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Literature / Wuthering Heights

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Heathcliff, by Fritz Eichenberg
"I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!"

Wuthering Heights (1847) was the only novel written by Emily Brontë (the middle Brontë sister), and an archetypal example of a Gothic Romance, which deals primarily with the cycle of abuse across generations.

It is 1801. The foppish gentleman Mr. Lockwood has moved to Thrushcross Grange, a manor house in the windswept and desolate Yorkshire Moors. He introduces himself to Heathcliff, his surly, ill-mannered and unwelcoming landlord, and master of the nearby Wuthering Heights. Forced to stay at Wuthering Heights overnight, Lockwood suffers a nightmare wherein the ghost of a young woman, named Cathy, desperately pleads to be let back into the house. Intrigued, disturbed, and also bedridden with a cold, Lockwood asks his housekeeper Nelly Dean to tell him the story of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights.


Nelly's story is one of a terrible, unchecked, all-consuming passion—that between Heathcliff, a mysterious foundling brought to Wuthering Heights as a child, and Catherine Earnshaw, his spoilt, flighty, and wild-spirited foster sister. The two became inseparable friends and later fell in love. Their love, though passionate, was cruelly thwarted by Hindley Earnshaw, Catherine's brother and Heathcliff's sworn enemy, who resented Heathcliff as an interloper in his father's affections and, upon inheriting the estate, spitefully turned Heathcliff into a downtrodden slave. Catherine's own desires for social mobility and class see her marry her decent and devoted, but seemingly weak, neighbour Edgar Linton, even as she insists that her one true love is and always will be Heathcliff. Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights in bitterness, only to return several years later, having made his fortune elsewhere and determined to crush those who thwarted his one chance at happiness—as well as all their relations.


Has been adapted or filmed many times :

Wuthering Heights provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • Deconstructed as the love between Catherine and Heathcliff is passionate but is between two people who are rather selfish and the fact they don't get a non-conforming Happily Ever After leads to nothing but the ruin of the lovers and almost everyone around them.
    • Isabella's childish crush on Heathcliff, which she quickly gets over when she realizes what he's really like. Still she marries him, as was standard for the time period, and he destroys her life. Somehow she leaves him and is able to live separated from her brute of a husband with her child.
  • The Alcoholic: Hindley drinks heavily, to the point that it kills him before he's thirty. His beloved wife's death pushed him over the edge.
  • Amoral Attorney: A dying Edgar Linton sends for Attorney Green to ensure Heathcliff won't be able to touch his daughter's property. He was too late; Heathcliff already had him in his pocket.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Heathcliff's exact race is never explained; he is referred to as "dark" and a "gipsy." All we know is that he's not black-African or white-European; at one point Nelly fancifully speculates that he could be the son of the Emperor of China and an Indian queen.
  • Ambiguously Human: Heathcliff, often described as some kind of demon from hell. Towards the end of his life Nelly likens him to a ghoul or a vampire.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Cathy, in her famous "I am Heathcliff!" speech. Unfortunately it's also a Love Confessor, as she doesn't make it to Heathcliff.
    Cathy: My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. —My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable; and—
  • As the Good Book Says...: Joseph is an abrasive, Bible-thumping Calvinist.
  • Asshole Victim: It's very easy to argue that Heathcliff's successful degradation of his former tormentor Hindley is well-deserved.
  • Ax-Crazy: Following his wife's death, Hindley becomes pretty unstable—attempting to murder his newborn son, later raving to Isabella about how he plans to kill Heathcliff, and even briefly threatening her as well.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: During a struggle with Heathcliff, Hindley's curiously constructed gun goes off and digs the blade into Hindley's wrist, cutting the artery. If it weren't for Heathcliff's quick thinking, he would've bled out.
  • Badass Bookworm: Edgar Linton, despite coming across as a nerd and a weakling, thrashes Heathcliff the one time they actually fight. Forever after, Heathcliff won't risk confronting him unarmed, even during the many long, solitary walks Edgar takes out on moors.
  • Big Fancy House: Thrushcross Grange. Wuthering Heights is more of a large farmhouse than an estate.
