In 1801 Mr. Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross
Grange, visits his landlord,Mr. Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, and finds
the people in this lonely farmhouse so strange that he asks his housekeeper
to tell him their history.
She describes how, more than twenty years previously, old Mr. Earnshaw brought home to Wuthering Heights an unknown boy, Heathcliff. Mr. Earnshaw's son Hindley hated Heathcliff, but his daughter Catherine loved him. Later, Hindley married, and became master of Wuthering Heights on his father's death. Heathcliff bore his ill-treatment, which became worse when Hindley's wife died after giving birth to a son, Hareton, until one day he overheard Catherine say that she intended to marry Edgar Linton. Edgar and his sister Isabella lived at Thrushcross Grange. That night Heathcliff disappeared.
Three years later Catherine Earnshaw married Edgar and went to live at the Grange. All went well until Heathcliff, now a man and mysteriously rich, arrived back, persuaded his drunken enemy, Hindley, to let him live at Wuthering Heights, and began to visit Mrs. Catherine Linton, against Edgar's wishes. Heathcliff avenged a quarrel with Edgar by marrying Isabella.
Mrs. Linton died after giving birth to a daughter, also named Catherine, and Heathcliff’s suffering at her death seemed to turn him into a fiend. His wife Isabella left him and Hindley died in suspicious circumstances. Wuthering Heights became Heathcliff's, in payment of Hindley's gambling debts to him.
Isabella gave birth to a weakly son, Linton, whom Heathcliff sent for when Isabella died twelve years afterwards. By a trick he later forced Catherine Linton to marry this son; and when Catherine's father died, and also her husband, Thrushcross Grange, by the law of that time, passed to Catherine's father-in-law, Heathcliff.
Thus, when Mr. Lockwood first meets his landlord, all Heathcliff's ambitions are achieved. He possesses all the property of the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Hareton and Catherine are powerless. And yet, at the height of his power and wealth Heathcliff's agony of sorrow for the death of Catherine Earnshaw eighteen years previously kills him in a strange way. His death leaves the young Hareton Earnshaw and the young Catherine Heathcliff free to love each other and be happy.