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Wuthering Heights TV Adaptation

Updated on October 31, 2014

The Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights, a novel written by Emily Bronte inspired many adaptations which included a film made for TV. In 1998, a British television film based on this classic novel was released.

The story starts when a wealthy man from the south of England named Mr. Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange in the north for peace and recuperation. One snowy night, he decides to visit his landlord, a Mr. Heathcliff, who lives in a remote moorland farmhouse called the WutheringHeights.

At WutheringHeights, he meets Mr. Heathcliff, the boorish landlord, the young mistress of the house, a young man, and a servant.

When Mr. Lockwood is snowed in, his landlord grudgingly allows him to stay.

Later in the night, he finds himself in a room with books and graffiti left by the former occupant named Catherine. A nightmare in which he sees a young lady outside the window asking to be let in causes him to cry out in fear. It rouses Mr. Heathcliff who pushes him out rudely, goes to the window and calls out Catherine’s name.

Heathcliff and Catherine

Then the story takes the viewers back thirty years earlier. Mr. Earnshaw lives in WutheringHeights with his teenage son Hindley and his young daughter Catherine. Their peaceful existence is shattered when Mr. Earnshaw comes home from one of his trips to Liverpool with a homeless boy whom he adopts and names Heathcliff. Nelly Dean serves as their housekeeper.

Hindley feels that the new boy has robbed him of his father’s affection and becomes jealous but Catherine has grown close to the boy.

Even at a young age, Heathcliff’s character is not pleasant. Instead of trying to get on the real son’s good side, he has the guts to engage Hindley in a fight.

When Hindley leaves the WutheringHeights for college, Catherine and Heathcliff have fallen in love with each other. Mr. Earnshaw dies and Hindley comes back with his wife Frances, to become the master of WutheringHeights. He relegates Heathcliff to the status of a servant.

Heathcliff hates Hindley as much as Hindley hates him. But Heathcliff loves Catherine who loves him in return. In one of their frequent walks, they come to Thrushcross Grange where they spy on the Lintons. When the Linton’s dog injures Catherine, Heathcliff is sent home and Catherine is taken into the house to be treated.

In Catherine’s short stay at Thrushcross Grange, she has learned to be well-mannered and to dress as a lady should. She goes home to WutheringHeights quite different. When the Lintons visit, Heathcliff attempts to impress Catherine by dressing up for the occasion but he is humiliated instead. When Catherine comforts him, Heathcliff vows revenge.

When Frances Earnshaw dies after giving birth, Hindley turns into drinking and rejects his son named Hareton. Catherine and Edgar soon become lovers. When Edgar proposes to Catherine, she accepts though she tells the housekeeper Nelly that her feelings for Edgar can never compete with her love for Heathcliff, but she can not marry Heathcliff because of his low social status and lack of education. She plans to marry Edgar and use her position as Edgar’s wife to raise Heathcliff’s social standing.

Heathcliff overhears the conversation except the part when Catherine speaks of her love for him. Heathcliff leaves and disappears. Out of spite, Catherine makes herself ill. Nelly and Edgar cater to her every whim to prevent her from getting ill again. Edgar and Catherine get married and live at Thrushcross Grange with Nelly, the housekeeper.

After six months, Heathcliff returns, already a wealthy gentleman. When asked how he got so prosperous, he was vague about it. The very much married Catherine is delighted at his return but Edgar is unhappy at the turn of events. Catherine despises her husband and humiliates him in front of Heathcliff.

Heathcliff lives at WutheringHeights which has been mortgaged to him by Hindley who lays wasted all day long. Under Heathcliff, the young Hareton acquires bad manners.

Edgar Linton’s sister Isabella falls for Heathcliff. When Heathcliff realizes that Isabella is Edgar’s heir, he encourages Isabella’s infatuation. He elopes with Isabella Linton and they live at WutheringHeights.

Catherine manipulates Edgar and Nelly by getting ill. Heathcliff sneaks into Thrushcross Grange to see the sick Catherine. They vow undying love for each other. Catherine dies after she delivers her daughter by Edgar. The girl is named Cathy.

