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Wuthering Heights | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


How does Cathy's illness in Chapter 9 of Wuthering Heights change her character?

In previous chapters, Mrs. Dean repeatedly mentions hoping something will "check" Cathy's inclinations toward arrogance, but her illness actually increases her sense of entitlement and selfishness. The doctor tells the servants and Hindley that vexing Cathy is dangerous, and she takes the notion to the extreme, considering "it was nothing less than murder" to be contradicted, thus confusing needs and wants with something analogous to survival. Hindley, who was previously quick to control Cathy and act parental toward her, now indulges her as the doctor orders. Just after recovery, Cathy's personality is made complete, and she is now someone who must have her own way, as evidenced in her demand that Mrs. Dean accompany her to Thrushcross Grange despite the narrator's tears and protestations.

What does Cathy mean when she says Edgar's soul "is as different from a moonbeam as lightning, or frost from fire" in Chapter 9 of Wuthering Heights?

Cathy is using imagery to contrast Edgar's temperament with her and Heathcliff's temperament. She says she and Heathcliff are like lightning and fire, which are both dangerous, hot-tempered, and wild. The heat of fire is also indicative of the passionate love Heathcliff and Cathy feel. Lightning signifies Cathy's unpredictability and Heathcliff's angry streak. Edgar, on the other hand, is like a moonbeam, which signifies a weak, gentle, and reflective character. Cathy's description of his character as being like frost implies Edgar is cold or rigid, unfeeling or reserved in temperament. It suggests he lacks passion. The comparison also alludes to Edgar's physical appearance, as his hair is blond and his skin is pale like the moon's duller light.

In Chapter 9 of Wuthering Heights, what do the pony and ensuing storm represent in connection to Heathcliff's leaving Wuthering Heights?

When Joseph returns from looking for Heathcliff, he mentions seeing the gate wide open and "miss's" pony gone, having trampled a few rows of corn in the fields. Joseph is referring to Cathy's pony, the same black pony she receives when she stays with the Lintons after their dog bites her on the ankle. It is likely Heathcliff, who is always in the barn and brushes the pony immediately when Cathy returns, let the pony out of the barn in angry haste. At least, it is meant to represent Heathcliff's departure, along with the night being too dark for searching. Heathcliff is often referred to as dark in the novel, physically and emotionally. The storm verifies Mrs. Dean's earlier hesitation to hear Cathy's dream, fearing "something from which I might shape a prophecy, and foresee a fearful catastrophe." The storm produces an angry mood to match Heathcliff's rage and create a sense of doom. It is like an orchestral accompaniment to Cathy's choice of Edgar, thus ignoring her own heart and her own intuition. Either wind or lightning knocks over the tree, and both have symbolic associations with Heathcliff, as Cathy compares him to "lightning" only hours before the tree falls.

How does Mrs. Dean's character change in Chapter 9 of Wuthering Heights?

Mrs. Dean, now in her early twenties, is stronger, bolder, and angrier than she has been in previous chapters. She makes fun of Hindley when he puts a knife between her teeth and threatens to kill her. She openly dislikes Cathy, and shows that she is intellectually and morally superior to Cathy, as well as more mature in matters of love. She agrees with Joseph that the storm feels like "judgment," which she associates with Hindley being a "Jonah" by running from his fatherly duty. Previously, she mocks Joseph's sermonizing. Generally, Mrs. Dean has grown more religious, also shown in her unwillingness to hear Cathy's dreams. Her feelings of being a "foster-sister" to Hindley and Cathy have dissipated as her role of servant has solidified.

In what way, if any, is Mrs. Dean responsible for Cathy's death in Wuthering Heights?

Mrs. Dean is so worried that Heathcliff means harm to Cathy, Edgar, and Isabella that she riles Edgar up to start a fight with Heathcliff, which spurs Cathy to make herself sick. Cathy accuses Mrs. Dean of being a "traitor" when Mrs. Dean fails to pity Cathy and assist in softening Edgar toward her. Then she calls Mrs. Dean a witch when Cathy realizes the truth. It is difficult for Mrs. Dean to feel pity for Cathy's insanity because she feels so strongly that Cathy is faking her illness for attention, and out of pity for Edgar, Mrs. Dean lets Cathy alone to make her own choices. Cathy, not having the benefit (as the reader does) of knowing Mrs. Dean's true feelings, expects Mrs. Dean to always be working for her benefit. However, Mrs. Dean thinks Cathy is arrogant, that she made the wrong decision when she chose Edgar, and that she is in the wrong in her marriage with Edgar and the way she treats Isabella. Mrs. Dean knows they humor Cathy, even though Cathy believes she yields to them for their happiness. Mrs. Dean never tells Cathy the truth, but she often judges Cathy privately. Mrs. Dean's absence of pity at a crucial moment, justified as it may be, leads directly to Cathy's illness and subsequent death, as a lack of pity usually has negative results in Wuthering Heights.