  • Bit Character: Lockwood doesn't do a whole lot in the story, despite being the narrator at the beginning and the end.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After having pretty much destroyed the lives of everyone around him, Heathcliff is tired and tormented to madness by Catherine's ghost and anything that reminds him of her, so he lets himself die. So he and Catherine are finally Together in Death as ghosts. Hareton and Catherine (II) are going to get married and they are now rich.
  • Brain Fever: Catherine Linton suffers this due to stress when Edgar and Heathcliff get into a fight. She never fully recovers her sanity.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens to Cathy (II) after Mr. Lockwood leaves.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are Not Blood Siblings but obviously Like Brother and Sister, thus giving their love affair an additional level of forbidden passion (not to mention slight awkwardness on part of the reader). See also Surprise Incest below.
  • Byronic Hero: Heathcliff, though he's more a Deconstruction of one.
  • The Chessmaster: Heathcliff on returning to the moors puts into action a plan to make Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange his own.
  • Child by Rape: Though he is conceived within wedlock, due to Heathcliff's relationship with Isabella, Linton was most likely one of these.
  • Create Your Own Villain:
    • Edgar and Hindley have no one to blame but themselves for molding Heathcliff into a monster... Not in a Freudian Excuse way, but in a morbidly ironic way. Though Hindley probably wouldn't have been so cruel to Heathcliff if his own father hadn't made it repeatedly obvious he preferred him to his son. Edgar is never shown to do anything unpardonably awful to Heathcliff until after his marriage to Cathy, which is justified as Heathcliff was carrying on with both Edgar's wife and his sister, Isabella.
    • Heathcliff tries to make an evil person from Hareton, but he ultimately fails.
  • Creepy Child: The little girl (Cathy I as a child) in Lockwood's nightmare.
  • Dead Guy Junior: The first Catherine's daughter is named after her, since she dies shortly after giving birth. Heathcliff is also named after an Earnshaw son who died, while Hareton Earnshaw is named after his ancestor who built Wuthering Heights in 1500.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Cathy (II) finally defrosts with a little help from Hareton.
  • Death by Childbirth:
    • Hindley's wife, Frances dies of tuberculosis complicated by the birth of her son Hareton. As soon as the baby is born, the other servants inform Nelly that she'll end up raising him because "the doctor says the missus must go." Frances was in denial about having consumption, but Nelly had noticed that, even as a new bride, she was easily winded and "coughed troublesomely sometimes."
    • Catherine dies immediately after giving birth to her daughter. She had already been ill with Brain Fever for some time and had been starving herself out of distress over the acrimonious feud between Heathcliff and Edgar.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Frances dies in her husband Hindley's arms.
  • Dies Wide Open: Heathcliff, much to Nelly's horror.
  • Domestic Abuse: And the depressing reality is that Heathcliff's appalling treatment of his wife is, as he points out, perfectly within the tolerant limits of the law.
  • Driven to Suicide: Heathcliff. What exactly kills him remains a mystery, though.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Hindley takes up hard drinking after his wife dies for exactly this reason.
  • Elopement: Isabella and Heathcliff run away together to be married, since Edgar would never have given his consent.
  • Evil Gloating: Heathcliff seems to relish monologuing about his Evil Plans to Nelly.
  • Evil Orphan: Heathcliff. His Freudian Excuse is relatively strong, but at any rate, he ends up an usurping beast of pure spite, and his intentions are just that.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted. Heathcliff does overhear a very important exchange between Catherine and Nelly, but leaves in a rage after only part of the conversation, and misses the more crucial piece of information. This leads to his mysterious disappearance and pretty much drives the entire plot from there on out.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Played with. Heathcliff's nature is largely blamed on Hindley's bullying, Edgar's class prejudice, and Catherine's seeming rejection of him. However, looking back to Nelly's earliest accounts of him, there isn't anything the reader can point to and say he Used to Be a Sweet Kid. It was "hardness, not gentleness" that made him keep silent. And in one of the first recorded conversations between Heathcliff and Hindley, it is Heathcliff bullying Hindley by reminding him which of them is Mr. Earnshaw's favorite. Certainly while Heathcliff might not have turned evil with better treatment, he came into the family less than ideal.
  • Face Palm: Heathcliff "struck his forehead with rage" after hearing Lockwood's raving account of his nightmares.
  • Free-Range Children: Cathy and Heathcliff, particularly after Mr Earnshaw's death. Hindley couldn't care less about where they were and what they were doing. Until they got into trouble, that is.
