Wuthering Heights: Chapter 1 - Summary & Analysis

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Summary

      The novel begins with Lockwood relating the story in the first person, of his first visit to Wuthering Heights in 1801. Mr Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange call on his solitary neighbour and landlord. Mr. Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights. "Wuthering" signifies atmospheric tumult, and the house as Lockwood describes has been strongly built to withstand the wild, stormy winds. The front is decorated with grotesque carvings among which the name of Hareton Earnshaw and the date 1500 also appear.

      Lockwood is eager to know the history of this old house, but he is curtly received by Heathcliff and taken into the family sitting room. Lockwood has a good eye for detail and provides a vivid description of the outside of the house, the family sitting room and Heathcliff. The apartment is furnished to suit a homely farmer. Heathcliff himself is dark-skinned and gypsy-like in appearance but a gentleman in dress; he is erect and handsome, but morose and surly.

      Heathcliff leaves Lockwood with a fierce pointer bitch and two grim sheepdogs to accompany Joseph the peevish old servant, to the cellar to fetch wine. Lockwood's behavior irritates the dogs and they attack him. He is great by the housekeeper.

      However, Heathcliff shows no sympathy. He offers wine to Lockwood and talks intelligently on various subjects but makes it clear that Lockwood is not welcome again at the Heights.

Critical Analysis

      Emily Bronte, we will realize as the novel proceeds, has begun the story in medias res i.e. in the middle. At this point it is a straight forward first-person narrative in diary form with Lockwood and Heathcliff are the main characters. There is an indication of something strange as well as violent in the description of Wuthering Heights. Lockwood's encounter with the dogs produces an unease in the reader's mind which is not dispelled despite the sociable conclusion of the visit. In the description of the house, there is already a reference to "narrow windows" "deeply set in the wall". Windows assume symbolic importance as the novel proceeds.

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