Wuthering Heights Family Tree: The Earnshaws, the Lintons, and Heathcliff [Infographic]
Looking for an easy to understand Wuthering Heights family tree that covers all the book’s characters and visualizes their relationships?
Then you’ve come to the right place.
Because today I’m going to provide an in-depth guide to all the characters of Wuthering Heights. No matter how minor the character, I’ll be covering them all so that you’ll walk away from this article with the context you need to understand the novel.
I’ll also go over a few additional aspects of the novel that’ll jump-start your understanding of the book’s events, and will have you walking away with an increased knowledge of Wuthering Heights as a whole.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in!
The Wuthering Heights Family Tree That Shows You the Novel’s Relationships
At the heart of Wuthering Heights is the obsessive, vengeful and ultimately unfulfilled love of one of the most well-known couples in all of literature: Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Though Catherine and Heathcliff are at the center of the novel, a host of other major and minor characters play important roles as well.
The Wuthering Heights family tree graphic below makes it easy to understand how the Earnshaws, the Lintons and the infamous Heathcliff are related.
The relationships between the characters in Wuthering Heights change drastically throughout the novel. Rejected as child and refused by his love, Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights as a man set on revenge. Through the novel, he manipulates nearly all of the characters around him—including his own son—and subjects them to both petty and disastrous cruelties.
As Healthcliff fulfills his plans for revenge, he entangles himself more and more with the Earnshaws and the Lintons, always keeping his ultimate goal in mind: ownership of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. By taking both estates—the calm, cultivated Thrushcross Grange and the wild, tumultuous Wuthering Heights—Heathcliff would finally achieve his dream of complete domination.
The Same Family Tree, But Expanded to Include Major Story Events
The detailed Wuthering Heights family tree graphic below illustrates how the characters’ relationships change throughout the novel, including marriages and deaths, and also displays who retains residence and control over the Grange and the Heights.
But What About the Book’s Themes?
Wuthering Heights is Sense & Sensibility on steroids. These two classic English novels, written by Emily Brontë and Jane Austen respectively, are both concerned with the dangers of unrestrained Romanticism, both employ foil devices, and, of course, were both written by women.
Brontë’s tale set in the untamed Moors, however, is far darker in tone and more dire in its warning against the self-destructive nature of human passions.
Wuthering Heights: Initial Reception and Untimely Misfortune
At the time of its publication in 1847, readers didn’t know what to make of Wuthering Heights‘ stark prose, intense characters, and observations on obsession, love, and revenge. Much like Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, contemporary readers certainly couldn’t believe a woman could’ve written such an extraordinary tale. Like many other female writers at the time, Emily Brontë released her novel under a male pen name (in this case, Ellis Bell).
Sadly, Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis shortly after Wuthering Heights was published. She died at only 30, believing her greatest work to be failure.
It took a few generations to finally catch up to Brontë’s genius. Thankfully, Emily Brontë is now firmly established in the English literary canon. Almost every student in the Anglosphere nowadays has been forced to read Wuthering Heights in high school and/or college. The numerous film and TV adaptations of Brontë’s novel attest to Heathcliff and Catherine’s enduring power over the public imagination.
One of the issues first-time readers have with Wuthering Heights is remembering all the characters’ names. If you’re about to read this classic novel for the first time, you must keep this Wuthering Heights family tree nearby for quick reference. Below, we’ll go over all the major characters in the novel and talk about how they are related to each other.
Wuthering Heights Characters: Who They Are and How They Are Related
Brooding, spiteful, and passionate, Heathcliff has become one of the greatest Romantic anti-heroes in English literature. Mr. Earnshaw first discovers the young Heathcliff as an impoverished orphan on the sooty streets of Liverpool in the early 1770s. We don’t know Heathcliff’s exact birthdate, but we do know he was brought into the Earnshaw household in 1771.
Although he is obviously of a lower class, Mr. Earnshaw takes an immediate liking to Heathcliff and, after a few weeks, so does Mr. Earnshaw’s daughter, Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw’s son, Hindley, however, doesn’t like Heathcliff one bit.
In fact, a lot of people don’t like Heathcliff. Even the maid Nelly, from whom we get most of the plot details of Wuthering Heights, tried her best to humiliate Heathcliff at a young age.
