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Wuthering Heights for High School: A Teacher's Review & Guide

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Wuthering Heights, although a great work of literature, does not make for an engaging teaching experience for most high school English classes.

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    Book Summary

    Mr. Lockwood takes up residence at Thrushcross Grange, right down the road from Wuthering Heights. He falls ill and inquires about the history of the two houses and their inhabitants. His servant, Nelly Dean, is happy to oblige.

    The novel's protagonist, Heathcliff, is brought to Wuthering Heights by its owner, Mr. Earnshaw. Earnshaw favors Heathcliff, and by so doing alienates his oldest son Hindley. Hindley becomes more alienated as Heathcliff and Hindley's sister, Catherine become inseparable. Hindley never fails to torment Heathcliff. As a result, Mr. Earnshaw sends Hindley away to college. After Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns, with a wife, and begins his revenge on Heathcliff by ending his education, making him a servant, and forbidding Catherine and Heathcliff from associating.

    Heathcliff becomes a dirty laborer. Despite her love for Heathcliff, Catherine marries Edgar Linton. Heathcliff leaves the Heights and returns 3-1/2 years later having made his fortune. Catherine dies. Heathcliff feels it is Edgar's fault and plots revenge on anyone he feels prevented him from being with Catherine.

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    Literary Merit

    Those reading or teaching Wuthering Heights may want to focus on the following:

    1. Point of View: Most of the narrative comes from Nelly Dean, whose bias infiltrates the entire narrative. It is probable, for example, that she harbors jealousy toward Catherine Earnshaw, who is considered the local beauty.
    2. Frame Story: Wuthering Heights contains stories within a story. Mr. Lockwood tells of his stay at Thrushcross Grange, which includes a history of the area from Nelly Dean, who narrates events sometimes told to her by Isabella, Zillah, and other characters.
    3. Irony: Hindley is a tyrant over Heathcliff who becomes a tyrant over Hareton whose name is etched over the entry way. Heathcliff, at the moment his revenge is completed, no longer craves it.
    4. Theme: The dangers of obsessive love and the damaging effects of revenge make good class discussions.
    5. Characterization: Heathcliff remains one of literature's all time memorable characters.
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    Teachability and Wuthering Heights Lesson Plans

    It's a great book for college, but for any high school student below AP level, it's a jumbled mess of antiquated customs. If you do decide to teach it, here are some lesson ideas.

    1. Characterization Lesson Plan: Heathcliff fascinates. Create a chart with specific examples of Heathcliff's cruel behavior--hanging a puppy, neglecting his wife, tormenting his son. Heathcliff makes a great interview.
    2. Analyze the story's structure by drawing a picture frame on the board. In the frame write "Mr. Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange." Draw a frame inside and write "Nelly Dean tells a story. List important events that Nelly narrates. Inside that frame, draw boxes containing information that others told Nelly.
    3. Irony: Adapt this irony in Romeo and Juliet lesson plan to teach irony in Wuthering Heights.
    4. Point of View: Rewrite an important scene from the novel from a different point of view. For example, what would Heathcliff tell Mr. Lockwood about Hareton? How would Catherine Earnshaw describe Nelly Dean's behavior toward herself?
    5. Check out the brighthub study guide on Wuthering Heights.
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    Book Review Ideas

    Have each student do the following after reading the book:

    1. Write a brief summary of the novel, 100-200 words.
    2. Write a brief Wuthering Heights analysis, extolling its literary merit, 150-200 words.
    3. List teaching ideas for the novel, 3-4 ideas in a bulleted list.
    4. Give each section a rating of 1-5 stars.