Differences between 1939 film, and the 1847 novel:
While the most basic elements of the plot of the 1939 film version of Wuthering Heights are the same as those in the novel, those familiar with Bronte's work will notice many differences between the two.
As in the novel, Lockwood is a new comer to the world of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and finds himself Heathcliff’s unwelcome guest. However, when he spends the night, he does not observe the books or bookshelves where Catherine’s name is carved. After the apparition of the ghost, rather than call to it from the window, as in the book, Heathcliff actually goes outside. It is while he is engaged in seeking this ghost, and later mourning for lost love that Ms. Dean tells Lockwood the story behind Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. This contrasts with the novel, where Lockwood learned of the story from Ms. Dean in his own home.
Once Nelly begins to recount the past to Lockwood, even more differences are immediately noticeable. Nelly and Hindley are not the same age; they were in the book. Hindley is actually much younger than he was in the book, and closer in age to Catherine. However, as in the book, their father, Mr. Earnshaw returns from a trip with a souvenir no one had seen coming—an orphan named Heathcliff. Catherine and Heathcliff quickly become very close friends, while Hindley is forever jealous of him. One of the arguments from the book is in the movie, however it is different. While in the novel, Heathcliff demands Hindley’s horse because his has fallen lame; in the movie Hindley demands Heathcliff’s horse. In both cases, the outcome is violent.
The friendship between Heathcliff and Catherine is different as well. While the novel only refers to the two running around together, in the movie they begin role-playing, and later in adulthood, Catherine suggests that Heathcliff run away because he gets no respect at Wuthering Heights.
Hindley’s adult life is different from that portrayed in the novel as well. The movie does not feature his wife, and he never has a son, Hareton. The omissions of these two characters are some of the greatest differences.
The ending, however, is the greatest shocker when the film version of Wuthering Heights is compared to the novel. The film ends rather abruptly after the death of Catherine, whereas in the book Cathy is born, and a romance between her and Linton later ensues.
For every similarity that can be drawn between the novel and the film Wuthering Heights, a difference may be found as well. In some cases, these are more subtle—one character delivers a line originally given to another, in others they are much greater, such as the omission of a character.