Author: Emily Brontë
First published: 1847
Locale: The moors of northern England
Heathcliff, a dark-visaged, violently passionate, black-natured man. A foundling brought to the Earnshaw home at an early age, he is subjected to cruel emotional sufferings during his formative years. His chief tormentor is Hindley Earnshaw, who is jealous of his father's obvious partiality toward Heathcliff. Heathcliff endures his torment with the sullen patience of a hardened, ill-treated animal, but just as the years add age his suffering adds hatred in Heathcliff's nature, and he becomes filled with an inhuman, almost demonic, desire for vengeance against Hindley. This ambition, coupled with his strange, transcendent relationship with Catherine, Hindley's sister, encompasses his life until he becomes a devastatingly wasted human. He evaluates himself as a truly superior person who, possessing great emotional energies and capabilities, is a creature set apart from the human. Some regard him as a fiend, full of horrible passions and powers. In the end, he dies empty, his will gone and his fervor exhausted, survived by Cathy and Hareton, the conventionalists, the moralists, the victims of his vengeful wraths.
Catherine Earnshaw, the sister of Hindley, later the wife of Edgar Linton and mother of young Cathy Linton. Catherine is spirited as a girl, selfish, wild, saucy, provocative, and sometimes even wicked. She can be sweet of eye and smile, and she is often contrite for causing pain with her insolence. In childhood, she and Heathcliff form an unusually close relationship, but as her friendship with Edgar and Isabella Linton grows, she becomes haughty and arrogant. In spite of her devotion to Heathcliff, she rejects him for fear that marriage to him would degrade her. Instead, she accepts Edgar Linton's proposal. Her deep feeling for Heathcliff remains; he is her one unselfishness, and she insists that Edgar must at least tolerate him so that her marriage will not alter her friendship with Heathcliff. Her marriage is a tolerably happy one, possibly because Catherine becomes dispirited after Heathcliff's departure as a result of her rejection. Upon his return, they become close friends again, despite his apparent vile character and foul treatment of her family. In their inhuman passion and fierce, tormented love they are lost to each other, each possessing the other's spirit as if it were his or her own. Her mind broken and anguished, Catherine finally dies in childbirth.
Hindley Earnshaw, the brother of Catherine Earnshaw, husband of Frances, and father of Hareton. As a child, he is intensely jealous of Heathcliff and treats the boy cruelly. After the death of Frances, Hindley's character deteriorates rapidly; he drinks heavily and finally dies in disgrace, debt, and degradation as the result of Heathcliff's scheme of vengeance.
Edgar Linton, the husband of Catherine and father of Cathy. A polished, cultured man, he is truly in love with Catherine and makes her happy until Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights. He is a steady, unassuming person, patient and indulgent of both his wife and his daughter.
Cathy Linton, the daughter of Edgar and Catherine and wife of Linton Heathcliff. A bright, spirited, and affectionate girl, she pities Linton, becomes his friend, and through the trick-ery and bribery of Heathcliff is forced to marry the sickly young man. She becomes sullen and ill-tempered in Heathcliff's household, but she finds ultimate happiness with Hareton Earnshaw.
Hareton Earnshaw, the son of Hindley and Frances and the object of Heathcliff's revenge against Hindley. Under Heathcliff's instruction, or rather neglect, Hareton grows into a crude, gross, and uneducated young man. Cathy, after Heathcliff's death, takes him under her charge and begins to improve his mind and manners. The two fall in love and marry.
Linton Heathcliff, the son of Heathcliff and Isabella and the husband of Cathy Linton. He is a selfish boy indulged and spoiled by his mother. After her death, he returns to live with Heathcliff and at Wuthering Heights sinks into a weak-willed existence, a victim of his father's harsh treatment. Sickly since infancy, he dies at an early age, shortly after his marriage to Cathy Linton.
Isabella Linton, the sister of Edgar, Heathcliff's wife, and mother of Linton. A rather reserved, spoiled, and often sulking young woman, she becomes infatuated with Heathcliff. In spite of her family's opposition and warnings, she runs away with him. Later, regretting her foolish action, she leaves him and lives with her son Linton until her death.
Frances Earnshaw, the wife of Hindley. She dies of consumption.
Mr. Earnshaw, the father of Catherine and Hindley. He brings Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights after a business trip to Liverpool.
Mrs. Ellen Dean, called Nelly, the housekeeper who relates Heathcliff's history to Mr. Lockwood and thereby serves as one of the book's narrators. A servant in the household at Wuthering Heights, she goes with Catherine to Thrushcross Grange when the latter marries Edgar Linton. Some years later, she returns to live at Wuthering Heights as the housekeeper for Heathcliff. She is a humble, solid character, conventional, reserved, and patient. Although Hindley's disorderly home and Heathcliff's evil conduct distress and often appall her, she does little to combat these unnatural personalities, perhaps through lack of imagination but certainly not from lack of will, for in the face of Heathcliff's merciless vengeance she is staunch and strong.
Mr. Lockwood, the first narrator, a foppish visitor from the city and Heathcliff's tenant. Interested in his landlord, he hears Mrs. Dean relate the story of the Earnshaw and Linton families.
Joseph, a servant at Wuthering Heights. He is forever making gloomy observations and predictions about other people and offering stern reprimands for their impious behavior.
Zillah, a servant at Wuthering Heights.
Mr. Green and Mr. Kenneth, lawyers in Gimmerton, a neighboring village.