Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 13 | Summary



Cathy has recovered from the brain fever, but she will never be the same. Also, she and Edgar are expecting a baby.

Mrs. Dean receives a letter from Isabella. In the letter, Isabella asks how Mrs. Dean "preserved the common sympathies of human nature" while living at Wuthering Heights, and she asks "Is Heathcliff a man ... or a devil?" Then she describes her first night at Wuthering Heights, where, arriving without Heathcliff, Joseph shoves a torch fire in her face, and Hareton threatens to sic his dog Throttler on her. Inside, there is no servant to help her, so she wanders around the house, eventually running into Hindley, who has long, shaggy hair now, curses Heathcliff, and appears insane to Isabella. Hindley shows Isabella the pistol he embellished with a spring knife on the barrel. He lurks outside Heathcliff's bedroom door every night, planning to kill him if the door is ever unlocked. The only thing really stopping him from killing Heathcliff is the chance to get back his money and Wuthering Heights. Holding the gun, Isabella is struck by how powerful it makes her feel, which astonishes Hindley, and he jealously snatches the gun away from her.

In the kitchen, Joseph sticks his fingers in the oatmeal, so Isabella offers to cook it, but Joseph yells at her for making it lumpy. Meanwhile Hareton drinks the milk they are supposed to share straight from the jar, getting his spit in it. Disgusted and exhausted from traveling, Isabella tries to find a bedroom to eat and rest in, but Joseph—angry at her for acting finicky—shows her there is nowhere for her to sleep. Heathcliff keeps his bedroom locked, and no one is allowed inside. Isabella throws the oatmeal on the floor, and Joseph leaves her there, hoping Heathcliff sees her act that way, so he will beat her. Just then, Throttler comes in, and Isabella realizes he's a dog from Skulker's litter, a puppy Old Mr. Linton gave Hindley long ago. Throttler nuzzles Isabella and eats the oatmeal off the floor. Then Isabella hides in Hareton's room until Joseph comes upstairs to put him to bed. Finally, Isabella falls asleep in a chair by the fire. Heathcliff returns and wakes her up, asking why she is sleeping there. When she says it is because our bedroom is locked, he takes offence at the word our, saying "It is not, nor ever shall be" their bedroom to share.


Two central questions in the novel are brought back into the reader's mind: What makes people good and what makes them become bad? And, how can good come from a malevolent and abusive environment? Hareton supplies the strongest example in the chapter when he threatens Isabella with a dog attack from Throttler in response to her kindness—even the name of the dog underscores the violent Wuthering Heights environment, just as the dog Skulker alludes to Thrushcross Grange (throttle meaning to choke or strangle and skulk meaning to hide in cowardice). And Hareton, by training and a bad environment, is shown to be like an attack dog.

That Isabella grew up not in the environment of Wuthering Heights but in the gentle environment at Thrushcross Grange is significant because it provides a contrast and sets up a new situation for the reader to witness firsthand what may become of good when it is surrounded by violence. Often in the novel, major characters, in due course, enter into a battle between good and evil, pride and humility, pity and judgment, and Isabella's first test happens when she holds Hindley's gun and it makes her feel powerful.

Earlier in the novel, Isabella and Edgar became foils to contrast Cathy and Heathcliff: Edgar and Isabella shown to be spoiled and petty while Cathy and Heathcliff are portrayed as strong, free, and down to earth. In this chapter, the use of Isabella as a foil changes. Cathy is more like Isabella was as a child, and Isabella appears to have grown stronger and humbler than Cathy. Making the connection, readers will be curious to see if Wuthering Heights changes Isabella as Thrushcross Grange has changed Cathy.

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