Wuthering Heights Chapters 1 - 4 Summary

Mr. Lockwood, who has just rented Thrushcross Grange, is trying to pay a social call to his new landlord Mr. Heathcliff. Mr. Heathcliff is not interested in the social niceties of the day, but in 1801 a certain amount of decorum is expected, so he asks Mr. Lockwood into his home to share a glass of wine. While there Mr. Lockwood observers his new landlord and learns that he is antisocial and cheap. He can tell he is antisocial, because of the manner in which he interacts with him. He may ask Mr. Lockwood in to visit, but his body language suggests it is the last thing he wants to do. He knows Mr. Heathcliff is cheap, because the same man who tends to Mr. Lockwood's horse also acts as butler, in a normal household of the time, two separate people would be employed for these jobs. Mr. Heathcliff also does not easily trust people as evidenced by the dogs he keeps in his house, instead of being pets, he has them there to guard his home and its possessions.

The next day, despite his chilly reception the previous day, Mr. Lockwood walks to Wuthering Heights to visit Heathcliff. As he walks it begins to snow and the snow accelerates as he approaches the house. He has a hard time gaining entrance to the home and is finally let in by Hareton Earnshaw. Heathcliff, Hareton, Mrs. Heathcliff, who is Mr. Heathcliff's widowed daughter-in-law, the servants Joseph and Zillah, make up the members of the household. The snow becomes a snowstorm, which in turn necessitates Mr. Lockwood staying the night. The members of the household are not happy to have a guest among them. They are an odd lot, not caring for each other and at times altogether rude to one another. This is especially true of the relationship between Heathcliff and his daughter-in-law, it seems they despise the very sight of each other.

Zillah, the cook, takes Mr. Lockwood to a bed chamber upstairs. She tells him to be quiet while he is there, because Mr. Heathcliff does not like people to sleep in this bedchamber. Mr. Lockwood sees an oak case which contains the bed, a desk, and books. Once inside the case he sees the name Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff and Catherine Linton written in the paint. He also begins to go through the old books stacked in the case, where he finds written notations by Catherine in the books. She describes how her brother, Hindley, is mean to both her and Heathcliff. He punishes them severely for any infraction and will not allow them proper heat in the winter, instead he takes the warmth for himself and his wife, Frances. Catherine and Heathcliff plot to run into the moor to have some freedom. After being caught, they are not allowed to play together and Heathcliff is forbidden to eat and sit with the rest of the family.

During the night Mr. Lockwood has a series of nightmares based on what he has read. The last one, in which he thinks he sees the little girl Catherine trying to come into his bedchamber through a window, causes him to scream in his sleep. He wakes up Heathcliff who is not at all happy to find him in this particular bed. Mr. Lockwood explains his dreams and it is all Heathcliff can do to keep his emotions in check.

After making his way home the next day, Mr. Lockwood asks his housekeeper, Mrs. Dean, to keep him company while he eats his supper. It is his hope to glean some information about his landlord and family from her. He is not disappointed, she is very forth coming with the information he needs to form some sort of understanding about the members of the Wuthering Heights household.

He learns of Heathcliff's origins and the relationships between the others in the house. Heathcliff was found by Mr. Earnshaw while he was on a trip to Liverpool. He saw the boy on the streets of Liverpool and observed the conditions the child was living in. The boy seemed to have no home and was starving, after trying to find his family and failing, Mr. Earnshaw decided the best thing to do was to take him home. Heathcliff had the look of a gypsy and was not well received by Mrs. Earnshaw or the children. Hindley and Catherine at first wanted nothing to do with the boy. Mr. Earnshaw was taken by him and he was the one to give him the name Heathcliff. The name was both his first and last name, he was named after Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw's son who had died young.

Mr. Lockwood also finds out Mrs. Heathcliff is related to the original inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange, and Hareton Earnshaw is her cousin. Mrs. Dean tells of how Heathcliff was a sullen boy, who could endure almost any punishment Hindley could give him. He would use blackmail to get his way by threatening to tell Mr. Earnshaw what Hindley had done to him. It seems Mr. Earnshaw had a soft spot for Heathcliff and would rule in his favor when disputes occurred between Heathcliff and Hindley. He treated Heathcliff better than he treated his daughter, Catherine. Heathcliff was a boy who could fool people and use it to his own advantage. He did not show any gratitude towards Mr. Earnshaw for saving him from a life on the streets. The divide between the three children grew even deeper two years later when Mrs. Earnshaw died.

These chapters give us the background on which the rest of the book builds its story. It shows how Heathcliff is a man who holds all his feelings inside. He is viewed by the rest of the household either with fear or contempt.

Related Links:

Wuthering Heights Chapters 1 - 4 Quiz
Wuthering Heights Chapters 5 - 8 Summary
Wuthering Heights Chapters 9 - 12 Summary
Wuthering Heights Summary
Wuthering Heights Quotes
Wuthering Heights Important Characters
Wuthering Heights Quiz
Literature Summaries

To link to this Wuthering Heights Chapters 1 - 4 Summary page, copy the following code to your site: