Wuthering Heights opens with Lockwood, a tenant of Heathcliff's, visiting the home of his landlord. A subsequent visit to Wuthering Heights yields an accident and a curious supernatural encounter, which pique Lockwood's curiosity. Back at Thrushcross Grange and recuperating from his illness, Lockwood begs Nelly Dean, a servant who grew up in Wuthering Heights and now cares for Thrushcross Grange, to tell him of the history of Heathcliff. Nelly narrates the main plot line of Wuthering Heights.
Mr. Earnshaw, a Yorkshire Farmer and owner of Wuthering Heights, brings home an orphan from Liverpool. The boy is named Heathcliff and is raised with the Earnshaw children, Hindley and Catherine. Catherine loves Heathcliff but Hindley hates him because Heathcliff has replaced Hindley in Mr. Earnshaw's affection. After Mr. Earnshaw's death, Hindley does what he can to destroy Heathcliff, but Catherine and Heathcliff grow up playing wildly on the moors, oblivious of anything or anyone else — until they encounter the Lintons.
Edgar and Isabella Linton live at Thrushcross Grange and are the complete opposites of Heathcliff and Catherine. The Lintons welcome Catherine into their home but shun Heathcliff. Treated as an outsider once again, Heathcliff begins to think about revenge. Catherine, at first, splits her time between Heathcliff and Edgar, but soon she spends more time with Edgar, which makes Heathcliff jealous. When Heathcliff overhears Catherine tell Nelly that she can never marry him (Heathcliff), he leaves Wuthering Heights and is gone for three years.
While he is gone, Catherine continues to court and ends up marrying Edgar. Their happiness is short-lived because they are from two different worlds, and their relationship is strained further when Heathcliff returns. Relationships are complicated even more as Heathcliff winds up living with his enemy, Hindley (and Hindley's son, Hareton), at Wuthering Heights and marries Isabella, Edgar's sister. Soon after Heathcliff's marriage, Catherine gives birth to Edgar's daughter, Cathy, and dies.
Heathcliff vows revenge and does not care who he hurts while executing it. He desires to gain control of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and to destroy everything Edgar Linton holds dear. In order to exact his revenge, Heathcliff must wait 17 years. Finally, he forces Cathy to marry his son, Linton. By this time he has control of the Heights and with Edgar's death, he has control of the Grange.
Through all of this, though, the ghost of Catherine haunts Heathcliff. What he truly desires more than anything else is to be reunited with his soul mate. At the end of the novel, Heathcliff and Catherine are united in death, and Hareton and Cathy are going to be united in marriage.