Wuthering Heights

Characters

  • Heathcliff: Found, presumably orphaned, on the streets of Liverpool and taken by Mr. Earnshaw to Wuthering Heights, 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 reinvents himself at various points, making his character hard to fit into any single type. He has an ambiguous position in society, and his lack of status is underlined by the fact that "Heathcliff" is both his given name and his surname.
  • 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 Edgar. 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 unfortunate, fateful consequences for all the other characters.[12]
  • 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 those of Heathcliff, who instantly dislikes him, and of Catherine, who is drawn to him. Catherine marries him instead of Heathcliff because of his higher social status, with disastrous results to all characters in the story.
  • Nelly Dean: The main narrator of the novel, Nelly is a servant to three generations of the Earnshaws and two of the Linton family. 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. Critics have discussed how far her actions as an apparent bystander affect the other characters and how much her narrative can be relied on.[13]
  • Isabella Linton: Is seen only in relation to other characters. She views Heathcliff romantically, despite Catherine's warnings, and becomes an unwitting participant in his plot for revenge against Edgar. Heathcliff marries her, but treats her abusively. While pregnant, she escapes to London and gives birth to a son, Linton.
  • 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 reverts to destructive behaviour and ruins the Earnshaw family by drinking and gambling to excess. Heathcliff beats up Hindley at one point after Hindley fails in his attempt to kill Heathcliff 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 and Edgar, 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 sympathetic characters of the novel, she is also somewhat snobbish towards Hareton and his lack of 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. Physically he resembles his mother. He marries Cathy Linton because his father, who terrifies him, directs him to do so, and soon after dies from a wasting illness associated with tuberculosis.
  • 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 favours his adopted son, Heathcliff, which causes trouble in the family. In contrast, his wife mistrusts 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 magistrate of Gimmerton, like his son in later years.
  • Dr Kenneth: The longtime doctor of Gimmerton and a friend of Hindley's 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 she is kind 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 have changed Edgar's will to prevent Heathcliff from gaining Thrushcross Grange. But Green changes sides and helps Heathcliff to inherit Grange as his property.

Family relationships map


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