Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 11 | Summary

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Summary

One day, while walking out on the moors, Mrs. Dean sees the ghost of Hindley as a child. Terrified, she also feels "an irresistible yearning to be at the Heights," so she follows the spirit. The "apparition" reaches Wuthering Heights before Mrs. Dean. Finally, as she stands looking through the gate, she realizes, the ghost is a real child, Hareton, whom she has not seen for years. Hareton does not recognize Mrs. Dean, who nursed him as a baby. He hurls rocks at her and curses her, which makes her sad, not angry. Mrs. Dean finds out that Heathcliff has taught Hareton to curse and protects him from "Devil daddy," Hindley. She also learns that the curate is no longer teaching Hareton to read and write. Then Heathcliff appears in the doorway. Terrified, Mrs. Dean runs all the way back to Thrushcross Grange.

Heathcliff shows up later at Thrushcross Grange, and Mrs. Dean, peering out of the window, happens to catch him embracing Isabella Linton. Cathy overhears Mrs. Dean shouting "Judas! Traitor!" and looks out of the window too. They watch Isabella "tear herself free, and run into the garden." When Heathcliff comes inside, Mrs. Dean yells at Heathcliff. Cathy silences Mrs. Dean, saying, "To hear you, people might think you were the mistress ... you want setting down in your right place!"

Cathy demands that Heathcliff leave Isabella alone, and they fight over it. Heathcliff protesting, "I have a right to kiss her ... I am not your husband: you needn't be jealous of me." Cathy denies being jealous and says if Heathcliff likes Isabella he should marry her, but Cathy is certain he does not like Isabella. Then Heathcliff accuses Cathy of treating him "infernally" and threatens her: "If you fancy I'll suffer unrevenged, I'll convince you of the contrary."

Mrs. Dean leaves Heathcliff "brooding on his evil thoughts" and runs to Edgar, the master, to tell him exactly what she thinks about Isabella, Cathy, and Heathcliff's low behavior. Edgar agrees, exclaiming "this is insufferable," and he says it is "disgraceful that she should own him for a friend, and force his company on me!" Edgar goes downstairs to kick Heathcliff out of the house, which leads to a confrontation. Cathy takes Heathcliff's side and humiliates Edgar, telling him in front of Heathcliff, "If you have not the courage to attack [Heathcliff], make an apology, or allow yourself to be beaten ... I wish Heathcliff may flog you sick, for daring to think an evil thought of me!" Cornered, because Cathy has locked the front door from within and thrown the key in the fire, Edgar has no choice but to fight Heathcliff after he pushes Edgar's chair. Edgar punches Heathcliff in the throat and walks out the back door while he chokes. Obviously, Heathcliff will not be able to visit Thrushcross Grange again. Cathy tells Heathcliff to leave before Edgar comes back with men and pistols. "I'd rather see Edgar at bay than you," she says.

Heathcliff leaves and Cathy throws a fit. "I shall get wild," she tells Mrs. Dean, "say to Edgar ... that I'm in danger of being seriously ill. I wish it may prove true ... I want to frighten him." But when Edgar returns, Mrs. Dean exposes the manipulation, believing, "a person who could plan the turning of fits of passion ... might, by exerting her will, manage to control herself."

Edgar tries to make Cathy choose between him and Heathcliff, but not wanting to choose, she tells him, "Your cold blood cannot be worked into a fever; your veins are full of ice-water; but mine are boiling, and the sight of such chillness makes them dance." For the next several days Edgar sulks in the library, unaware that Cathy has locked herself in her room and refuses to eat.

Analysis

Doubling, the mirroring or reincarnating of one character in another, is a major part of Wuthering Heights. Mrs. Dean's confusing Hareton for the ghost of Hindley is the first double in the novel. It is significant that Hareton is no longer being educated because Hareton's character will repeat Heathcliff's childhood.

The uproar between Cathy and Heathcliff suggests a deterioration of love and friendship. The key to understanding why comes through Heathcliff's gripe: he is angry about the past, perhaps, but more important is his dissatisfaction with his current situation. His words are not the words of a man happy to visit Cathy from time to time, and his actions suggest he desires more.

Cathy chooses Heathcliff over Edgar during their fight, yet Edgar tries to make her choose between them later in the chapter. Was this internal choice inevitable? Cathy suggests that her and Edgar's love lacks passion. And passion is something Heathcliff and Cathy, being alike, need to survive. It is clear to Edgar by the end of the chapter that a line has been drawn, and this is why he responds by forcing her to choose. Because Cathy knows she will lose Edgar if she verbalizes her choice, she manipulates the situation to escape the consequences. At least it appears that way through Mrs. Dean's eyes. However, Mrs. Dean has admitted to not liking Cathy and favoring Edgar, and she tells on Cathy in this chapter, which makes a bad situation worse. This is another example of how the lower-class servants have power over their upper-class masters.

Ideas of pride are explored throughout the chapter, beginning with Cathy's chastisement of Mrs. Dean for not acting in her proper place. Heathcliff's pride is ruffled before the chapter begins (the fight brings out his anger), and Edgar's pride is instigated before the chapter ends. Cathy's pride causes her to make herself sick rather than apologize, reflect, or speak the truth. Mrs. Dean's pride adds to the strife, turning her impatient and cold-hearted toward Cathy. Pride leads all the characters astray, whether master or servant.

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