Wuthering Heights is a novel that is told in a series of narratives, which are themselves told to the narrator, a gentleman named Lockwood. Lockwood rents a fine house and park called Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire, and gradually learns more and more about the histories of two local families. This is what he learns from a housekeeper, Ellen Dean, who had been with one of the two families for all of her life:
In around 1760, a gentleman-farmer named Earnshaw went from his farm, Wuthering Heights, to Liverpool on a business trip. He found there a little boy who looked like a gypsy who had apparently been abandoned on the streets, and brought the child home with him, to join his own family of his wife, his son Hindley, his daughter Catherine, a manservant named Joseph and the little maid, Ellen. He named the boy Heathcliff after a son of his who had died.
All the other members of the household were opposed to the introduction of a strange boy, except for Catherine, who was a little younger than Heathcliff and became fast friends with him. Hindley in particular felt as though Heathcliff had supplanted his place, although he was several years older, and the true son and heir. Hindley bullied Heathcliff when he could, and Heathcliff used his influence over Earnshaw to get his way. Heathcliff was a strange, silent boy, who appeared not to mind the blows he received from Hindley, although he was in fact very vindictive. Earnshaw's wife died. Hindley was sent away to college in a last attempt to turn him into a worthy son, and to ease pressures at home.
After some years, Earnshaw's health declined and he grew increasingly alienated from his family: in his peevish old age he believed...