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Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights: An Authoritative Text With Essays in Criticism. Edited by William Sale, Jr., W.W. Norton and Company, 1963.
Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-8036
The text itself originally published in 1850.
Singers Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance. (No, I’m not suggesting the pair resemble Heathcliff and Cathy.)
Cold in the earth—and the deep snow piled above thee,
Far, far removed, cold in the dreary grave!
Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee,
Severed at last by Time’s all-severing wave?
Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover
Over the mountains, on that northern shore,
Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover
Thy noble heart forever, ever more?
Cold in the earth—and fifteen wild Decembers,
From those brown hills, have melted into spring:
Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers
After such years of change and suffering!
Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee,
While the world’s tide is bearing me along;
Other desires and other hopes beset me,
Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong!
No later light has lightened up my heaven,
No second morn has ever shone for me;
All my life’s bliss from thy dear life was given,
All my life’s bliss is in the grave with thee.
But, when the days of golden dreams had perished,
And even Despair was powerless to destroy,
Then did I learn how existence could be cherished,
Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy.
Then did I check the tears of useless passion—
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten
Down to that tomb already more than mine.
And, even yet, I dare not let it languish,
Dare not indulge in memory’s rapturous pain;
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?
A worthwhile exercise is to review the years in which Wuthering Heights is listed as a free-response essay choice, review those prompts, and commit to paper, and to recall, quotes or points to support the thesis that you come up with for each.
To put each on a 3×5″ card: sublime.
Musing on themes:
Love. The consequence of not listening to the love that is—or isn’t—in our hearts. How love grows, evolves, fades, dies, becomes hatred. Cathy says her love for Edgar will be “like foliage…Time will change it, as winter does the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath—a source of little visible delight, but necessary” (ix 74).
But what would happen if Cathy said “I choose to marry Heathcliff”? To keep her station, she needs to marry a landowner—the origin of the term landlord—or be the mother of the male heir to such. Hindley does not like Heathcliff, has thrown him out of any “adopted son” status he had with Mr. Earnshaw, and Hareton is already the heir to the Heights. She has no skill or trade. Heathcliff is in station a servant. Sure she can marry him—and face the real risk of poverty.
Morally-ambiguous characters: how we wish they’d revisit that prompt, hey?
Evil. The villain. Is Heathcliff evil? Is he justified? “I never relent in exacting my due, from anyone” (xxxi 240). Heathcliff says this to Lockwood when he thinks his tenant is asking for a change of lease, but it is a credo of Heathcliff’s. And how! Is he getting a just revenge? Was he wronged first? Be careful! recall the example of the gift of horses to young Heathcliff and Hindley.
Is Linton a villain? (Were your brain to have legs it’d jump from its seat.) Again, is he justified in his actions?
Strong women. Catherine and Catherine. Is Ellen Dean/Nellie/Nell a strong woman? Nell speaks her mind even though she could be dismissed/severed/ released/”fired” at any time without legal recourse or protection. (Indeed, she’s threatened with that several times.)
Lockwood is now the chief narrator once again for this chapter. He calls on the Heights to try to get to know Catherine better, as he is still interested in her. He passes a note from Nell.
Catherine teases Hareton over his inability to read.
Lockwood has been roaming about for sometime, and returns unannounced. On a visit to the Heights he spies Hareton and Catherine reading together, much changed.
Finding Nell, he learns of Heathcliff’s death. Nell becomes narrator:
She recounts the tale of how Catherine apologizes for calling Hareton dunce, and contrives to get him interested in reading once again: ” I overheard no further distinguishable talk; but in looking around again I perceived two such radiant countenances bent over the page of the accepted book that I did not doubt the treaty had been ratified on both sides, and the enemies were thenceforth sworn allies… The intimacy, thus commenced rapidly, though it didn’t counter temporary interruptions. Earnshaw was not to be civilized with a wish; and my young lady was no philosopher, and no paragon of patience; but both their minds tending to the same point – one loving and desiring to esteem, and the other loving and desiring to be esteemed – they contrived in the end to reach it.” (249)
Nell realizes that the union of the two will be excellent. When you consider it, it is a better version of Heathcliff and Catherine, hey?
The youngsters begin to stand up to Heathcliff and…
…he softens. “You must learn to avoid putting me in a passion, I really shall murder you, sometime!” (256). Well, this is a change.
“An absurd termination to my violent exertions?” (254) begins a sort of confessional to Ellen Dean.
He speaks of a “change” to Nell. She asks if he is ill and if he suspects he is dying, and he thinks not, but admits feeling as if he has to force himself to breathe and his heart to beat. And he admits at the point of being able to demolish physically both houses, no longer the will to do so.
The other characters sense their impending death with sadness and melancholy; not so with Heathcliff: he seems “very much excited, and wild and glad!” (257)
Is he consorting with Catherine’s ghost? (Be careful on this: if you are essaying for the AP test, stay to interpreting the prompt by referring to the author’s text. Do not stray far into your own conjecture.)
Nell muses on whether Heathcliff is a vampire or ghoul, and thinks back on his upbringing and her part in it and comparing that to what she remembers having read on such hideous creatures. “But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man to his bane?” muttered superstition (260). Here we return solidly to the gothic.