The miserable Isabella leaves Heathcliff and gives birth to their son who is named Linton. Six months after Catherine dies, Hindley also dies, leaving Heathcliff as the master of WutheringHeights.

Cathy, Linton, and Hareton

Twelve years has quickly passed. When Isabella dies, Edgar leaves Thrushcross Grange to take Linton under his care. At Edgar’s absence, his high-spirited daughter Cathy ventures into the moors and meets Heathcliff. Edgar returns with the sickly Linton and Heathcliff demands that his son, Linton live at WutheringHeights.

With cunning and scheming, Heathcliff gets Cathy to marry the dying Linton and forces Linton to make a will in his favor. Edgar dies and Cathy grieves. Heathcliff insists that Cathy live at WutheringHeights. Linton also dies leaving Heathcliff to be the master of Thruscross Grange.

That is how Mr. Lockwood has found the inhabitants of WutheringHeights. Cathy, the young mistress of the house who is not treated well by Heathcliff, and Hareton, the son of Hindley whom Heathcliff treats like a servant.

Mr. Lockwood has had enough of the moors and leaves. After some time, he comes back and Nelly Dean tells him of the events at WutheringHeights from the time he has left until his return.

Heathcliff seems to have lost his mind, always seeing visions of the dead Catherine. He is found dead in Catherine’s bedroom and is buried next to her. Hareton and Cathy have overcome their mutual antipathy and fall for each other. They plan to get married.

The Novel

This is a story of jealousy, love, and revenge. It revolves around the character of Heathcliff. From the time he enters the picture, he has brought nothing but trouble into the life of the other characters.

In the first place, Hindley is understandably jealous because at an age when he needs his father’s attention the most, the father brings home a competition who has shown from day one that he is out to become the father’s favorite. In the film, the young Heathcliff is not humble enough to respect the older son, Hindley.

Hindley has left WutheringHeights a teenager and comes back a married man. All those years, he must have hated the fact that Heathcliff has taken his place as his father’s son. No wonder he has demoted Heathcliff to a mere servant when he becomes the master of WutheringHeights.

The father has not assured his own son Hindley that he has no reason to be jealous of the adopted boy. He has not sent Heathcliff to school who remains uneducated and ill-mannered, not able to control his emotions shown by the way he has killed the birds when he thinks Catherine has left him. A good education may have given him the discipline to control his wild vengeful spirit.

The simple and elegant life of the Lintons has been disrupted when Heathcliff enters their life. He has no business getting even with Edgar Linton because Catherine has married him on her own accord. Edgar has not imposed himself on Catherine nor has he used force.

By Heathcliff’s selfishness and vengefulness, he destroys three innocent lives, his own son Linton, Catherine’s daughter Cathy, and Hindley’s son Hareton. Heathcliff’s character is so flawed that when Mr. Earnshaw has brought the boy home from the streets of Liverpool, he has unwittingly brought a curse to his family and the family who lives at Thrushcross Grange.

The story also shows Catherine as a selfish and manipulative woman. She marries Edgar Linton for his social status but wants to keep the love of her life, Heathcliff.

The redeeming factor of the story is when Cathy and Hareton fall in love and have a chance to mend their broken lives. They also get what really belong to them, the Thrushcross Grange and the WutheringHeights.

This British television film is produced by Jo Wright and directed by David Skynner. The novel is adapted for the screen by Neil McKay. The movie stars Robert Cavanah as Heathcliff, and Orla Brady as Catherine.

There are many film adaptations of WutheringHeights, a novel which is highly regarded as a classic of English literature. One of these movie adaptations has Ralph Fiennes portraying the role of Heathcliff. Accordingly, Ralph Fiennes is the best Heathcliff ever.

Perhaps, the approach in the adaptation is what really matters. One movie can make Heathcliff a moody and crooked character while the other may make him a bit lovable. A good adaptation can perhaps make the story better appreciated.


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