Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 4 | Summary



Back at Thrushcross Grange, Mr. Lockwood finds out that Mrs. Dean, a servant, has lived there for eighteen years and knows about Heathcliff and Cathy's past. He entices her to keep him company and gossip about their neighbors at Wuthering Heights. Mr. Lockwood really wants to find out more about Cathy.

Mrs. Dean begins at the point in the past when Heathcliff, a homeless orphan, is brought home by Mr. Earnshaw from a trip to Liverpool. Before he leaves for his trip, Mr. Earnshaw asks his children, Cathy and Hindley, what gifts they would like him to bring back from Liverpool. Cathy wants a whip, and Hindley wants a fiddle. Remembering the young servant in training, Mrs. Dean—called Nelly or Ellen at that time—he promises to bring her apples and pears.

However, Mr. Earnshaw loses the whip, and the fiddle is crushed on the long walk home with Heathcliff. Exhausted when he arrives, Mr. Earnshaw says the trip nearly killed him. He tells his family to take Heathcliff as "a gift of God ... though it's as dark almost as if it came from the devil." Mrs. Earnshaw calls Heathcliff "a gipsy brat," but agrees to take him in. Cathy and Hindley, disappointed at losing their gifts, treat Heathcliff badly, even spitting on him, but Cathy eventually befriends him, and he becomes Mr. Earnshaw's favorite.

Ellen, the future Mrs. Dean, despises Heathcliff too, until Hindley, Cathy, and Heathcliff get the measles. Ellen then steps wholly into her position as a servant and cares for the sick children. Heathcliff's sweetness during his illness changes her feelings toward him. Still, she wonders what Mr. Earnshaw loves so much about Heathcliff to favor him over Hindley. Then she recalls when Mr. Earnshaw bought two horses, one for Hindley and one for Heathcliff. Heathcliff picks "the handsomest," but when it falls lame, he demands Hindley's horse. Hindly refuses to trade, so Heathcliff picks a fight, provoking Hindley to violence, so he can use his bruises as proof to make Mr. Earnshaw beat Hindley. Hindley gives Heathcliff the horse, saying, "I pray that he may break your neck" and calls Heathcliff "imp of Satan." Ellen persuades Heathcliff to take the horse and not tell on Hindley. Since he takes her advice, she mistakenly believes him "not vindictive."


The structure of Wuthering Heights changes in Chapter 4, leaving the present. Through its second narrator, Mrs. Dean, it dives into the past. Mr. Lockwood's character fades away and becomes peripheral to the story. The chapter also establishes Mrs. Dean's social status. She quickly corrects herself when she says "us" while referring to the Lintons—a wealthy family whose storyline hasn't developed yet. The reader will come to learn Mrs. Dean is truly a part of the family, but her station in life as a servant prevents her being acknowledged as such by the other main characters. While the novel largely focuses on the upper classes, their story is related by a narrator who is a servant, bringing into question Mrs. Dean's trustworthiness. As the novel progresses, the reader will need to consider Mrs. Dean's role in the other characters' lives, whether she is an unreliable narrator, and what her true intentions are at different times as the story unfolds.

The theme of good versus evil, symbolized by the fiddle and whip, develops in Earnshaw's first words about the young Heathcliff. Which is Heathcliff, a gift or a curse? Which will Heathcliff become, good or evil? Is he already evil when he arrives? Does he turn the Earnshaws toward evil, or do they turn him into the bitter, twisted man he eventually becomes? As this chapter reveals the roots of discord between the main characters, it explores the source of Heathcliff's evil—nature or nuture? Cathy, already "mischievous" and "wayward," adopts Heathcliff as a playmate, but not before she and Hindley ridicule and shame him. Is she to blame for Heathcliff's evil nature? Hindley, rejected by his own father, who previously doted and spoiled him with gifts, turns violent against the "usurper." Is Heathcliff truly a usurper at this point? Is Hindley's violence toward Heathcliff the cause of Heathcliff's later vindictiveness? Heathcliff, described by Mrs. Dean, is a contradiction from the start: he is a "lamb" with the measles, yet there is evidence against him: an unknown background and a "sullen" disposition. From the start Heathcliff inspires strong, opposing reactions of love and hate.

Earnshaw's description of the dark "gipsy" child as demonic and his wife's outrage at the boy's origins also highlight stereotypical assumptions about race and class. Heathcliff is also a homeless, penniless orphan, the lowest of the low on Victorian England's social ladder.

Documents for Chapter 4

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Questions for Chapter 4

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what is the answer to this: list 5 things from chapter 4 with the theme of friendship
I need answers whit this question! Responding to SCAS Chapter 5 and Robots No unread replies. No replies. 1. Read SCAS Chapter 4. 2. Watch Robots on YouTube or elsewhere (use the link I provided on Ca
what is the context of "He poked about with a bit of stick that itself was wave-worn and whitened and a vagrant, and tried to control the motions of the scavengers. he made little runnels that the tid
I need answer on this. Responding to SCAS Chapter 5 and Robots No unread replies.1 1 reply. 1. Read SCAS Chapter 4 by Matthew crawford 2. Watch Robots on YouTube or elsewhere (use the link I provided
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