The only character that truly cares for Heathcliff deep down is Catherine. The sad thing is that Catherine is afraid of Heathcliff’s intensity. Not only does she fear Heathcliff, she fears her “inner Heathcliff”…more on that later. Catherine’s desire for the comforts of the “civilized” world, however, lead her to reject Heathcliff’s advances and marry the more respectable Edgar Linton.
Since he can’t marry the love of his life, Heathcliff becomes obsessed with revenge. Heathcliff’s energy becomes a vortex almost every character has to deal with in Brontë’s novel until he dies in 1802.
While Brontë is most likely using Heathcliff’s story as a cautionary tale, there is one redeeming trait in his character: he earnestly loves Catherine. Here’s one of Heathcliff’s more famous quotes that should help you get a sense of his intense emotions:
“I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always [Catherine]—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life!”
Some literary critics believe Brontë modeled her famous character on the melancholic heroes in many of Romantic poet Lord Byron’s works. It’s true that the Brontës’ were infatuated with Byron’s poetry, and Emily Brontë may have drawn inspiration from texts like Manfred and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.
While the Byronic influence is certainly there, Heathcliff will always be remembered as a unique creation of Brontë’s impressive imagination.
Born in 1765 to Mr. & Mrs. Earnshaw, Catherine is one of the most memorable characters in Wuthering Heights. She is the younger sister of Hindley Earnshaw and grows up alongside Heathcliff.
Although she doesn’t seem to like Heathcliff when he arrives at Wuthering Heights, the two soon become inseparable. At this stage in her life, Catherine is described as free-spirited and even a bit rebellious. Her brown eyes and brown hair are her defining features, which a few other important characters in the novel later inherit.
When Heathcliff and Catherine spy on the nearby Lintons’ Thrushcross Grange one day, she is severely injured by the Lintons’ dog. The Lintons then take Catherine in their house to heal. While she is recovering at the Lintons’ household, Catherine changes drastically from a wild youth to a refined lady. She also develops a connection with the Lintons’ son Edgar and eventually decides to marry him in 1783. Sadly, Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to her daughter Cathy Linton in 1784.
Some of the most famous quotes in Wuthering Heights come from Catherine Earnshaw. In her confessions to the servant Nelly, Catherine not only says she loves Heathcliff but that she is Heathcliff. Her passion for Heathcliff is all consuming and ever-present, unlike her love for Edgar which is only on the surface. She also admits, though, that she is extremely frightened by her love for Heathcliff.
Some critics believe Catherine sees in Heathcliff the untamable forces of nature which, while beautiful, can be terrifyingly violent. The Lintons, on the other hand, represent human culture, which provides comfort against the unpredictability of the natural world. In this reading, Catherine sides with culture against nature…and incurs nature’s wrath.
There’s also the socio-economic angle for Catherine’s decision to marry into the Lintons. Heathcliff is obviously of a lower class with no bloodline. Edmund, of course, is well educated and a member of the landed gentry.
Although Catherine dies halfway through this novel, her presence is felt throughout the entire piece. She even appears as a ghost in the beginning of the novel.
Born in 1757, Hindley is the son of Mr. & Mrs. Earnshaw and Catherine’s older brother. Right from the start, Hindley doesn’t like Heathcliff, and that hatred never abates throughout the novel. One thing Hindley can’t stand is how his father shows more affection to Heathcliff than to him.
Hindley probably wouldn’t like to admit to himself that he too is consumed with a violent fire as intense as Heathcliff, but he most certainly is. Almost all of Hindley’s life choices are made with the intent of getting back at Heathcliff.
While attending college Hindley marries a young woman named Frances around 1777 and returns to Wuthering Heights after his father’s death. He has a son named Hareton Earnshaw in 1778. His obsession with revenge leads Hindley down a road of alcoholism, attempted murder, and gambling, especially after Frances’ death. Hindley is yet another cautionary tale for how obsession can totally corrupt a person’s life.
The owner of Wuthering Heights and the father of both Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw. Although Mr. Earnshaw could be a bit “rough around the edges,” he seems to have a very generous heart. It was, after all, Mr. Earnshaw who decided to take in the orphan Heathcliff in the early 1770s.