  • Generation Xerox: Heathcliff lampshades this about Catherine's daughter Cathy, his and Isabella's son Linton, and Hindley's son, Hareton.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Heathcliff fought all his life to get even with the cruel, rich Hindley. By the end of it, Heathcliff is now the cruel, rich guy oppressing Hindley's son, Hareton.
  • Heroic BSoD: Heathcliff has a very energetic form of this when he learns that Catherine has died in childbirth. Specifically, he takes his anger out on a nearby tree. By smashing his forehead into it repeatedly.
  • Holier Than Thou: Joseph, who in Nelly's opinion only stays at Wuthering Heights so he can act sanctimonious in contrast to its inhabitants.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Mr. Lockwood, who thinks Heathcliff is "a capital fellow." And Isabella, who thinks Heathcliff is is a good man to marry. Partially excusable by Heathcliff's Byronic personal magnetism, and in Lockwood's case because he sees himself as a misanthopic loner too, so he initially thinks Heathcliff is a kindred spirit.
  • How We Got Here: The story begins with most of the events already taken place. It begins with Lockwood meeting the principle characters, seeing Catherine (I)'s ghost in a nightmare, and then learning the full story from Nelly Dean.
  • Ill Girl: Linton Heathcliff is a male version. Catherine and Frances Earnshaw also go through periods of long illness during the course of the book.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...:
    'I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement....'I must stop it, nevertheless!' I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, 'Let me in - let me in!' 'Who are you?' I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. 'Catherine Linton,' it replied, shiveringly....'I'm come home: I'd lost my way on the moor!'
  • Incest Subtext: While the world may never know if Catherine and Heathcliff actually are both Mr. Earnshaw's children, the fact that they were raised together as brother and sister adds an element of incest to their love.
  • The Ingenue: Isabella Linton, who has no idea what she's getting into when she falls in love with the resident bad boy, Heathcliff. Later there's Cathy Linton, who also doesn't realize what she's getting into when she befriends Heathcliff's son. Both have their innocence taken advantage of by Heathcliff, who proceeds to abuse it out of them.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes: Isabella, who is innocent of Heathcliff's true nature until she marries him and truly believes he is Troubled, but Cute. Cathy Linton notably doesn't have these eyes while she otherwise takes after her father's side of the family.
  • I Regret Nothing: To the end of his life, despite all his cruel actions, Heathcliff declares "I've done no injustice, and I repent of nothing."
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: Heathcliff refers to little Linton as "it" and his "property" when they first meet. In her story, Nelly refers to the young Heathcliff as "it," only switching to "him" after he recieves a name.
  • Jerkass: Oh so many: Joseph, Hindley, Heathcliff, Catherine, Linton...
  • Kick the Dog: Or rather, hang the dog. Heathcliff does this to Isabella's dog out of sheer spite, though Nelly is able to rescue it.
  • Kissing Cousins: Catherine (II) and Linton, then Catherine (II) and Hareton.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: Lockwood is told Heathcliff's story by Nelly to pass the time when he's sick.
  • Let Them Die Happy: Catherine (II) lies to her father Edgar upon his deathbed, to assure him that she is happy with marrying Heathcliff's son Linton and he will protect her.
  • The Lost Lenore: Catherine Earnshaw/Linton (Cathy I) dies young. Heathcliff... fails to get over this.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Hindley Earnshaw's sister Catherine is in love with Heathcliff but marries Edgar Linton, whose sister Isabella marries Heathcliff, whose son Linton marries Catherine's daughter Cathy, who later falls in love with Hindley's son Hareton...
  • Love Makes You Crazy: More precisely, love and rejection make you crazy. While Heathcliff was never an angel, he was not—to begin with—as bad as he became after Catherine decided to marry Edgar Linton. Though Heathcliff being bullied and abused in childhood may have slowly eroded his empathy and sanity. Thinking Catherine (the only one in his entire life who ever really loved him) hates him may have been the final straw. After she dies, he becomes even worse.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Catherine's rejection and her marriage to Edgar Linton pushes Heathcliff over the edge. He has never been good, but Cathy I and her love was his only hope to be happy and better. After she accepts him as a friend, all is good, but when she dies, he's lost and does only evil and creates a master plan how to destroy both families.
