In 1801, Mr Lockwood, a wealthy man from the south of England, rents Thrushcross Grange in the north for peace and recuperation. He visits his landlord, Mr Heathcliff, who lives in a remote moorland farmhouse, "Wuthering Heights," where he finds an odd assemblage: Heathcliff seems to be a gentleman, but his manners are uncouth; the reserved mistress of the house is in her mid-teens; and a young man seems to be a family member yet dresses and speaks like a servant.
Snowed in, Lockwood is grudgingly allowed to stay and is shown to a bedchamber where he notices books and graffiti left by a former inhabitant named Catherine. He falls asleep and has a nightmare in which he sees the ghostly Catherine trying to enter through the window. He cries out in fear, rousing Heathcliff who rushes to the room. Lockwood was convinced that what he saw was real. Heathcliff, believing Lockwood to be right, examines the window and opens it hoping to allow Catherine's spirit to enter. When nothing happens, Heathcliff shows Lockwood to his own bedroom and returns to keep watch at the window.
At sunrise, Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange. Lockwood asks the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, about the family at Wuthering Heights, and she tells him the tale ...