The lonely purple moors became one of the most important shaping forces in the life of the Bronte sisters. Their parsonage home, a small house, was of grey stone, two stories high. The front door opened almost directly on to the churchyard. In the upstairs was two bedrooms and a third room, scarcely bigger than a closet, in which the sisters played their games. After their mother died in 1821, the children spent most of their time in reading and composition. To escape their unhappy childhood, Anne, Emily, Charlotte, and their brother Branwell (1817-1848) created imaginary worlds - perhaps inspired by Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726). Emily and Anne created their own Gondal saga, and Bramwell and Charlotte recorded their stories about the kingdom of Angria in minute notebooks. After failing as a paiter and writer, Branwell took to drink and opium, worked then as a tutor and assistant clerk to a railway company. In 1842 he was dismissed and joined his sister Anne at Thorp Green Hall as a tutor. His affair with his employer's wife ended disastrously. He returned to Haworth in 1845, where he rapidly declined and died three years later.
Between the years 1824 and 1825 Emily attended the school at Cowan Bridge with Charlotte, and then was largely educated at home. Her father's bookshelf offered a variety of reading: the Bible, Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, Scott and many others. The children also read enthusiastically articles on current affairs and intellectual disputes in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, Fraser's Magazine, and Edinburgh Review.
In 1835 Emily Bronte was at Roe Head. There she suffered from homesickness and returned after a few months to the moorland scenery of home. In 1837 she became a governess at Law Hill, near Halifax, where she spent six months. Emily worked at Miss Patchet's shdoll - according to Charlotte - "from six in the morning until near eleven at night, with only one half-hour of exercise between" and called it slavery. To facilitate their plan to keep school for girls, Emily and Charlotte Bronte went in 1842 to Brussels to learn foreign languages and school management. Emily returned on the same year to Haworth. In 1842 Aunt Branwell died. When she was no longer taking care of the house and her brother-in-law, Emily agreed to stay with her father.
Unlike Charlotte, Emily had no close friends. She wrote a few letters and was interested in mysticism. Her first novel, Wuthering Heights (1847), a story-within-a-story, did not gain immediate success as Charlotte's Jane Eyre, but it has acclaimed later fame as one of the most intense novels written in the English language. In contrast to Charlotte and Anne, whose novels take the form of autobiographies written by authoritative and reliable narrators, Emily introduced an unreliable narrator, Lockwood. He constantly misinterprets the reactions and interactions of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. More reliable is Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, who has lived for two generations with the novel's two principal families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons.
Lockwood is a gentleman visiting the Yorkshire moors where the novel is set. At night Lockwood dreams of hearing a fell-fire sermon and then, awakening, he records taps on the window of his room. "... I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking through the window - terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, "Let me in!" and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear." The hands belong to Catherine Linton, whose eerie appearance echo the violent turns of the plot. In a series of flashbacks and time shifts, Bronte draws a powerful picture of the enigmatic Heathcliff, who is brought to Heights from the streets of Liverpool by Mr Earnshaw. Heathcliff is treated as Earnshaw's own children, Catherine and Hindley. After Mr. Earnshaw's death Heathcliff is bullied by Hindley and he leaves the house, returning three years later. Meanwhile Catherine marries Edgar Linton. Heathcliff 's destructive force is unleashed. Catherine dies giving birth to a girl, another Catherine. Heathcliff curses his true love: "... Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you - haunt me then!" Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton, Edgar's sister, who flees to the south from her loveless marriage. Their son Linton and Catherine are married, but the always sickly Linton dies. Hareton, Hindley's son, and the young widow became close. Increasingly isolated and alienated from daily life, Heathcliff experiences visions, and he longs for the death that will reunite him with Catherine.
Wuthering Heights has been filmed several times. William Wyler's version from 1939, starring Merle Oberon as Cathy and Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, is considered on of the screen's classic romances. However, the English writer Graham Greene criticized the reconstructing of the Yorkshire moors in the Conejo Hills in California. "How much better they would have made Wuthering Heights in France," wrote Greene. "They know there how to shoot sexual passion, but in this Californian-constructed Yorkshire, among the sensitive neurotic English voices, sex is cellophaned; there is no egotism, no obsession.... So a lot of reverence has gone into a picture which should have been as coarse as a sewer." (Spectator, May 5, 1939) Luis Bunñuel set the events of the amour fou in an arid Mexican landscape. The music was based on melodies from Tristan and Isolde by Richard Wagner.