  • Love Redeems: Averted with Heathcliff, but played straight with Hareton.
  • Magical Realism: Implied. Heathcliff is sometimes compared to a demon, and there are some... odd coincidences involving ghosts and the weather. Nelly even finds herself thinking Heathcliff may be a demon, but quickly reminds herself he is human with feelings like everyone else.
  • Manly Tears: Heathcliff cries during his last meeting with Cathy (I) before her death, and years later, after hearing about Lockwood's dream of her ghost, breaks into uncontrollable tears as he calls out to her through the window.
  • The Masochism Tango:
    • Catherine (I) and Heathcliff can be as cruel to each other as to everyone else around them. This is seen most clearly when Catherine is dying, as she grabs his hair and he bruises her arm while they blame each other for her impending death, yet at the same time desperately hold and kiss each other, and after her death, when Heathcliff wishes torment on her soul.
    • Catherine (II) and Linton, a loveless match that both are manipulated into by Heathcliff, throughout which the sickly Linton verbally bullies and guilt-trips Catherine and lets his father abuse her. She still nurses him on his deathbed when no one else will, though.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never made clear if the various sightings of Cathy (I)'s ghost and later Heathcliff's are real or just imagined.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Heathcliff is discovered by old Mr. Earnshaw as a homeless youth and comforted as a child by Nelly telling him he is a lost prince. In hindsight, this might not have been such a good idea.
  • Mrs. Hypothetical: Mr Lockwood first becomes interested in the story of Heathcliff and Catherine when he finds evidence of this trope in Catherine's old room. He reads her old diary which she kept in some empty pages of a book. Her maiden name was Catherine Earnshaw and she wrote Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff and Catherine Linton all over some pages. Turns out she was torn between Heathcliff and Edgar Linton.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Invoked by both Hindley Earnshaw and Edgar Linton; Heathcliff ignores them both.
  • Mysterious Past: For all of Heathcliff's life that we do know, he's still made of this trope. We don't know anything about his early years, to age seven or so, or why he couldn't speak English when he first came to the Heights or what his name might have been before that time. The mystery only deepens in the three years he spends away from the Heights and somehow has made himself so rich in that time that he's bought the house from under Hindley's nose.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Mr. Lockwood, who is merely the Butt-Monkey at Wuthering Heights.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Averts this trope, which was so unusual at the time that an introduction written by Charlotte Brontë specifically praises Emily for not giving in to the common convention.
  • Never Learned to Read: Hareton, or rather no one bothered to teach him.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Mr. Lockwood's dreams while sleeping in Cathy's bed at the Heights.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Heathcliff beats Hindley to a pulp after the latter threatens to shoot him shortly after Catherine's death.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Heathcliff and Edgar are brothers in law and despise each other. Catherine (II) is Heathcliff's daughter in law and they despise each other.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Heathcliff disappears from Wuthering Heights for three years, and comes back wealthy enough to be considered a gentleman and be able to subvert Hindley's wealth out from under him. Nobody knows how.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, much to the confusion of many a high school English student. So many Cathys, Lintons and Heathcliffs!
  • Only One Name: Heathcliff, Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw, Mr. Lockwood, and Joseph.
  • Only Sane Man: Edgar Linton and possibly Nelly Dean (depending on your estimate of her as an Unreliable Narrator). Mr. Lockwood might also count, choosing to leave Thrushcross Grange for London rather than get involved with such strange people, but his role in the plot is minor.
    Nelly: I went about my household duties, convinced that the Grange had but one sensible soul in its walls, and that it lodged in my body.
  • Oop North: The setting. Most strongly represented by Joseph, a gloomy and sour stereotype with an impenetrable Yorkshire accent that no one else shares. This is mainly due to the accent only being used by the lower classes, since the Lintons are gentry and the Earnshaws an old family of sufficient means to be employing servants. Mr Lockwood notes how Nelly, the other major servant character, barely sounds lower class, and she notes that she's "read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood," including every book in the Linton library that isn't in Greek, Latin, or French. Given the mutual hatred between Nelly and Joseph, it wouldn't be surprising if she intentionally tried not to sound like him. In addition, Nelly grew up alongside Hindley and Catherine, and likely picked up on their own mannerisms and accents.
