Wuthering Heights Introduction
In A Nutshell
Wuthering Heights Video
Want more deets? We've also got a complete Online Course about Wuthering Heights, with three weeks worth of readings and activities to make sure you know your stuff.
Edward and Bella, meet Heathcliff and Catherine.
That's right: before href The Walking Dead, Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Vampire Diaries, there was Wuthering Heights.
At first glance, Heathcliff may not resemble the vampires that you've grown to know and love (or hate), but he's got a lot more going for him than most of 'em. Just saying.
Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, revolves around the passionate and destructive love between its two central characters, Emily Brontë's headstrong and beautiful Catherine Earnshaw and her tall, dark, handsome, and brooding hero/devil, Heathcliff.
Forget the romantic candlelit dinners, the wine, and the roses. Catherine and Heathcliff's love exists on an entirely different plane: one that involves ghosts, corpses, the communion (or possession) of souls, and revenge. And, speaking of revenge, Heathcliff—who harbors more than one grudge against his adoptive family, the love of his life, and his neighbors—manages to make every revenge drama look like kid's play.
As you read, keep the following points in mind.
- This is a 19th-century novel. If you know anything about 19th-century literature, that means that you're in for longer, more complex sentences, lots of description, and vocabulary that looks like it's straight out of an SAT prep book. In case that's not your cup of tea, just look at it this way: the plot and characters are so all-consuming that you'll soon forget any difficulties you might have with the language. And, you'll come out at the end having had a solid dose of SAT prep without the agony of taking practice tests.
- Names. If you're wondering what's up with all of the duplicate names, it isn't that Emily Brontë wasn't original—one glance at the plot and you get the feeling that she could imagine anything she wanted. But there are reasons. And we'll discuss them, all in due time.
- Reading Wuthering Heights gives you bragging rights over all your friends who think that the whole vampire thing started with Buffy. Suckas.
Though Wuthering Heights is considered a classic, the book wasn't always so popular. In fact, when it first came out there was all sorts of confusion about the author, because Brontë published the book under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Readers thought the book was by the same author who wrote Jane Eyre, which was more immediately embraced by the public because the characters are a lot more likable. Turns out, Emily's sister Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre...under the pseudonym Currer Bell.
To set the record straight, Charlotte wrote the preface to the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights and also took the opportunity to address some of the bad press the book had received. Critics basically thought the book was a downer and some even characterized it as immoral. Scandalous!
So grab your pearls (and stakes), and get to reading.
Why Should I Care?
Concerned that you won't like Wuthering Heights? Think you'll get bored reading a book that's over 150 years old? Before you give up on Emily Brontë's one and only novel, ask yourself a couple questions:
- Do you like creepy stories about haunted houses?
- How about stories with elaborate revenge schemes?
- Are you a fan of Edward Cullen, from Twilight? (Because before there was Edward, there was Heathcliff.)
- Do you believe in soul mates?
- Are you sick of reading stories where the girl ends up with a Prince Charming or a Romeo?
If you said yes to any of these questions, we're willing to bet that once you pick up Wuthering Heights, you won't be able to put it down. It's a real page-turner, full of ghoulish behavior, ghosts, passionate love, and revenge. Maybe you've even heard of the main character, Heathcliff, as a dark, brooding, obsessive romantic idol. This guy is definitely no Prince Charming. Emily Brontë changed the tone of the whole romantic hero thing and made Heathcliff nasty and cruel and, in spite of all that, sexy and sympathetic. One hundred and fifty years later, pop culture is still obsessed with Heathcliff-like characters (Edward Cullen, anyone?).