'Wuthering Heights' is Published

It is not simply in contrast to its origins that Wuthering Heights strikes us as so unique, so unanticipated.

This great novel, though not inordinately long, and, contrary to general assumption, not inordinately complicated, manages to be a number of things: a romance that brilliantly challenges the basic presumptions of the "romantic"; a "gothic" that evolves—with an absolutely inevitable grace—into its temperamental opposite; a parable of innocence and loss, and childhood's necessary defeat; and a work of consummate skill on its primary level, that is, the level of language. Above all, it is a history: its first statement is the date 1801; and one of its final statements involves New Year's Day (of 1803). It seeks both to dramatize and to explain how the ancient stock of the Earnshaws are restored to their rights (the somber house of Wuthering Heights, built in 1500), and, at the same time, how and why the last of the Earnshaws, Hareton, will be leaving the Heights to live, with his cousin-bride, at Thrushcross Grange.

Many people, generally those who have never read the book, consider Wuthering Heights to be a straightforward, if intense, love story — Romeo and Juliet on the Yorkshire Moors. But this is a mistake. Really the story is one of revenge. It follows the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious gypsy-like person, from childhood (about seven years old) to his death in his late thirties. Heathcliff rises in his adopted family and then is reduced to the status of a servant, running away when the young woman he loves decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated and sets about gaining his revenge on the two families that he believed ruined his life.