Wuthering Heights

Characters

  • Heathcliff: Found, presumably orphaned, on the streets of Liverpool and taken to Wuthering Heights by Mr Earnshaw where he is reluctantly cared for by the family. He and Catherine grow close and their love is the central theme of the first volume. His revenge against the man she chooses to marry and its consequences are the central theme of the second volume. Heathcliff has been considered a Byronic hero, but critics have pointed out that he re-invents himself at various points, making his character hard to fit into any single "type." Because of his ambiguous position in society and his lack of status — underlined by the fact that "Heathcliff" is his given name; he has no surname — his character has been a favourite subject of Marxist criticism.[8]
  • Catherine Earnshaw: First introduced to the reader after her death, through Lockwood's discovery of her diary and carvings. The description of her life is confined almost entirely to the first volume. She seems unsure whether she is — or wants to become — more like Heathcliff, or aspires to be more like the type Edgar portrays. It is as if she wants both, even perhaps recognizing she can't discover herself fully without both, and yet society or human nature makes that impossible ( the latter making her rue her rejecting Heathcliff ). Some critics have argued that her decision to marry Edgar Linton is allegorically a rejection of nature and a surrender to culture — a choice with fateful consequences for all the other characters. Literary critics have examined her character through many different lenses, including those of psychoanalytic theory and feminist theory.[9]
  • Edgar Linton: Introduced as a child in the Linton family, he resides at Thrushcross Grange. Edgar's style and manners are in sharp contrast to Heathcliff's, who instantly dislikes him, and Catherine, who is drawn to him. Catherine marries him instead of Heathcliff because of his higher social status, with disastrous results. From the perspective of feminist theory, this exemplifies the problems inherent in a social structure in which women can gain prestige and financial security only through marriage.
  • Nelly Dean: The main narrator of the novel, Nelly is a servant to three generations of the Earnshaws and two of the Linton family. In a sense, she straddles the "culture versus nature" divide. Humbly born, she regards herself nevertheless as Hindley's foster-sister (they are the same age and her mother is his nurse). She lives and works among the rough inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, but is well-read, and she also experiences the more genteel manners of Thrushcross Grange. She is referred to as Ellen — her given name — to show respect, and as Nelly among those close to her. Nelly comes across as an unprejudiced narrator whose close connections to the main characters mean she often not only witnesses but is actively involved in events. Critics have discussed how far her actions (as an apparent bystander) affect the other characters.[10]
  • Isabella Linton: Introduced as part of the Linton family, Isabella is only shown in relation to other characters. She views Heathcliff romantically, despite Catherine warning her against such a view, and becomes an unwitting participant in his plot for revenge against Edgar. Heathcliff marries her, but treats her abusively. Pregnant, she escapes to London and gives birth to a son, Linton. Because she suffers such abuse from her husband and ultimately escapes from it, some critics — particularly feminist-theory critics — consider Isabella the true (conventional) "tragic-romantic" heroine of Wuthering Heights.
  • Hindley Earnshaw: Catherine's elder brother, Hindley despises Heathcliff immediately and bullies him throughout their childhood before his father sends him away to college. Hindley returns with his wife, Frances, after Mr Earnshaw dies. He is more mature but his hatred of Heathcliff remains the same. After Frances's death, Hindley is caught in a downward spiral of destructive behaviour, and ruins the Earnshaw family by drinking and gambling to excess. Heathcliff beats up Hindley at one point when he attempts to kill him with a pistol.
  • Hareton Earnshaw: The son of Hindley and Frances, raised at first by Nelly but soon by Heathcliff. Nelly works to instill a sense of pride in the Earnshaw heritage (even though Hareton will not inherit Earnshaw property, because Hindley has mortgaged it to Heathcliff). Heathcliff, in contrast, teaches him vulgarities, as a way of avenging himself on Hindley. Hareton speaks with an accent similar to Joseph's, and occupies a position similar to a servant at Wuthering Heights, unaware how he has been done out of his inheritance. In appearance he reminds Heathcliff of his aunt, Catherine.
  • Cathy Linton: The daughter of Catherine Earnshaw and Edgar Linton, a spirited and strong-willed girl unaware of her parents' history. Edgar is very protective of her and as a result she is eager to discover what lies beyond the confines of the Grange. Although one of the more symphatic characters of the novel, she is also somewhat snobbish against Hareton and his lacking education.
  • Linton Heathcliff: The son of Heathcliff and Isabella. A weak child, his early years are spent with his mother in the south of England. He learns of his father's identity and existence only after his mother dies, when he is twelve. In his selfishness and capacity for cruelty he resembles Heathcliff, but he appears to lack his father's only redeeming feature: the capacity to love. He marries Cathy Linton because his father, who terrifies him, directs him to do so.
  • Joseph: A servant at Wuthering Heights for 60 years who is a rigid, self-righteous Christian but lacks any trace of genuine kindness or humanity. He speaks a broad Yorkshire dialect and hates nearly everyone in the novel.
  • Mr. Lockwood: The first narrator, he rents Thrushcross Grange to escape society, but in the end decides society is preferable. He narrates the book until Chapter 4, when the main narrator, Nelly, picks up the tale.
  • Frances: Hindley's ailing wife and mother of Hareton Earnshaw. She is described as somewhat silly and is obviously from humble family backgrounds.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw: Catherine's and Hindley's father Mr. Earnshaw is the master of Wuthering Heights at the beginning of Nelly's story and is described as an irascible, but loving and kind-hearted man. He has a strange obsession on his adopted son Heathcliff which causes trouble in the family. In contrast, his wife mistrusts the child Heathcliff from their first encounter.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Linton: Edgar's and Isabella's parents, they educate their children in a well-behaved and sophisticated way. Mr. Linton also serves as the judge of Gimmerton, like his son in later years.
  • Dr. Kenneth: The longtime doctor of Gimmerton and a friend of Hindley who is present at the cases of illness during the novel. Although not much of his character is known, he seems to be a rough but honest person.
  • Zillah: A servant to Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights during the period following Catherine's death. Although kind-hearted to Lockwood, she doesn't like or help Cathy at Wuthering Heights because of Cathy's arrogance and Heathcliff's instructions.
  • Mr. Green: Edgar's corruptible lawyer who should change his will and prevent Heathcliff from gaining Thrushcross Grange. But Green changes sides and helps Heathcliff to inherit Grange as his property.

Relationships map

Key:

  • black line: son or daughter of; if dotted it means adoption
  • red line: wedding; if double it means second wedding
  • pink line: love
  • blue line: affection
  • green line: hate
  • light yellow area: plot-driving characters
  • violet area: external observers

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