'Wuthering Heights' Characters

The characters in Wuthering Heights largely consist of the dwellers of two neighboring estates, Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. They belong to different social classes, ranging from total outcasts to upper middle class. There are a lot of name similarities and repetitions, as author Emily Brontë wanted to create a world where stories repeat themselves, with the second generation generally having a happier fate than the first one.

Catherine (Cathy) Earnshaw 

Passionate, beautiful, and destructive, Catherine Earnshaw is the heroine of the first half of Wuthering Heights. She grew up with Heathcliff, an adopted gypsy child, forging a strong friendship that strengthened during the adolescence they spent under the rule of her tyrannical elder brother. Even though her soul mate is the lowly and dark Heathcliff, she marries fair, yet weak, Linton, which destroys the happiness of all three of them.

Even though Catherine seems accepting of delicate, pampered Edgar Linton, she is overcome with grief when Heathcliff, out of scorn, leaves the Heights, and her subsequent joy at Heathcliff’s return triggers Linton’s jealousy. This causes tension and violent arguments, to the point that Cathy self-destructively hastens her own end through rage and starvation, and eventually dies in childbirth. Her spirit—both literally and figuratively—haunts the rest of the novel, with farmers claiming to see her ghost walking the moors, and the narrator himself encountering her frightening dream-figure. 

Heathcliff 

Heathcliff is the dark, brooding, and vengeful hero of Wuthering Heights. Despite the fondness Mr. Earnshaw professes towards him as a child, he is treated as an outcast due to his mysterious origin (he is an adopted gypsy). This, in turn, creates a stoical, calculating temperament. He is Cathy’s physical and spiritual equal. When she accepts Edgar’s attentions, Heathcliff deserts the Heights, only to return a few years later, this time rich and educated, which destroys the equilibrium of Cathy’s marriage. Swearing revenge, he elopes with Edgar’s sister Isabella. He also wins his rights over Wuthering Heights after Catherine’s brother, Hindley Earnshaw, gambles them away. His thirst for revenge is only checked when he senses the imminence of his own death and, with it, a final reunion with his ghostly beloved. 

Nelly Dean 

Nelly Dean is the housekeeper whose account of the events at Wuthering Heights comprises the body of the narrator’s—Mr. Lockwood’s—records. A sturdy local woman whose commonsensical nature contrasts sharply with the unfettered passions of her subjects, Nelly Dean has a precise vantage point, having grown up in the Earnshaw household and having served as Catherine’s maid during her marriage. She might snoop sometimes (she listens at doors and reads letters), but she remains a keen observer. After Cathy’s death, Nelly starts taking care of her daughter, Catherine, witnessing the twists of fortune of her new charge. She also witnesses Heathcliff’s strange and ghostly death, which contradicts her own rational worldview. 

Mr. Lockwood 

Mr. Lockwood is the second-hand narrator of Wuthering Heights. In fact, the novel consists of his diary entries during a period as Heathcliff’s tenant, which derive from the accounts given to him by Nelly—in fact, he mostly acts like a passive listener. Lockwood is a young London gentleman who rents the old Linton estate from Heathcliff. His misanthropic landlord with the beautiful widowed daughter-in-law entice his curiosity. 

Edgar Linton

Edgar Linton is Catherine Earnshaw’s husband, and, contrary to Heathcliff and Cathy herself, he is soft and effeminate. He suffers through her rages and illnesses, and when she dies, he resigns himself to an isolated life devoted to his daughter. He has a gentle, timorous nature, which contrasts entirely with vengeful Heathcliff’s passion. As a form of revenge, Heathcliff decides to kidnap his daughter, and this devastates Edgar to the point that he soon dies of grief. 

Isabella Linton

Isabella Linton is Edgar’s younger sister. A coddled child, she grew into a selfish, reckless young woman. When Heathcliff returns, wealthy and educated, Isabella falls in love with him, despite her brother’s warnings and prohibition, they elope. While Heathcliff’s cruelty shocks her, she is vicious on her own. On the night of Cathy’s funeral, she flees the Heights, moving to the south. There, she gives birth to a son and dies 12 years later.

Hindley Earnshaw 

Hindley is Cathy’s older brother and Heathcliff’s sworn enemy. He has been jealous of Heathcliff since he was a child and tries to ruin him once he becomes master of Wuthering Heights. He reduces Heathcliff to abject poverty, but soon falls into bad ways himself after his wife dies.

When Heathcliff returns a rich gentleman after several years’ absence, Hindley takes him in as a boarder to satiate his greed for gambling, and loses his entire fortune (his estate included) in a game of cards. He becomes a drunkard living a destitute existence. 

Catherine Linton

Catherine Linton is Edgar's and Cathy’s daughter and the heroine of the second half of the novel. She inherited her gentleness from her father and her willfulness from her mother, which manifests itself during her enforced residence at the Heights. As part of his revenge plot, Heathcliff kidnaps her and forces her to marry his dying son, Linton, at age 16. Soon she ends up widowed, orphaned, and stripped of her inheritance. Her miserable life at the Heights begins to mirror her mother’s fate under her tyrannical brother Hindley. However, she eventually falls in love with her rough and illiterate cousin Hareton, which hints to a brighter future

Hareton Earnshaw 

Hareton Earnshaw is the son of Hindley, Cathy’s older brother. When his mother dies soon after his birth, his father becomes a violent drunkard and, as a consequence, Hareton grows up angry and unloved—there are clear parallels between Hareton’s downtrodden childhood and Heathcliff’s. Hareton’s life threatens to end tragically when the beautiful Catherine Linton arrives at the Heights and acts scornful towards him. However, she eventually overcomes her prejudices and falls in love with him. Heathcliff dies before he can sow more destruction. Hareton and Catherine’s union returns Wuthering Heights to its rightful heirs (they both descend from the Earnshaws).

Linton Heathcliff

Linton Heathcliff is the product of the unhappy union of Heathcliff and Isabella Linton. Raised for his first 12 years by his mother, he is taken to the Heights after her death. Despite his physical weakness, he has a cruel streak, and he acts out of self-preservation because he is terrified of his father. He also helps Heathcliff kidnap Catherine and marries her against her will, but soon dies. His selfishness is meant to contrast Hareton’s personality—both had rough childhoods, but where Linton was petty, Hareton displayed a rough but well-meaning generosity.