Author Emily Brontë
Type of Work Novel
Genre Gothic novel (designed to both horrify and fascinate readers with scenes of passion and cruelty; supernatural elements; and a dark, foreboding atmosphere); also realist fiction (incorporates vivid circumstantial detail into a consistently and minutely thought-out plot, dealing mostly with the relationships of the characters to one another)
Language English (including bits of Yorkshire dialect)
Time and place written In 1846–1847, Emily Brontë wrote
Date of First Publication 1847
Publisher Thomas C. Newby
Narrator Lockwood, a newcomer to the locale of Wuthering Heights, narrates the entire novel as an entry in his diary. The story that Lockwood records is told to him by Nelly, a servant, and Lockwood writes most of the narrative in her voice, describing how she told it to him. Some parts of Nelly’s story are narrated by other characters, such as when Nelly receives a letter from Isabella and recites its contents verbatim.
Point of View Most of the events of the novel are narrated in Nelly’s voice, from Nelly’s point of view, focusing only on what Nelly can see and hear, or what she can find out about indirectly. Nelly frequently comments on what the other characters think and feel, and on what their motivations are, but these comments are all based on her own interpretations of the other characters—she is not an omniscient narrator.
Tone It is not easy to infer the author’s attitude toward the events of the novel. The melodramatic quality of the first half of the novel suggests that Brontë views Catherine and Heathcliff’s doomed love as a tragedy of lost potential and wasted passion. However, the outcome of the second half of the novel suggests that Brontë is more interested in celebrating the renewal and rebirth brought about by the passage of time, and the rise of a new generation, than she is in mourning Heathcliff and Catherine.
Tense Both Lockwood’s and Nelly’s narrations are in the past tense.
Setting (time) The action of Nelly’s story begins in the 1770s; Lockwood leaves Yorkshire in 1802.
Setting (place) All the action of
Protagonists Heathcliff, Catherine
Major Conflicts Heathcliff’s great natural abilities, strength of character, and love for Catherine Earnshaw all enable him to raise himself from humble beginnings to the status of a wealthy gentleman, but his need to revenge himself for Hindley’s abuse and Catherine’s betrayal leads him into a twisted life of cruelty and hatred; Catherine is torn between her love for Heathcliff and her desire to be a gentlewoman, and her decision to marry the genteel Edgar Linton drags almost all of the novel’s characters into conflict with Heathcliff.
Rising Action Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights, Hindley’s abusive treatment of Heathcliff, and Catherine’s first visit to Thrushcross Grange set the major conflicts in motion; once Heathcliff hears Catherine say it would “degrade” her to marry him, the conversation between Nelly and Catherine, which he secretly overhears, drives him to run away and pursue his vengeance.
Climax Catherine’s death is the culmination of the conflict between herself and Heathcliff and removes any possibility that their conflict could be resolved positively; after Catherine’s death, Heathcliff merely extends and deepens his drives toward revenge and cruelty.
Falling Action Heathcliff destroys Isabella and drives her away, takes possession of young Linton, forces Catherine and Linton to marry, inherits Thrushcross Grange, then loses interest in the whole project and dies; Hareton and young Catherine are to be engaged to be married, promising an end to the cycle of revenge.
Themes The destructiveness of a love that never changes; the precariousness of social class
Motifs Doubles, repetition, the conflict between nature and culture
Symbols The moors, ghosts
Foreshadowing Lockwood’s initial visit to Wuthering Heights, in which the mysterious relationships and lurking resentments between the characters create an air of mystery; Lockwood’s ghostly nightmares, during the night he spends in Catherine’s old bed, prefigure many of the events of the rest of the novel.