Why does Heathcliff think Isabella is a dishonor to the Linton name in Chapter 14 of Wuthering Heights, and what does Heathcliff's view of Isabella reveal about his character?

Isabella's love for Heathcliff disgusts him because he can abuse her and she will continue to love him. The fact that Heathcliff hung Isabella's dog and she still agreed to run away with him makes him suspect she has an "innate admiration" for brutality. He says it took the "labour of Hercules" in the form of incessant cruelty to make her hate him. He sees her devotion in the face of ill treatment as degrading behavior for a woman of her social status. Mrs. Dean's comment earlier in the chapter corroborates Heathcliff's viewpoint when she notices circumstances "altered their positions" and Heathcliff seems like a gentleman compared to Isabella, who appears a "thorough little slattern." Isabella has degenerated by being in the harsh environment of Wuthering Heights. It is significant that Isabella matches Heathcliff's negative character traits much more than Cathy ever did, yet Heathcliff thinks Isabella is not a good love match for him. It also shows that he really believes he has become a gentleman.

Why is it significant that Mrs. Dean asks Heathcliff if he understands what the word pity means in Chapter 14 of Wuthering Heights?

When Heathcliff cries out "I have no pity! I have no pity!" it implies he feels anguish over lacking pity, which actually suggests a kernel of pity within him. The way he elaborates on his inner nature, saying "the more worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails," conveys the idea that Heathcliff does know the difference between right and wrong; he is capable of experiencing guilt from all the pain he is constantly inflicting. He calls his own instincts "moral teething," and he says he "grinds with greater energy in proportion ... to the increase of pain" he produces in his victims. This implies anguish on a biblical level, as gnashing and grinding of teeth references a hellish state for the spirit cast away from God after biblical judgment. Then Mrs. Dean asks the significant questions that elevate the conversation to a thematic level. She wants to know if Heathcliff understands "what the word pity means" and if he has ever felt "a touch of it" in his life. This seems purposely constructed to make the reader consider whether a person for whom no pity has been shown can ever feel it for another person. It forces the reader to consider that Heathcliff's character might represent the answer to the question. Having lived a brutal life, his ability to empathize with others is stunted. Heathcliff's lack of empathy causes him pain, but it is as if he cannot help himself or be a better person.

What does Heathcliff mean by "infernal selfishness" in Chapter 15 of Wuthering Heights?

Cathy, clearly dying, has no pity for Heathcliff. She accuses him of killing her and enjoying it. She mentions, "How strong you are!" and bitterly asks, "How many years do you mean to live after I am gone?" She is dying, and she is speaking in a way that will cause him maximum pain long after her death. Her words convey intense anger that he will live on and she will be gone. In this moment, Heathcliff wanted to believe Cathy will be at peace in death, but she says, "I shall not be at peace," and takes away any chance to feel comfort Heathcliff is hoping for. He, still living, will have to bear her last words and her accusations, which will cause him torment. This is what makes him accuse her of "infernal"—meaning hellish—selfishness.

In Chapter 16 of Wuthering Heights why does Heathcliff want Cathy to haunt him after she dies?

Cathy and Heathcliff both identify their own feelings and souls with the other. They believe they can communicate when separated from each other and that they are each other in spirit, so the idea of Cathy being in a different emotional state, one of peace, is unbearable to Heathcliff. He also alludes to feeling guilty at having been partially the cause of her death, and he believes he should be punished for his actions. "The murdered do haunt their murderers," he says to Cathy's spirit. She did accuse him of killing her before she died, and he is grappling with her last words.

What does the locket that Cathy's corpse wears represent in Chapter 16 of Wuthering Heights?

Heathcliff ripping out a lock of Edgar's hair from the locket around Cathy's neck shows his possessiveness and jealousy over Cathy. It also represents Heathcliff's passionate belief that Cathy was meant to be his wife, not Edgar's, and vice versa, as Cathy did reject Edgar in the end and admit to Heathcliff she is dying for whatever she did wrong. Mrs. Dean's twisting the two locks together and placing them back inside the locket represents the relationships and intertwining destinies between the members of the household of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, as well as the associations of dark and light, being entwined creating a sense of peace.

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