Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

Mrs. Dean visits Isabella at Wuthering Heights. Before she leaves she asks Edgar to send a letter, forgiving Isabella. Edgar replies he's not angry, just sorry for her, and he never wants to see her again. Edgar's coldness depresses Mrs. Dean.

When Mrs. Dean arrives, she is shocked to find Heathcliff "was the only thing there that seemed decent, that he would certainly have struck a stranger as a born and bred gentleman ... and his wife as a thorough little slattern!" They discuss Cathy, and Mrs. Dean mentions she is nothing like the Cathy he knew and that Edgar sustains his love for her by "the remembrance of what she once was, by common humanity, and a sense of duty!" Heathcliff hates the idea of Edgar having only duty and humanity to make him feel for Cathy. He asks Mrs. Dean "Do you imagine that I shall leave Cathy to his duty and humanity?" Heathcliff intends to visit Cathy, and he wants Mrs. Dean to help him. Mrs. Dean tells Heathcliff a visit from him would kill Cathy. Heathcliff wants to know if Cathy would suffer if Heathcliff were to "go to extremes"—meaning harm Edgar. Then he tells Mrs. Dean what makes him different from Edgar is that he would never harm Edgar as long as Cathy wanted to be with him. "If you don't believe me, you don't know me," he tells Mrs. Dean when she looks doubtful.

Mrs. Dean says Cathy has forgotten Heathcliff, which makes him laugh: "for every thought she spends on Linton she spends a thousand on me!" He says he was a fool to think Cathy ever loved Edgar, and, "It is not in him to be loved like me: how can she love in him what he has not?" Isabella tells Heathcliff to stop speaking of Edgar that way, but Heathcliff reminds her that Edgar "turns you adrift on the world with surprising alacrity." Mrs. Dean implores Heathcliff to treat Isabella better, to remember she is a lady and accustomed to being waited on. Heathcliff says Isabella is delusional ... that he never lied to her about who he is and that she has an "innate admiration" of brutality.

When Isabella goes upstairs, Heathcliff persuades Mrs. Dean to sneak a letter to Cathy and arrange a visit at Thrushcross Grange in the near future.

Analysis

This chapter provides a window into Heathcliff's emotional logic and moral values as he describes how he would treat Cathy if he were Edgar, why Isabella disgusts him, and what he understands about himself. As Mrs. Dean tries to advise him on what is right and proper, he thwarts her with his own logic at every turn. The reader learns that pity, duty, charity, and humanity, to Heathcliff, are shallow emotions and motivations. Heathcliff does not say explicitly what morality he believes in. Implicitly, his love for Cathy seems to be the basis for Heathcliff's morality, the only thing about which he has strong feelings of right and wrong.

Heathcliff is happy because he is certain Cathy loves him more than she loves Edgar, he is better for her, and only he can match her depth of love, a direct echo of Cathy's earlier "I am Heathcliff!" epiphany. The message for the love theme here is that lovers must be alike in their natures for love to be true. The contrast in the chapter between Heathcliff and Edgar also shows that Heathcliff has some qualities, he is capable of love, and he may not be a hero, but he is not the villain.

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