Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Course Hero. "Wuthering Heights Study Guide." September 29, 2016. Accessed July 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Wuthering-Heights/.

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 3 | Summary

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Summary

Zillah, a servant at Wuthering Heights, leads Mr. Lockwood to a bedroom Heathcliff never allows anyone to sleep in. Mr. Lockwood takes his candle into the bedroom cabinet (a bed inside of a closet) and finds a woman's name, Catherine, etched repeatedly on the window ledge, with variations on three different last names—Heathcliff, Linton, and Earnshaw. He also finds Cathy's diary and some notes she has written in the margins of old books. In the diary, Cathy writes about her childhood with Heathcliff. She details her brother Hindley's domineering mistreatment of them (he is especially hard on Heathcliff, whom he exiles from family life) and the servant Joseph's insistence on force-feeding them the Bible. She describes how Heathcliff is waiting to sneak out at night to the moors with her as soon as she finishes writing in her diary.

After reading the stories, Mr. Lockwood falls asleep and has two terrible nightmares. In the first nightmare, Joseph chastises Mr. Lockwood for not having a pilgrim's staff and hands him a weapon instead. They pass the Gimmerton chapel, which looks as it does in real life, run down and without a clergyman; but in the dream, a famous preacher, Jabez Branderham, preaches to a full congregation. Inside the chapel and bored by the sermon, Mr. Lockwood, the dreamer, "pinches" and "pricks" himself to stay awake when "a sudden inspiration ... to denounce Jabez Branderham" seizes him. "Fellow-martyrs, have at him!" Mr. Lockwood cries out, but the congregation attacks Mr. Lockwood, not Jabez Branderham. Having no weapon now, Mr. Lockwood wrestles Joseph for his weapon. The members of the congregation brawl with each other as the preacher taps loudly on the "boards of the pulpit," and the sounds wake Mr. Lockwood up. He realizes that a fir tree branch scraping against the window has created all the noise in his dream.

In the second nightmare, Mr. Lockwood remembers the fir tree banging against the window, so he breaks through the glass to silence the annoying scraping sounds. However, instead of a tree branch, Mr. Lockwood's "fingers closed on the fingers of a little ice-cold hand." He hears a voice sobbing, "Let me in—Let me in," so he asks, "Who are you?" The ghost tells him she is Catherine Linton. The ghost refuses to let go, and when she finally does, Mr. Lockwood piles the books against the window and closes his eyes in terror. The books jump a bit on the ledge, and that causes him to wake up screaming.

Heathcliff enters the bedroom. When he discovers Mr. Lockwood is sleeping there, he threatens to kick Zillah out of the house for defying him. Mr. Lockwood tells Heathcliff about his dream and refers to Cathy as "a little fiend" and "a wicked little soul." Heathcliff is enraged, and Mr. Lockwood remembers reading in Cathy's diary that they were good friends in their youth. Heathcliff then cries passionately for Cathy, opening the window to let her spirit in.

The next morning, Mr. Lockwood refuses breakfast, desiring to leave as soon as possible. Heathcliff walks him through the snow partway to Thrushcross Grange, leaving Mr. Lockwood to find the rest of his way home by himself. After sinking in snowdrifts up to his neck and losing his way several times, he arrives soaking wet and exhausted.

Analysis

Mr. Lockwood's nightmare and Cathy's first appearance as a ghost in the novel raise questions: Who is Cathy? How did she die? Did she indeed have three last names, signifying two marriages? She terrifies Lockwood who thinks she is demonic. From her first appearance in the novel, Cathy's identity is fragmented, foreshadowing how she will be associated with shifting identities and allegiances as she is torn between her family, her husband's family, and Heathcliff.

Cathy's appearance as a ghost adds another Gothic dimension to the story. She crosses the boundary between the living and the dead. Wuthering Heights is a haunted house both literally and metaphorically. Characters throughout the novel are haunted psychologically by brutal childhoods, lost love, illness, or other factors. Heathcliff's unusual response to Cathy's ghostly visitation, for example, demonstrates how deeply she haunts his existence years after her death. Cathy's ghost is a child, suggesting how deeply events in the novel are rooted in a traumatic past.

Cathy's diary reveals a childhood full of repression, cruelty, and rebellion that will haunt her and Heathcliff all their lives. These incidents cause the children to become allies against their cruel mistreatment and against religion. The wild landscape mirrors the characters' emotions as the children seek an escape on the moors, where they feel free to be themselves, unmediated by authority: "We cannot be damper, or colder, in the rain than we are here."

Mr. Lockwood's first nightmare of enduring a "four hundred and ninety" part sermon reflects the way in which Cathy and Heathcliff shunned Joseph's type of religious instruction. It is significant that Mr. Lockwood wrestles Joseph, as the Biblical character Jacob wrestled with an angel, foreshadowing religious struggles for many characters.

Heathcliff succumbs to tears as he begs Cathy's ghost to stay, rousing pity and compassion in readers even after Mr. Lockwood has asserted Heathcliff's "genuine bad nature." The explanation for how he came to be so "inhospitable" and angry will be rooted in the story of his childhood and relationship with Cathy.

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