For some reason, Mr. Earnshaw seems to like Heathcliff more than his own son. This is a major fuel for Hindley’s jealously towards Heathcliff that never abates. Mr. Earnshaw dies in 1777.
Wife of Mr. Earnshaw, Mrs. Earnshaw plays a minor role in the plot of Wuthering Heights.
The one memorable thing about Mrs. Earnshaw is that she doesn’t approve of her husband’s bringing Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights. Most people believe Mrs. Earnshaw objects to Heathcliff being around not out of any class pretensions, but rather out of the strain he puts on their household economy. She dies in 1773.
If Heathcliff is Emily Brontë’s representation of the powerful forces of nature, then Edgar Linton is her symbol of civilization. Edgar was born in 1762 to the landed gentry in a household called Thrushcross Grange. He has one sister, Isabella, who is three years younger than him.
While he is undeniably more cultured, Edgar is physically weaker and paler than Heathcliff. Edgar’s higher social and economic standing attract Catherine over time, but his snobbery annoys Heathcliff to no end. Heathcliff’s dislike for Edgar intensifies after Catherine marries him.
Although he is a bit spoiled, Edgar seems to care deeply for Catherine while she is alive. He is also extremely protective of his daughter Cathy’s wellbeing after Catherine dies. Edgar Linton dies in 1801.
Just as Edgar serves as a foil for Heathcliff, Isabella is a foil for Catherine. Isabella was born in Thrushcross Grange in 1765 and grew up with the same cultural refinements as her brother Edgar.
As time progresses, Isabella becomes more attracted to Heathcliff while Catherine draws closer to Edgar. Unfortunately for her, Heathcliff only marries Isabella in 1784 to get revenge on Edgar. Due to Heathcliff’s abuse, Isabella is forced to flee to London. She has one son, Linton Heathcliff, in 1784, and dies near London in 1797.
The Third Generation
Born in 1784 to Catherine and Edgar Linton, Cathy is described as inheriting her mother’s beautiful eyes, but she has flaxen hair. In addition to her mother’s looks, Cathy inherits her mother’s free-spirited nature.
After Catherine’s death, Edgar keeps a close eye on Cathy and attempts to mold her into a refined lady. All the while, Heathcliff tries to enact his revenge on Edgar via Cathy throughout the latter portion of the novel. She first marries Linton Heathcliff in 1801 then marries Hareton Earnshaw in 1803, both of whom we’ll go over below.
Born in 1784 near London, Linton is Isabella and Heathcliff’s only son. As Linton is growing up with his mother, he has no idea of the identity of his father. It’s only after his mother dies when he is around 12 that he finds out about Heathcliff and returns to Wuthering Heights.
Linton is full of all his father’s negative traits like anger and vindictiveness, but he lacks the ability to love another human being. In contrast to Heathcliff, Linton is frail and sickly. This allows Heathcliff to order his son to marry Cathy just to spite Edgar. Linton obeys and marries Cathy in 1801, but he dies shortly thereafter from tuberculosis.
Hareton is the only child of Hindley and Frances. Born in 1778, Hareton is described as having thick, brown hair and brown eyes similar to Catherine’s and Cathy’s.
From a young age, Heathcliff takes Hareton in to work on the Wuthering Heights farm. Although he could be a bit gruff, Hareton has a kind heart and even tries to improve himself by taking classes with Cathy. This eventually leads him to marry Cathy in 1803.
The marriage of Cathy and Hareton is often seen as a positive symbol in Emily Brontë’s novel. Readers often feel there is a glimmer of hope that this couple has managed to transcend the negative cycles of the past and move toward a brighter future.
Other Important Characters
Wuthering Heights is told in a frame narrative (aka “story within a story”) style. At the start of the novel, we follow a man named Mr. Lockwood who moves into Thrushcross Grange to, as he puts it, escape the “stir of society.” Most of the early sections of the novel are narrated through Mr. Lockwood’s perspective. Brontë might’ve used Lockwood as a stand-in for us, the readers, who must leave our civilized pretentions behind as we enter the rough English Moors.
