Wuthering Heights is an intense story of passion and revenge set against the bleak backdrop of the wild Yorkshire moors.
Our first narrator, Lockwood, begins the tale when he rents a manor house by the name of Thrushcross Grange. He visits the neighbouring house of Wuthering Heights to meet his landlord, Heathcliff. Also in residence are a bad tempered servant, Joseph, an impoverished simple young man named Hareton Earnshaw and a beautiful young woman, Catherine, the widow of Heathcliff's dead son. Bad weather forces Lockwood to stay the night, and in his room he finds the diaries of a woman named Catherine Earnshaw, mother to Young Catherine. He reads about the adventures of Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff and Catherine's overbearing older brother, Hindley. That night he has vivid nightmares of Catherine banging at the window, begging to be let in. His screams rouse Heathcliff who flings open the window and begs Catherine to come again.
The next morning Lockwood persuades the housekeeper of Thrushcross Grange, Nelly Dean, to sit and talk for a while. Nelly thus becomes our second narrator. She recalls how Mr Earnshaw, father to Catherine and Hindley, arrived home one day with a mysterious, dirty young boy he'd found starving in Liverpool....
The boy is Heathcliff, and Earnshaw begins to favour him, much to the resentment of Hindley. Catherine, however, becomes fast friends with Heathcliff. Hindley is sent away to college but returns on his father's death to become master of Wuthering Heights. He rules the household tyrannically, causing Heathcliff and Catherine to grow even closer, spending much of their time wandering the moors together. On one such occasion they are spying through the windows of Thrushcross Grange, to get a look at the posh Linton children, when they are caught. While trying to escape, Catherine is bitten by a dog and has to spend the next five weeks recovering at the Grange.
When she returns to Wuthering Heights, she is much changed: snobbish, dressed like a lady, she is now best friends with the Linton children, Edgar and Isabella. Heathcliff resents her changed behaviour towards him. Meanwhile, Hindley's new wife gives birth to a boy, Hareton, and dies of consumption. Hindley turns to drink and becomes even more cruel towards Heathcliff, forcing him to labour as a servant. Edgar Linton proposes to Catherine and she accepts. But she confides in Nelly that she would not have done so if Hindley had not turned Heathcliff into someone it would shame her to marry. Heathcliff overhears this and leaves Wuthering Heights before hearing Catherine admit the depths of her feelings for him.
Heathcliff returns three years later, having accumulated a mysterious fortune, and starts exacting his revenge on Hindley. He lends the drunkard money, knowing he will be unable to repay his debts. When Hindley dies a ruined man, Heathcliff claims Wuthering Heights. He cynically marries Isabella Linton, placing himself in line to inherit Thrushcross Grange. Catherine becomes very ill, gives birth to a daughter and dies. Still in love with her, Heathcliff begs her spirit to stay with him, haunt him forever but never leave him. Shortly after, Isabella flees to London where she gives birth to Heathcliff's son, Linton.
Thirteen years pass at Thrushcross Grange. Nelly is nursemaid to Catherine's daughter, also named Catherine. Edgar ensures Young Catherine has no knowledge of Wuthering Heights, but one day whilst exploring the moors she discovers the house. Isabella dies and Linton comes to live at Wuthering Heights. He is a weak, sickly child and Heathcliff regards him with much contempt. But he engineers a romance between Linton and Young Catherine to tighten his grip on Thrushcross Grange and exact his revenge on Edgar. Just before Edgar dies, Heathcliff coaxes Catherine to Wuthering Heights where he forces her to marry Linton. Linton soon follows Edgar to the grave. Heathcliff is now in control of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. He forces Catherine to live at Wuthering Heights as a servant.
Lockwood, appalled by what he has heard, leaves the Grange. Six months later he returns. He learns from Nelly that Heathcliff had become more and more obsessed with Catherine Earnshaw, seeing her everywhere and talking to her ghost. One morning Nelly found him dead in his room, soaked with rain from the open window. He was buried beside Catherine, as he had wished. Later, Nelly meets a frightened young boy who claims to have seen Heathcliff and a woman on the moors. Young Catherine who once mocked Hareton for his simpleness has grown to love him and they plan to wed. The story ends with Lockwood visiting the graves of Catherine and Heathcliff.