Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 30 | Summary

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Summary

It is about six weeks after Mr. Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange. Mrs. Dean hasn't seen Catherine since Heathcliff took her to Wuthering Heights. Mrs. Dean runs into Zillah on the moors, and Zillah gossips about what's happened since Catherine came to live there:

The first thing Catherine does when she arrives at Wuthering Heights is to run upstairs to check on Linton, without stopping to say hello to Zillah. Then Catherine comes downstairs and requests a doctor or help for Linton because he'll die otherwise, but Heathcliff tells her, "None here cares what becomes of him; if you do, act the nurse; if you do not, lock him up and leave him." So Catherine nurses Linton as best she can. She asks Zillah, Joseph, and Hareton for help, but they all fear Heathcliff and refuse to help. Zillah explains to Mrs. Dean, "Though I thought it wrong Kenneth should not be sent for, it was no concern of mine ... once or twice ... I've seen her crying on the stairs'-top; and then I've shut myself in quick for fear of being moved to interfere. I did pity her then, I'm sure; still, I didn't wish to lose my place, you know."

The night Linton dies, Catherine is silent and exhausted. Heathcliff asks her how she feels, and she tells him "you have left me so long to struggle against death alone, that I feel and see only death." Zillah gives Catherine some wine, and Heathcliff leaves her alone for a fortnight. When Catherine emerges from her room, she is angry with everyone because of all she's gone through: "When I would have given my life for one kind word ... all kept off." Zillah says, "The more hurt she gets, the more venomous she grows."

In the aftermath of Linton's death, Zillah encourages a romance between Catherine and Hareton, to which Mrs. Dean objects. Zillah says, "You happen to think your young lady too fine for Mr. Hareton ... but I own I should love well to bring her pride a peg lower ... what will all her learning and daintiness do for her now?" Zillah also tells Mrs. Dean that Heathcliff coerced Linton to sign a will leaving Thrushcross Grange to him, but since Linton is a minor, he couldn't leave the land; it belongs to Catherine. But having no money or friends, Mrs. Dean supposes, Catherine will not be able take the house from Heathcliff. Mrs. Dean considers renting a cottage for her and Catherine to live in, but she knows Heathcliff would never allow it.

Mrs. Dean's story has ended. Mr. Lockwood tells the reader he plans to go back to London, so he's going to visit Wuthering Heights to tell Heathcliff he's leaving.

Analysis

This chapter continues to explore the negative aspects of division between social classes. Neglecting to say hello causes distance between Catherine and Zillah, who would have been a good ally for Catherine. Zillah judges Catherine rather than pities her because she does not know, as the reader does, everything Catherine has suffered and that Catherine is the humblest of the privileged characters—at least, according to Mrs. Dean. The novel's structure, using the difference between Mrs. Dean's narration and Zillah's viewpoint supports the judgment versus pity theme. Catherine seems prideful, but really, she is in a terrible situation requiring a great deal of inner strength. Also, the abusive and violent Wuthering Heights environment strikes again with its tendency to have a negative effect on every character that lives there.

Catherine's predicament—being Linton's sole caregiver, alone with the horror of death—is a very Gothic scenario, and it continues the exploration of apathy from Chapter 27. Heathcliff leaves Catherine to fend for herself or choose apathy. Here, apathy equals violence—if the reader carries Catherine's alternate choice through to its conclusion and envisions the horror of Catherine actually leaving Linton to die utterly alone. Also, Zillah finds pity for Catherine at times, but she shuts the door to shut out her feelings. This illustrates how fear is stronger than pity, and it shows how fear creates apathy. Zillah is not entirely against Catherine; she is unwilling to risk her job, but she does advise Catherine to pursue a relationship with Hareton. This demonstrates the powerful impact servants have in their masters' lives; how much servants are willing to risk for their masters, or how much empathy they have for them, can alter their destinies or dramatically affect their emotional wellbeing.

Zillah points out that Catherine is poorer than she and Mrs. Dean, highlighting the reality for privileged women from the novel's time; under the wrong circumstances, it is better to be a servant earning a wage than a woman of privilege under the rule of a cruel male tyrant—husband or relative.

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