  • Operation: Jealousy: Heathcliff uses Hareton to this effect to try to get his son interested in Cathy (II).
  • Parental Abandonment: Most characters don't have the luck of being raised by both parents and have either a Disappeared Dad or a Missing Mom. Or both.
    • Heathcliff is an orphan Mr. Earnshaw finds in Liverpool.
    • Catherine and Hindley lose their mother when they are children, and their father a few years later when Catherine is still very young.
    • Edgar and Isabella lose both their parents one after the other as teenagers.
    • Cathy spends her whole life without a mother after Catherine's death and loses Edgar as a teenager.
    • Linton grows up without a mother after Isabella's death when he's twelve.
    • Hareton is orphaned at a very young age, and even when his father still lived was neglected.
  • Parental Favoritism:
    • Mr. Earnshaw prefers Heathcliff over his own son.
    • Heathcliff somewhat grudgingly admits that he likes Hareton more than his own son.
  • Parental Substitute: Nelly for Hareton and Catherine (II). Later, Heathcliff for Hareton.
  • The Place: Wuthering Heights. It's notable that four houses in Emily's and Anne's novels have "W.H." initials: Wellwood House in Agnes Grey, the eponymous mansion in Wuthering Heights, and Wildfell Hall and Woodford Hall in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. According to Stevie Davies, both sisters used places and characters in their Gondal cycle as a source of inspiration for their fiction.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: After Heathcliff's rivals have all died and he's ruined his and their children's lives, he finds he has no satisfaction. What's more, when Catherine (II) and Hareton begin to break free from his restraint and fall in love with each other, he goes into a Villainous Breakdown.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Heathcliff directs his revenge against the children of his enemies.
  • The Rashomon: The unreliable Nelly Dean tells most of the story to the equally unreliable (and rather thick-skulled) Lockwood.
  • Refusal of the Call: Mr. Lockwood refuses to be Cathy's Knight in Shining Armor, rescue the Damsel in Distress, and live Happily Ever After with her.
  • Rescue Romance: Subverted. Nelly hopes that gentlemanly Lockwood or some other gallant rich man will save Cathy (II) from Heathcliff by marrying her; Lockwood lampshades the literary quality of this proposed solution and leaves town.
  • The Rival: Heathcliff and Hindley, as well as Heathcliff and Edgar. Linton Heathcliff and Hareton have some shades of this as well.
  • Say My Name: Heathcliff calls Catherine's name when he begs her ghost to appear to him after being told by Mr Lockwood that she haunted him.
    Heathcliff: Come in! come in! Cathy, do come. Oh, do—once more! Oh! my heart's darling! hear me this time, Catherine, at last!
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Lockwood hightailing it out of Thrushcross Grange as fast as he can once Nelly finishes the story up to that point. He eventually returns to see the Bittersweet Ending.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Hindley and his aristocratic compatriots treat young Heathcliff like a monster. Guess what he grows up to become?
  • Self-Made Man: Heathcliff, and we never find out how.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend:
    • At the beginning Mr. Lockwood mistakes Cathy (II) for Heathcliff's young wife. Heathcliff is quite amused and explains she's actually his daughter-in-law.
    • Then, thinking Hareton is Heathcliff's son, he wrongly assumes that Cathy must be his wife. Hareton blushes and is not at all amused.
  • Shipper with an Agenda: Heathcliff for Cathy (II) and his son Linton. He succeeds through Blackmail. Nelly also eventually reveals she gave Mr. Lockwood such a meticulously thorough account of Cathy's history partially in hopes that he would affect a Rescue Romance ending for them. He declines, but it turns out Cathy didn't need him anyway.
  • Shout-Out: Emily Brontë was well read and alludes to a number of different works in her novel. Most notable might be "Beauty and the Beast," where a father returns home after a long trip bearing a gift for his children, only that gift brings sorrow to the family.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss:
    • Catherine (II) and Hareton, as part of a Break the Haughty process for Cathy and a makeover for Hareton.
    • Catherine (I) physically slapped Edgar. He proposed soon after. May be only a one-sided example, as Catherine was in love with someone else.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Heathcliff brags to Nelly about how successfully he's done this to Hareton, who loves him like a father despite being thoroughly degraded by him and is the only person who mourns his death in the end.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Guy: Mr. Lockwood. Not to any of the other characters, but he describes himself as a misanthrope and notes that he has never been able to express his love verbally, and even drove away a woman he loved because of this.
