsessed with the memory of the elder Catherine, to the extent that he begins speaking to her ghost. Everything he sees reminds him of her. Shortly after a night spent walking on the moors, Heathcliff dies. Hareton and young Catherine inherit Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and they plan to be married on the next New Year’s Day. After hearing the end of the story, Lockwood goes to visit the graves of Catherine and Heathcliff.
The precariousness of Social Class
The precariousness of social class is one of the major themes in Wuthering Heights and how it can be damaging to the people and society. In the novel, the Earnshaws and the Lintons hold a precarious place in British society while the royalty is at the top of the social class, with a vast majority of the population in the lower class.
Social separation is very evident nowadays. It is most apparent in the aspect of wealth and income. A few controls the resources at the detriment of the majority average or poor. Social discrimination also extends into politics, education, lifestyle, family structure, and a lot of other areas.
This stratification has created a deep gap that some may wonder about the moral purpose. It brings about all forms of negative ideas and their links to health hazards and violence. The lower class is at risk of contracting diseases as a result of the environment where they live. Most do not have access to freshwater, excellent schools, exercise facilitates, health care facilities, and a lot of other basic amenities. As seen in Wuthering Heights, the upper class or the gentry and the aristocrats have a lot of servants that they pick from the lower class. They have horses, wealth, farms, and all that is need for a good living, while the lower class lacks everything good and are merely survives.
The Destructiveness of criticism
So many emotions are depicted in the novel, but the love affair between Catherine and Heathcliff is the center of Wuthering Heights. Criticism of the love affair is the primary conflict out of all the major conflicts in the novel. It starts with Nelly criticizing Catherine and Heathcliff by saying their passion for each other is immoral. The book teaches it is better to understand a point of view before making an opinion. This is where Nelly fails. Some people are so stainless and find it very easy to criticize others. They even find it so difficult to give a simple compliment when due.
Wuthering Heights teaches readers that if people can love and respect each other, the world would be a better place. Lousy criticism is negative; it creates disagreement, separation, tension, and conflicts amongst people. Therefore before criticizing another, you should think twice and be objective, polite, and fair.
Torment and Revenge
The theme of revenge is a powerful plot in Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff cannot get the woman he loves as a result of the torments from Hindley since his childhood. So he seeks revenge and expresses his anger on Hindley. His revenge is so easy because Hindley is a drunkard and a gambler. He also revenges on Cathy and Edgar, who are also his tormentors.
From the book, we can learn that it is not good to torment people or push them to the wall. Tormenting and bullying can affect people’s psychology and make them develop criminal tendencies, just like it happened with Heathcliff. Tormenting or bullying is a severe issue in schools, workplaces, families, and other social settings. Bullying, especially at a young age, has a lot of short and long term adverse effects both on the bully, bystanders, and the bullied. Parents should watch out for this behavior and correct it as soon as possible. Everyone involved in bullying can develop psychological and health issues.
The book teaches that if bullying is not corrected immediately, it can result in long and short term destructive behaviors and also alter the mental state of people. This is illustrated in Heathcliff, who thinks that revenging the death of Catherine would enable him to be with her for eternity. So he destroys many lives in the course of his relentless and heartbreaking urge for revenge.
The theme of love cuts across the entire chapters in Wuthering Heights. Most characters are having love affairs. The most prominent is the affair between Catherine and Heathcliff. They experience a transcendent love and connection for one another like ever seen before, even though they have their fair share of negative attributes. In the beginning, Catherine questions Heathcliff’s capacity to love because of his social standing but however accepts to love him. In their relationship, Heathcliff manages to prove her wrong.
Catherine and Heathcliff’s love affair is the center of controversy in the novel, and though they face a lot of adversities, they push on amid troubles. They also suffer abuse, criticisms, and torments from other characters such as Hindley and Cathy.
We can learn from Heathcliff that love can heal, bring us joy, but if we do not channel it properly, it can be very destructive. Destructiveness arising from love is most common when someone tries to interfere with the love affair of others negatively. Some negativity that could arise from interfering with people in love includes; depression, stress, anxiety, suicides, psychological effects, hatred, crime, and a lot more.
Wuthering Heights is the greatest book and only finished novel by Emily Bronte. This novel remains iconic close to two centuries after its first publication. Its themes are interesting and contain great information that can greatly benefit everyone as it covers most areas of life, ranging from social class, bullying, torments, love, jealousy, revenge, and lots more.
Wuthering Heights was rejected by most publishers because female writers were not respected a lot in the 19th century. Therefore Emily and her sisters Anne and Charlotte adopted a male pseudonym “Ellis Bell” and paid 50 pounds to publish Wuthering Heights. They also published Jane Eyre and Agness Gray the same year. Well, Wuthering Heights shocked a lot of Victorian critics, and most people loved it for its creativity, moral plot, and passionate characters. Today the book is classical English literature and has won so many awards. Wuthering Heights has sold millions of copies around the world, and a rare first edition of Wuthering Heights, 1847 version was sold for £114, 000 in 2007 at Bonhams London auction house.