Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 27 | Summary

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Summary

Edgar Linton will die soon, and Catherine is always at his bedside. On the day she is supposed to meet Linton, she doesn't want to go, but Edgar urges her, finding comfort in knowing she won't be alone in the world after he dies. Mrs. Dean thinks Edgar is mistaken in thinking Linton is like him in character just because they look alike, "for Linton's letters bore few or no indications of his defective character."

When Linton arrives on the moors, he's angry Catherine is late: "Is your father not very ill? I thought you wouldn't come." Catherine takes offense, urging him to tell the truth, that he only pretends to like her. But that is not the problem. Linton is terrified, but he won't say why. He'll only say he'll be killed if Catherine leaves him, then he breaks down, sobbing and holding onto her skirt. When it looks like she will stay, he says, "perhaps you will consent." Feeling Linton is hiding something from her, Catherine asks, "You wouldn't hurt me, Linton, would you? You wouldn't let any enemy hurt me?" Linton admits something is wrong; Heathcliff threatened him, but he can't tell her why.

Heathcliff shows up and lures Catherine and Mrs. Dean back to Wuthering Heights, using the excuse that Linton is too sick to walk on his own and too afraid to let Heathcliff touch him. "Come then, my hero. Are you willing to return escorted by me?" Heathcliff says sarcastically, but it's actually a ploy. Back at Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff convinces Mrs. Dean and Catherine to come inside, and when they enter, he shuts the door and locks it. Observing Catherine and Linton, Heathcliff says to Mrs. Dean, "It's odd what savage feeling I have to anything that seems afraid of me! Had I been born where laws are less strict and tastes less dainty, I should treat myself to a slow vivisection of those two, for an evening's amusement."

Catherine's furious Heathcliff has locked her in when her father is dying. She wrestles the key from his hand, biting and scratching, but he grabs her and hits her head. Mrs. Dean attacks, calling Heathcliff a villain, but Heathcliff pushes her back. Meanwhile, Linton is perfectly composed now that he is out of danger, which disgusts Mrs. Dean. Then Linton explains Heathcliff's plan: he wants Catherine and Linton to marry before Edgar dies.

When Heathcliff returns, Catherine begs him to let her go home. Catherine agrees to marry Linton; she asks only to go home first, so Edgar knows she is safe. Heathcliff says no and locks them in Zillah's room. The next morning, he lets Catherine out, but Mrs. Dean is held prisoner for the next five nights.

Analysis

This chapter is the climax of the story-within-the-story in the novel. Pointedly, Heathcliff calls Linton "hero" when Linton's laying a trap for his beloved, which is not heroic at all. As the love interest in the second half of the novel, Linton, morally weak and physically dying, is a failed romantic hero; he lacks the charismatic energy necessary to bend the universe to his will, be a champion of individuality, and overcome the dark forces of his father's hatred to be Catherine's champion. The chapter is built to expose Linton for all that he really is: once the threat of violence is gone, Linton turns back to his upper-class, spoiled nature. Catherine is emerging the true romantic hero of the story-within-the-story. She physically fights Heathcliff, and though he overpowers her, she does not give in to flaws that subsume other characters. Since the beginning of her relationship with Linton, Catherine has been the romantic pursuer, transgressing traditional (for the time the novel was written) social boundaries of male and female.

Heathcliff's larger role of antihero in the novel is temporarily dropped to villain status. Mrs. Dean literally calls him "villain" to make it clear, and the idea is woven throughout the chapter; it hardly needs declaration. Whatever hope the reader had of redemption for the antihero Heathcliff, it is annihilated in this chapter with his gruesome, Gothic notion—when he suggests cutting into and eating the children while they are alive, and for pleasure.

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