Heathcliff’s death, rain soaked, reaching toward lintel: compare to Lockwood’s night at the Heights. The eyes won’t be closed, and the corpse grins like the devil. Compare to Catherine looking angelic in death. (Well ain’t that bloody sexist, seeing as they shared the same soul…)
And the locals say “he walks.” The scared shepherd and frightened sheep: “They’s Heathcliff and a woman yonder, under t’ Nab,” he blubbered, “un’ Aw darnut pass ’em” (265). Of course: Heathcliff throughout confesses “a strong conviction” in the existence of ghosts, invites being haunted by Cathy, and intimates that he’ll be back.
“I believe the dead are at peace, but it is not right to speak of them with levity.”
Nell gathers intelligence from Zillah about Catherine’s condition at the Heights.
Catherine is sure that Linton is dying but Heathcliff refuses to call for a doctor. By and by he dies and none cry. Of course, he has willed everything to his father—probably by force—and Heathcliff is now checkmate.
Catherine would avoid everybody if possible: “Mr. Hareton, and the whole set of you, will be good enough to understand that I reject any pretense at kindness you have the hypocrisy to offer! I despise you and you have nothing to say to any of you! When I would have given my life for one kind word, even to see one of your faces, you all kept off. But I won’t complain to you! I’m driven down here by the cold, not either to abuse you, or to enjoy your society.” (235)
Zillah observes, “she’ll snap at the master himself, and as good as dares him to thrash her; and the more hurt she gets, the more venomous she grows” (236)
Thus ended Miss Dean’s story.
But the challenge stands: Heathcliff never lies.
“Catherine’s face was just like the landscape—shadows and sunshine flooding over it in rapid succession” (211). Edgar is slipping away rapidly and inevitably.
The Thursday meeting at the same spot—but now the fear is both evident and admitted.
And now we witness Heathcliff’s tactics. Heathcliff seems inured to tooth and nail, and he responds: that is what the British call “boxing the ears.”
“[Catherine’s] cousin had shrunk to a corner of the settle, as quiet as a mouse, congratulating himself, I daresay, at the correction have a lighted on another than him” (216).
Catherine recovers quickly, and attempt a different tactic: kneeling before Heathcliff and attempts love.
“Keep your eft’s fingers off; and, or I’ll kick you!” cried Heathcliff, brutally repulsing her. “I’d rather be hugged by a snake. How the devil can you dream of fawning on me? I detest you!” (219)
And why is that, especially, in her case?
Heathcliff would not have let Catherine go; she finally convinced Linton, and escapes through her mother’s window, climbing down a tree—an egress that we can assume her mother used as a girl to have a scamper about the moors.
The lawyer Green shows up finally. In Heathcliff’s pocket, he gives a quit order and fires all servants and hands save Nell: Heathcliff remembers her early kindnesses, and is in a sense loyal to those he considers friend.
I’m glad that chapter’s over. I know we’re supposed to suffer fools but Lord that chapter about makes me lose my religion.
Edgar senses he hasn’t long.
The correspondences, negotiating a meeting of Catherine and Linton.
Are you familiar with chess? Heathcliff is maneuvering people as pieces, hey? Gaining control of the board…
Come just a little further…
…aaaaaand he’s a quarter mile from the Heights with no horse.
Linton did not appear to remember what she talked of; and he had evidently great difficulty sustaining any kind of conversation. His lack of interest in the subjects she started, and his equal incapacity to contribute to her entertainment, were so obvious that she could not conceal her disappointment. An indefinite alteration had come over his whole person and manner. The pettiness that might be caressed into fondness, had yielded to a listless apathy; there was less of the peevish temper of a child which frets and tease on purpose to be soothed, and more of the self-absorbed moroseness of a confirmed invalid, repelling consolation, ready to regard the good-humored mirth of others as an insult. (208)
[Andersen takes the quill from Brontë and takes over the narrative:
Cathy looks down in resigned disgust as realizes that Linton is indeed a “whey-faced wretch.” She scans the heathered hills, hoping to see no witnesses, and with a wrinkled nose whispers to Ellen, “Can’t we just put him out of his misery or something?”
“Girl! I have waited so long for you to say that!” hissed an electrified Nell, suppressing a jig and producing a shockingly large, long-barreled pistol, Clint Eastwood-like, from under serapé…
You see, however, Linton’s terror at his father’s being disappointed with the outcome of the meeting. Heathcliff is apparently quite rough with one of the pieces he’s moving around the board.
Do you have any sympathy for Linton?
Chapter twenty-two starts a second love story — oh what a love story it is!
Catherine is convinced by her father. Phew! Out of danger. But there she is, more “on the fence” than she appears, hey? And she slips over…
The description of the other side of the wall is symbolic, the locked door symbolic, Ellen Dean’s entreaties through said door symbolic…
Nell calls Heathcliff a liar: again, is he lying? (I challenge you to find his lies anywhere in the entire text.)
Does anybody sympathize with Linton?
Is anybody not rolling eyes at Catherine?
Is anybody not in Brontë’s pocket at the moment? Dramatic irony much?