  • Surprise Incest: Implied with Catherine (I) and Heathcliff, at least for some readers. There are hints that Heathcliff might be Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son: Mr. Earnshaw just happens to find this orphan on the streets. The streets of the town he just happens to visit on a regular basis, leaving the rest of his family squarely at home. And Mrs. Earnshaw just happens to take an instant loathing to Heathcliff the minute he enters their house.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Poor Nelly was fully aware she was eventually the only sane person (possibly literally) left at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
  • Sympathy for the Devil:
    • Nelly constantly demonstrates pity as well as contempt for Heathcliff.
    • The same goes for Catherine (I), though more contempt and less pity in her case.
  • Tall, Dark, and Snarky: Heathcliff is a Deconstruction, lacking the heart of gold and being "redeemed by the love of a good woman" typically associated with the character.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Save for Hindley, who married Flat Character Frances, nobody in this book ever marries or has a relationship with someone outside of the already existing characters, leading to Kissing Cousins, Not Blood Siblings, and weirdness abound.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Catherine Earnshaw and Isabella Linton both have children in their late teens, though they're both married and this was not uncommon at the time.
  • Together in Death: The Bittersweet Ending implies that Heathcliff and Catherine are reunited as ghosts after death.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Nelly is clearly prejudiced and demonstrates a surprising lack of empathy for most of the central characters, this bias being reflected in her account of the events. Lockwood is just as unreliable with his obviously poor judgment of character, both of the people he meets and even of himself (he claims to be a solitude-loving misanthrope, but becomes wholly absorbed in the people of Wuthering Heights and in the story of their lives).
  • Villain Protagonist: Heathcliff. At the end of the day, this is his story.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Heathcliff after he notices Cathy (II) and Hareton falling in love.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: No matter how complete Heathcliff's revenge is, it can never last beyond his death.
  • Weapon of Choice: Hindley carries "a curiously constructed pistol, having a double-edged spring knife attached to the barrel."
  • Wealthy Ever After: After all the mess they've been through, with Heathcliff's death Catherine (II) and Hareton inherit Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, get married, and settle in the former, the nicer of the two.
  • Who's Your Daddy?:
    • Some readers have debated whether or not Catherine Linton is in fact the biological child of Heathcliff and Catherine, due to the close timing of his return to the Heights and her conception. However, the book mentions the strong resemblance between Cathy II and Edgar, making this unlikely, as does the timespan of Cathy I's pregnancy.
    • The bigger question: Is Heathcliff old Mr. Earnshaw's bastard son?
  • Wild Child: Heathcliff and Catherine (at least before she meets the Lintons and cleans up). Hareton becomes one after being left without a reasonable Parental Substitute.

The adaptations provide examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Edgar is blond in the novel, but is played by dark-haired actors David Niven in the 1939 version and Andrew Lincoln in the 2009 version.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Hindley is much more sympathetic in the 1970 version than in most other versions. Instead of being oppressive of Heathcliff, he is in turn opposed by Mr. Earnshaw and lives in Heathcliff’s shadow. He’s also able to pull himself out of his hedonistic stage after his wife’s death unlike in the novel.
    • The 2009 version of Linton doesn't get up to as much of the Domestic Abuse actions as he does in the novel.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Mr. Lockwood in the 1970 and 2009 adaptations. The former only tells the first half of the book, while Catherine (II) is told the story by Nelly in the latter.
    • The second half of the novel tends to be left out of earlier adaptations, such as the 1939 adaptation. This means such important characters as Catherine's daughter Cathy, Linton, and Hareton make no appearances.
  • Age Lift: Catherine (I) is 25 instead of 19 when she dies in the 2009 version, judging by the dates on her gravestone.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Heathcliff forces Catherine (II) to marry his son Linton, so he can get her inheritance.
    Heathcliff (2009): By this time tomorrow, I shall be your father. So you had better get used to appeasing me.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Heathcliff in the 2009 version commits suicide this way, instead of his more mysterious death in the novel.
  • Death by Adaptation: Type II (the character dies in the source material, but sooner in the adaptation): Heathcliff is shot and killed by Hindley shortly after Cathy's (I) death in the 1970 film.
