Emily Bronte was a clergyman’s daughter. She grew up in a remote part of England. She didn’t like to travel. When she left home she became ill. She never married and she died at the age of 30 having published her only novel and some poetry. It was one of the most shocking novel in English literature. When it was first published 1847, it created a firestorm of protest. It was called one of the most repellent book ever published. One critic said it should be burnt. The protest only settle down when the second edition came out and the author was revealed to be the daughter of a parson from west-Yorkshire. How had a parson’s daughter created such a threat to civilized society as Heathcliff, a hero driven by sexual passion and vengeance and instead of a proper Victorian heroine she gave the world a married woman who runs around on the moor in her nightgown with her lover. The reading public was shocked. Shocked. But the novel has never been out of print and has had many film/ TV adaptations: WUTHERING HEIGHTS.
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.
THEMES AND SETTING
The spirit of Romanticism and its concern with the human soul are still present in Wuthering Heights in the correspondence between the violent passions of the characters and the wild natural landscape. The desolate scenery of the Yorkshire moors, the wind, the storms are all reflected in the psychological conflicts of the characters.
Heathcliff is a sort of "Byronic Hero", moved by irresistible, unrestrained and primitive passion, doomed to the despair of a solitary life and finally tending to a total identity with his love, Catherine. But Heathcliff also resembles the villain of some Gothic novel in his inhuman treatment of his wife, Isabella Linton, and even his son.
There are other Gothic elements in the novel, such as the sinister atmosphere of Wuthering Heights, surrounded by the wilderness, Catherine's ghost, the dreams and superstition often mentioned.
There are several opposite principles clashing in the story: love and hate, order and chaos. However, the key opposition is represented by the two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The first reflects his owner, Heathcliff. It is severe, gloomy and brutal in aspect and atmosphere, firmly rooted in local tradition and custom. The second one, the home of the bourgeois Lintons, reflects their conception of life based on stability, genteel refinement, kindness and respectability.Though opposed, they are complementary, they tend to unity. With the marriage between Hareton and young Catherine, they will compose a harmony in the end, after the consummation of Heathcliff's revenge and his death.
Death is an important theme in this novel. Unlike other Victorian novels, where death is either a moment of forgiveness or the moment in which all the conflicts are settled, in Wuthering Heights, death is not a liberation of the spirit.
As a whole Wuthering Heights represents a unique achievement in Victorian literature. The novel marked a departure from the observation of society towards the description of the individual personality, and anticipated the novelists of the early 20th century in narrative technique.