We don’t know much about Mr. Lockwood personally, but we do know that he has an introverted and somewhat snobbish personality (his name should be a dead give away of this!). It’s a safe bet that Mr. Lockwood is well educated and comes from a wealthy family. Apparently he was engaged to a woman in a seaside town.
It’s Mr. Lockwood who famously sees and records his experience with Catherine’s ghost at the start of the novel. When he tries to learn about the family’s history from Heathcliff, he only makes himself a fool.
After hearing about the history of Heathcliff, however, Mr. Lockwood loses his illusions about the wonderful seclusion of the English Moors. Mr. Lockwood’s return to the city is yet another sign that Emily Brontë might’ve found the restraints of culture preferable to the reckless abandon of Romanticism, even if the Romantics were closer to “nature.”
By the way, Emily wasn’t the only Brontë sister to use the technique of a frame narrative. One of Anne Brontë’s less well-known novels, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, used this structure.
Nelly officially served as a maid at Thrushcross Grange and spent a great deal of time with both Catherine and Cathy. Nelly Dean was born in 1757 and she says her mother worked as a nurse for Hindley.
Most of the information on this novel comes from Nelly Dean’s mouth…well, at least how Mr. Lockwood records her stories in his journal. Although Nelly Dean has more connections on the families at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, she is biased and some of her information comes from credulous sources.
Heathcliff holds a grudge against Nelly throughout the novel for the ways she mistreated him as a child. When Cathy later goes to visit Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff bars Nelly from staying with her.
Although Mr. Lockwood is one of the only major voices we have to gauge the truth of this tale, he is a famously unreliable narrator. Mr. Lockwood also records the story of Wuthering Heights from the testimony of the maid Nelly Dean. It’s important to always remember that both Mr. Lockwood and Nelly have their own biases, which sometimes cloud the “truth” of what happened in Wuthering Heights.
Wuthering Heights: Don’t Just Watch The Movies!
Most people in the 21st century first encounter Wuthering Heights through one of the many wonderful film adaptations now available. While many of these films are faithful adaptations of Brontë’s work, nothing can compare with the experience of reading Brontë’s incredible prose.
Putting It All Together
After reviewing our Wuthering Heights family tree infographics, you now have a strong understanding of which characters make up the novel and how their relationships develop over the course of the book. You know who makes up the Earnshaws, everyone who belongs to the Linton family, and how Heathcliff attempted to disrupt the two families.
As with every great novel, there are several characters to whom readers keep coming back. Personally, I liked the character of Catherine Earnshaw the most.
Who’s your favorite Wuthering Heights character, and why? Are you most interested in Heathcliff, Nelly, or one of the other characters?
Let me know by leaving a comment in the box below right now.
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2 Comments on "Wuthering Heights Family Tree: The Earnshaws, the Lintons, and Heathcliff [Infographic]"
Thank you. I like the way you have introduced a book that may be daunting to a new reader – and it is absolutely worth the read!
When I just turned 16 in 1962, I saw a PBS showing of the film (BBC production), with Keith Michell as Heathcliff, Claire Bloom as Catherine and David McCallum as Edgar Linton – all the other productions I have seen since never possessed the same impact for me. I couldn’t wait to read the book. It was not part of my high school reading list, but I went to the library, and became enthralled with Heathcliff, Catherine, and all the other characters. I did not know that kind of obsessive passion existed. It kind of ruined me for any real life experiences.
My favorite character was Heathcliff, due to his pathological fixation on Catherine. I wanted to know what could have created that type of obsession. Then I went further as to Emily Brontë, being a clergyman’s daughter, more or less sequestered in the Yorkshire moors of Haworth Parsonage, developing such a passionate, brutal character, who’s love was as obsessive as his hatred. All her characters had rather strong, passionate natures, except for Mr. Lockwood, who seemed to be more civilized.
Through the years, I’ve reread Wuthering Heights many times, and it never loses it’s initial impact. I guess that’s what makes it a classic.
In your character description of Catherine Earnshaw, you refer to Edmund when I believe you mean Edgar. You must have had the characters of “King Lear” on your mind! You have written a very nice synopsis.