  • Demoted to Extra: Joseph plays little part in the events of the 2009 version.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: Several adaptations, particularly the ones that only adapt the first half, change both Heathcliff and Cathy (I)'s causes of death.
    • The 1939 film, both of the two opera adaptations, and the 2001 ballet adaptation all omit Cathy's pregnancy and just have her succumb to her illness instead of childbirth. Meanwhile, two modern TV adaptations, Sparkhouse and Wuthering High (aka The Wrong Boyfriend), have their Cathy character Driven to Suicide: in Wuthering High, she drowns herself in the ocean, while in Sparkhouse, Andrew slits his wrists.
    • In both the 1954 Mexican film and the 1970 British film, Heathcliff is shot by Hindley Earnshaw, the latter being Spared by the Adaptation. And in the 2009 TV adaptation, he commits suicide by shooting himself in the head.
    • The 2016 stage version uniquely has Cathy I murder Heathcliff.
  • Framing Device: The 2009 miniseries makes the second half of the novel the framing device for the past events.
  • Gender Flipped: The BBC created a modern day adaptation of the book called Sparkhouse in 2002, where the roles of Cathy and Heathcliff are gender flipped to Andrew and Carol, respectively.
  • How We Got Here: The story begins with most of the events already taken place. The novel and many adaptations begin with Lockwood meeting the principle characters, seeing Catherine (I)'s ghost in a nightmare, and then learning the full story from Nelly Dean. However, a few adaptations simplify things by removing Lockwood and framing the flashbacks in a different way: The 1970 film opens with Catherine (I)'s funeral, as Heathcliff watches from afar. The 2009 film opens first with Heathcliff haunted by Catherine (I) in his sleep, then as Linton is brought to Wuthering Heights by Edgar. The 1939 film includes Lockwood but substitutes some characters present in the frame story to conform it to its unique continuity.
  • Kubrick Stare: Heathcliff gives one to Catherine (II) when he returns to Wuthering Heights after digging up her mother's grave in the 2009 version. It leads directly into the flashback.
  • Let Me Tell You a Story: In the 2009 version, Catherine (II) is told the story by Nelly while the two are trapped by Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights.
  • The Meadow Run: Heathcliff and Cathy (I) do this in the movie versions, at any rate.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Heathcliff dishes one out to Hindley in the 2009 adaptation, when the latter states that Heathcliff's love for Cathy is pretend, slamming him against the floor and throttling him.
      Heathcliff: DON'T SAY HER NAME!
    • Catherine (II) also dishes one out to Linton in the 2009 adaptation when he reveals Heathcliff's plan to have them married.
  • Offscreen Crash: Right after Heathcliff follows Catherine (I) into a room at the very end of the 2009 version, a loud banging is heard, as Hareton and Cathy appear while running through the house. It's either from Hareton slamming a door or from Heathcliff shooting himself in the head.
  • Oh, Crap!: Cathy (II) in the 2009 version when she finds that all of the doors are locked and Linton reveals Heathcliff's plan.
  • Race Lift: Heathcliff is described as swarthy like a gypsy on many occasions in the book, but he's definitely not a black African. The 2011 film made him one, though.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Hindley in the 1970 adaptation and the 1954 Mexican adaptation. He even gets to kill Heathcliff in these two versions.
    • Isabella in the 1939 adaptation. She's still married to Heathcliff at the time of his death.
    • Heathcliff in the 2011 adaptation, both of the two opera adaptations, and several modernized TV versions.
    • Cathy I at the end of the 2016 stage version, although she still has her illness and won't last much longer.
  • Surprise Incest: Implied with Catherine (I) and Heathcliff, at least for some readers. There are hints that Heathcliff might be Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son. The 1970 version with Timothy Dalton certainly believed it was no coincidence.
  • Wham Line: Early in the 2009 version, Cathy (II) finds a portrait of her mother at Wuthering Heights and asks Linton about it.
    Cathy (II): Why would Mr. Heathcliff keep a portrait of my mother? Why? Why would he do that?
    Linton: Because he loved her. Because he loved her before your father did. And she loved him too.
  • Window Watcher: The 2009 version ends with Heathcliff and Catherine (I) as ghosts through an upstairs window, watching Cathy (II) and Hareton leave Wuthering Heights.