Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 10 | Summary

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Summary

Since Mr. Lockwood is ill and will need bed rest until spring, he asks Mrs. Dean to distract him by telling him more about Heathcliff and Cathy, whom he calls the "hero and heroine" of the story. Heathcliff, in the present, has recently sent Mr. Lockwood a pair of game birds and paid him a visit due to his illness. Mr. Lockwood calls him "charitable" for this act. Referring to the past in the story Mrs. Dean is telling, Mr. Lockwood wonders if Heathcliff will next finish his education and "come back a gentleman."

Edgar and Cathy's marriage is going well to Mrs. Dean's "agreeable disappointment ... [Cathy] behaved infinitely better than [she] dared to expect." Isabella and Edgar dote on Cathy, and Edgar "had a deep-rooted fear of ruffling her humour." When Heathcliff returns, the peace ends. Mrs. Dean finds him waiting in the garden one morning. At Heathcliff's insistence, Mrs. Dean tells Cathy someone is waiting to see her outside. When Cathy leaves, Mrs. Dean tells Edgar whom the visitor really is. When Cathy returns, leaving Heathcliff outside to wait, Edgar, annoyed, tells Cathy it is inappropriate, due to Heathcliff's low station, for Cathy and Isabella to have tea with him in the parlor. Seeing how happy Cathy is, Edgar tells her "try to be glad, without being absurd." Once Heathcliff comes upstairs, he launches into the purpose of his visit: "to settle the score with Hindley; and then prevent the law by doing execution on myself"—which means he plans to kill himself after killing Hindley. He also says that Cathy's happiness at seeing him again has changed his mind—for the moment.

Cathy and Edgar fight because she says, "Heathcliff is now worthy of a gentleman's regard." Cathy, so ecstatic to have Heathcliff back, tells Mrs. Dean that she has reconciled with "God and humanity! I had risen in angry rebellion against Providence." Determined to be good now, she will make up with Edgar and be an angel.

Time passes and it becomes normal for Heathcliff to visit Thrushcross Grange, but Mrs. Dean worries Heathcliff plans to "work mischief under a cloak" and harm the family. He has rented a space from Hindley at Wuthering Heights. Mrs. Dean asks Cathy what she thinks about Heathcliff staying there. Cathy says Hindley is greedy for the rent money, reckless about choosing his acquaintances, and never troubles himself to wonder if he should trust Heathcliff, and that Heathcliff told her he chose to stay there to be near her, so it doesn't bother her.

More time passes and Isabella gradually falls one-sidedly in love with Heathcliff, which causes a fight one day with Cathy. Isabella is angry because Heathcliff and Cathy ignore her during a walk on the moors. When Isabella confronts Cathy, she doesn't spare Isabella's feelings, telling her she was superfluous and "we didn't care if you kept with us or not." Later, to tease Isabella, Cathy tells Heathcliff about her crush on him, in front of her, and the two women get into a physical fight. During their fight, Isabella draws Cathy's blood with her nails, and Heathcliff threatens to "wrench them off her fingers, if they ever menaced me." He also says that if he were to marry Isabella he would turn her white face into a rainbow of bruises from beating her. Privately, Cathy and Heathcliff talk about Isabella's crush, and Heathcliff mentions he could use Isabella to own Thrushcross Grange one day. To that, Cathy warns, "you are too prone to covet your neighbor's goods; remember this neighbor's goods are mine."

Mrs. Dean determines to keep a close watch on Heathcliff. She also admits to preferring Edgar to Cathy because he is kind, trustful, and honorable.

Analysis

Mr. Lockwood, as a removed narrator, functions in this chapter as an objective observer. He supplies a viewpoint for readers to identify with during his cheery prelude, in which he calls Heathcliff "hero" and Cathy "heroine." All seems well; readers may expect a predicable happy ending, so Mr. Lockwood reflects the same expectation. He guesses at the events to unfold, "Did he [Heathcliff] finish his education ... and come back a gentleman?" just as readers may guess. As Mrs. Dean jumps into the story, it does seem, at first, to be possible. Cathy and Edgar "were really in possession of deep and growing happiness." Heathcliff is transformed into a gentleman, and Cathy reconciles with God because she is so happy to see Heathcliff again. Mrs. Dean provides the dropping of the other shoe, so to speak. She has a foreboding presentiment. She notices Heathcliff's comment about planning revenge and changing his mind, and she cautions in specific ways that foreshadow events to come, including advising Cathy not to praise one man to the other "unless you would like an open quarrel between them." By admitting she favors Edgar, she reveals whose side she is on, which will be important for the reader to know during events that take place in upcoming chapters. Also, readers may wonder: Why is Mrs. Dean uncertain about Heathcliff's intentions for the remainder of the chapter after she hears Heathcliff's explicit plans for revenge? Again, she proves herself to be an unreliable narrator, swayed by her feelings about her subjects.

Edgar's pride (believing Heathcliff is beneath him) is threatened by Cathy's insistence they be friends and Edgar treat Heathcliff like a gentleman. Edgar's pride causes him to break down and cry, which results in Cathy's drawing closer to Heathcliff and the views and loyalty they formed together in their youth. With Isabella's crush comes an exploration of a new type of love in the novel: unrequited love.

Cathy's character shows even more inner conflict. She acts cruelly to Isabella about her crush on Heathcliff. Then says she is trying to protect Isabella. Cathy presents Heathcliff as a gentleman. Yet, later, she tells Isabella how cruel and "wolfish" Heathcliff really is. Which is the truth? Cathy ignores Heathcliff's attempt to take Wuthering Heights from Hindley, yet warns Heathcliff to not even dare to take Thrushcross Grange. The chapter raises questions: Is Cathy really trying to help Isabella? Does she love Edgar? If she knows what Heathcliff is up to, why doesn't she try to stop him?

By the end of the chapter Brontë subverts the reader's expectations for a happy ending and heroic Heathcliff. If the reader is unconvinced by Mrs. Dean worrying and still holding hope that Heathcliff will find goodness, Cathy's words to Isabella about Heathcliff's true nature seem designed for the hopeful reader when she says, "don't imagine that he conceals depths of benevolence and affection beneath a stern exterior!" Then Heathcliff himself says he would beat Isabella if he were to marry her. The finishing touch comes at the end when Mrs. Dean wishes he would leave, feeling that "an evil beast prowled between it and the fold, waiting his time to spring and destroy."

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