Set in the Victorian era of 18th-19th century Yorkshire, England, Wuthering Heights is a tragic love tale of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The novel follows the development of their friendship during childhood. Heathcliff lives with Catherine's family after being adopted by her father. Her father had found Heathcliff living as a homeless child in Liverpool. As they grow up, Heathcliff must contend with the bitter jealousy of Catherine's brother Hindley. When Mr Earnshaw dies, Hindley takes over as master of the Wuthering Heights manor, and forces Heathcliff to be the household servant rather than a member of the family.

Although fond of Heathcliff, Catherine agrees to marry the more well-to-do Edgar. A distraught Heathcliff runs away, but returns three years later as a wealthy and refined gentleman. Heathcliff now sets upon a path of revenge against those who had mistreated him. He conducts a love affair with Edgar's sister Isabella, which upsets both Edgar and Catherine. He engages in gambling with Hindley, driving him broke. Catherine gives birth to Cathy and then dies. Hindley dies six months after Catherine, leaving his son Hareton an orphan. Heathcliff now becomes master of Wuthering Heights and guardian of Hareton.

Heathcliff's wife Isabella runs away and gives birth to a son, Linton. Twelve years later Isabella dies and Linton is brought to Wuthering Heights to live with Heathcliff. Heathcliff has it in mind to see Linton and Cathy married so that he can inherit Thrushcross Grange, which belongs to Cathy's father Edgar. Edgar dies, but so too does Linton soon after. Cathy moves to Wuthering Heights to live with Heathcliff and Hareton. Cathy eventually falls in love with Hareton, and Heathcliff goes mad as he is haunted by Catherine's ghost. Heathcliff dies soon after.

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