Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Hindley returns from college for Mr. Earnshaw's funeral, surprising the family by bringing home a wife, Frances Earnshaw. Hindley's wife dislikes Heathcliff and tries, but fails, to bond with Cathy. Hindley, more conscious of status than ever, "became tyrannical," depriving Heathcliff of further education and forcing him to become a servant working on the estate's farm. Yet, Hindley is also "entirely negligent" in supervising them, unknowing that Cathy and Heathcliff sneak out to the moors every day.

One night, Hindley locks Cathy and Heathcliff out of the house as punishment for staying out too long. Mrs. Dean waits up for them, but Heathcliff returns alone. Earlier, Heathcliff and Cathy, raced across the moors to spy on their neighbors, the Lintons, at Thrushcross Grange. As they look through a window, curious to see how Edgar and Isabella, the Linton children, live and if they have more freedom, their laughter scares the children. Edgar and Isabella, who are in the middle of a fight over a puppy, practically pulling it apart between them, wake up their parents. Mr. Linton lets out a bulldog, and it bites Cathy on the ankle. A servant calls the dog off and brings Heathcliff and Cathy into the house. Mr. Linton, at first, thinks Heathcliff is a thief coming to rob him on rent day. Mrs. Linton recognizes Cathy and then remembers Mr. Earnshaw adopted Heathcliff. Still, the Lintons dislike Heathcliff and force him to return to Wuthering Heights without Cathy.

Analysis

The beginning of the chapter reinforces Cathy and Heathcliff's camaraderie and their vow to "grow up as rude as savages." Out on the moor, they are free both from harsh authority and from the differences in social status that otherwise would keep them separate. But by the end of the chapter, Heathcliff must watch from outside, looking through a window, as Cathy enjoys the comforts inside the Linton home. This foreshadows many future situations in which Heathcliff will be forced to watch Cathy lead a life of privilege from which he is excluded. This chapter also introduces Edgar and Isabella Linton, who will play the foils—which is a literary term for when opposites provide contrast—of Heathcliff and Cathy. Thrushcross Grange also acts as a foil, representing social propriety as a contrast to the wildness and violence found at Wuthering Heights.

Dogs appear at crucial moments throughout the novel, such as Mr. Lockwood's earlier encounter at Wuthering Heights. The dogs often appear at moments when a boundary of some kind is being crossed. For example, a dog bite signals the start of a major shift in Cathy and Heathcliff's relationship. Her injury by the Linton's bulldog immerses Cathy in the upper class society she shuns yet belongs in. The dog bite also divides her from Heathcliff, who is sent home without her because the Linton's disapprove of his "low" status and scowling. In fact, Mr. Linton thinks Heathcliff might be better off dead for everyone's sakes. His assumption is that Heathcliff's appearance foretells his future actions, and they are sure to be bad.

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