Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 8 | Summary



Mrs. Frances Earnshaw, wracked by consumption, gives birth to Hareton Earnshaw and dies shortly after in Hindley's arms. The loss causes Hindley to curse God, take up drink, and behave more cruelly than ever, causing all of the servants to flee and everyone else to avoid visiting.

Mrs. Dean admits to not liking Cathy and trying to "bring down her arrogance," while Cathy and Heathcliff remain good friends, but only in private, as Cathy finds herself torn between him and her new friend, Edgar Linton. One day, Cathy turns on Heathcliff who appears unexpectedly just as Edgar is about to arrive for a visit. Cathy continues to act out in frustration, pinching then slapping Mrs. Dean, shaking baby Hareton, and hitting Edgar when he tries to intervene. Edgar threatens to never return to Wuthering Heights, but Cathy convinces him to stay; they make up and confess their feelings of love for each other.


This chapter examines the connection between evil and violence and the cycles they create when characters suffer pain and frustration, particularly the pain of separation, and their responses set off chain reactions in which violence and evil create more of the same. At the crucial moment when something resembling peace is possible in the novel, the death of Hindley's wife causes him to spiral back into his violent behavior. Mrs. Dean paints a dark picture for the reader to show that evil creates violence and violence creates more violence, a core message in the novel. Notice Mrs. Dean's verbiage throughout the chapter as the novel continues to explore the effects of a negative environment on the characters. Hindley descends into evil because he "neither wept nor prayed; he cursed and defied: execrated God and man," Mrs. Dean tells the reader, and thus, he becomes violent: Hindley's treatment of Heathcliff "was enough to make a fiend of a saint." His evil behavior is shown to be infectious. It spreads throughout Wuthering Heights—to all the characters—from Heathcliff seeming "possessed of something diabolical at that period" to Joseph being the only other servant to stay because he has such rich opportunities to reprove evil. Even the curate refrains from coming to the house Mrs. Dean now describes as "infernal," and in the center of the action, Cathy is riled to violence, physically hitting multiple characters. That hitting Edgar provokes him to confess his love is telling; it foreshadows later insights into Cathy and Edgar's relationship.

Mrs. Dean's character is also quite different in this chapter. She is more angry and spiteful, telling the reader she's been vexing and mocking Cathy on purpose, and she's happy when Cathy lashes out at Edgar and shows him her true colors.

Cathy has her own problems, having "adopted a double character" as she is torn between Edgar and Heathcliff. As the three last names that Mr. Lockwood sees etched into Cathy's window ledge suggest, she suffers from a fractured sense of identity. She acts one way with the Lintons, where she behaves in a ladylike fashion. She also fails to defend Heathcliff when the Lintons belittle him. She acts another way when she is at Wuthering Heights, where she and Heathcliff are "unruly" together as always, and she underplays her attachment to the Lintons.

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