The Bronte sisters lived an isolated life in the Yorkshire moors. They received a little formal schooling that ruined their health, so they were self educated and use to read their father's books. Emily later got in touch with German romantic art and philosophy during her travel to Brussels, Belgium. Al the three sisters used to write behind a pseudonym.
The plot is quite complex. The story is told as a long flashback by the governess.
Mr. Lockwood, the tenant of Trushcross Grange spends a night at Wuthering Heights and has a strange dream about a girl, Catherine, who wants to be let in. He tells to Nelly (the governess) about his dream and she tells him the whole story:
Mr Earnshow goes to Liverpool and comes back with a foundling, named Heathcliff. His natural son is quite jealous of Heathcliff and when their father dies he exploits and treats him as a servant, while Catherine Earnshow and Heathcliff become twin souls. Catherine is almost a ''savage'' girl without any education. One day, when Catherine and Heathcliff are playing they go downhill at Thrushcross Edge, property of the Lintons, and Catherine's bitten by a dog so she's welcomed in the house and there she learns good manners.
Catherine anyways accepts Edgar Linton's proposal and Heathcliff leaves after he hears Catherine explaining the reasons why she was marrying Linton (Heathcliff actually hears just the worst part of the speech).
Heathcliff then returns as a gentleman, he's now quite rich and wants his revenge. He wins the possession of Wuthering Heights gambling with Hindley.
Catherine is still in love with Heathcliff but still wants both him and Edgar. She's so desperate she falls ill and dies immediately after giving birth to a baby girl, Cathy II.
Heathcliff is so desperate for Catherine's death he becomes even more cruel. He actually takes his revenge as he marries Isabella Linton (even though he didn't even love her) and expropriates Edgar.
He also treats Hindley's son as his father treated him and forces Cathy to marry his son.
Lockwood leaves and comes back one year later, and Nelly tells him what happened while he wasn't there: Edgar died and Heathcliff loses interest in revenge. He was so obsessed with Catherine's ghost he's even happy when he's about to die. He was buried next to his beloved Catherine.
Cathy II and Hareton (Hindley's son) are happily married and Wuthering Heights belongs again to the original owner. Some rumors say that a young man and a woman have been seen wandering together in the moors.
Non-linear narrative structure:
1)Use of flashback
2)Beginning in medias res→ elicits curiosity in the reader
3)Binary structure which invites comparison between the two stories and implies an active reader
Narrative point of view
Two frame narrators: Lockwood (as external narrator) and Nelly Dean (as internal narrator).Chinese box structure: stories within stories.Two interpreters; two auditors (reader and Lockwood closely identified).
Nelly Dean's perspective:
Conventional, based on morality, religion and superstition.She thinks Cathy is “wayward”, “ill-tempered”.
The voice of conventional society. An unreliable narrator because he does not know all the details of the story.
Implication of the multiple narrators:
Strangeness and ‘otherness’ preserved. Multiple interpretations: no single ‘truth.
Unique Interpretation becomes impossible modern aspect of the novel.
Catherine:Wayward, difficult, rebellious, spirited and ‘unfeminine’.
Heathcliff:Persistent ambiguity: man or beast? Unknown origins, absence of social connection. Absence of emotion, “insensible”. Deteriorates into brute state. Violent and extreme language. A Byronic hero.
Vindictive, violent and possessive,
Vitality, authenticity, freedom.Rejection of class values.Heathcliff and Catherine symbolise the instinctual, unconscious forces.Contrasted with ‘civilised’ characters: Edgar, Lockwood, Nelly Dean.
The Moors as symbol
Attempt to escape→ the Moors represent the romantic rejection of society and the desire to trascend its rules.
Escape is impossible→ Catherine reconciles self & class society through her marriage to Edgar and her relationship with Heathcliff.
Heathcliff as a Gothic villain in his inhuman treatment of his wife and his son.The sinister atmosphere of Wuthering Heights surrounded by the wilderness.Catherine’s ghost.
The dreams and superstitions often mentioned are not used to frighten the reader, but to convey the struggle between the two opposed principles of love and hate, of order and chaos.
The home of the Earnshaws. Severe, gloomy, brutal in aspect and atmosphere.Firmly rooted in local tradition and custom.The background for the life of primitive passion led by its owner.
(principle of storm and energy)
The home of the Lintons. Reflects a Victorian conception of life. Symbolises stability, kindness and respectability.
(principle of calm)