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Wuthering Heights | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


What is the significance of the contrasting imagery between Linton's and Catherine's versions of a perfect way to spend a day in Chapter 24 of Wuthering Heights?

The contrasting imagery accompanying Linton's and Catherine's descriptions of what each believes would be the "most perfect idea of heaven's happiness" serves the purpose of reflecting the characters' dispositions and highlighting how they are not really suited for each other. Linton's perfect day includes seeing only one type of bird; Catherine, who is more curious, desires many types of birds. There is no movement in the imagery associated with Linton's ideal, but Catherine's trees are "rocking," the "wind blowing," and the clouds are "rapidly moving," reflecting how Linton is sickly and cannot suffer to move around much, but Catherine likes to be active. When Catherine mentions wishing for a variety of birds, she lists the cuckoo bird among her preferences. This connects back to Chapter 5 when Mrs. Dean tells Mr. Lockwood that Heathcliff's history is a "cuckoo's." A real cuckoo bird will invade another bird's nest, lay its eggs, and leave the responsibility of hatching and raising its chicks to the other bird. This is an apt reflection of Heathcliff's character and Wuthering Heights as a whole. Catherine does not mention the unusual breeding habits of the cuckoo bird. The other meaningful interpretation in the contrasting imagery between Catherine and Linton comes through in the contradiction of lovers fighting over the "perfect idea" of how to spend time together.

What do Catherine and Linton's interactions during the game they play in Chapter 24 of Wuthering Heights mean in relation to the past?

Catherine suggests they use the toys with the initials H. and C., standing for Heathcliff and Cathy, no doubt, to match their own names, which effectively links the event in the present with the past. Therefore, when Linton demands the better toy, this recalls when Heathcliff, used to being pampered by Mr. Earnshaw, demands the better horse from Hindley. Throughout the novel, history repeats itself, but it contorts, reflecting the personalities of the characters in the next generation. This device creates dramatic irony, so that the reader knows more than the characters. It almost serves as a special effect, as in a film, and it adds to the quality of the novel as a ghost story. Just as Cathy's spirit is at the window early in the novel and is thought to be watching throughout, the view is of the ghost, lingering and capable of seeing more than is possible in one lifetime.

Why is Catherine hateful to Hareton in Chapter 24 of Wuthering Heights?

The most obvious reason Catherine is hateful to Hareton is because she can tell he likes her and wants to be near her, but she is trying to show loyalty to Linton. Under the surface, she is attracted to Hareton because they are similar and both share a love of animals and exploring nature, but she perceives him as inferior to her socially, and she is offended by his ignorance—the bond they share is one of physicality and nature, not of intellect. They have shared memorable moments of kindness, and before Catherine knew Hareton was related to her, she was happy to meet him. Further, Catherine is ignorant of the past; she cannot, as Mrs. Dean advises her, understand the idea of his ignorance being an injustice, not an innate character flaw. Catherine is not a good judge of character. She is equally blind to Linton's faults, as she is to Hareton's qualities.

How do the female characters in Wuthering Heights find ways to empower themselves?

The female characters in Wuthering Heights live in a time period when women had very little political, personal, or financial power. Yet each female character finds her own way to gain influence or some type of personal power over the male characters. Unfortunately Cathy is the most tragic character because she exerts power through injuring herself. Because she possesses an innate power to arouse love and desire in Edgar and Heathcliff, it follows that her weapon against them is to make herself disappear. Isabella's power corresponds to the male characters in the same way. She arouses disgust in Edgar and Heathcliff, and once she realizes the truth, she uses their negativity and apathy to empower herself by running away and freeing herself from them. Mrs. Dean empowers herself more craftily than Isabella and Cathy; she makes herself indispensable as a servant, acts "in her place" most of the time, and works her influence in hidden ways; it also helps that she has childhood roots with Hindley, Heathcliff, and Edgar, and she helps to raise all of their children, further securing her position by stepping into the role of a mother. Catherine empowers herself by pleasing her father naturally, standing up fearlessly to Heathcliff's bullying and threatening, and aligning with Hareton against Heathcliff. She also uses Joseph's own superstitious fears against him, causing him to fear her in return, even though she does not actually practice witchcraft, which shows how savvy she is in protecting herself.

What does Catherine's agreement to marry Linton in Chapter 27 of Wuthering Heights suggest about her character?

Even though Catherine tells Linton, "I love papa more than I love you," she is desperate to not disturb her dying father, so she yields to Heathcliff, showing heroic qualities under pressure in maintaining a calm demeanor to reach her noble goal. She is being set up as a character willing to do her "duty" when demands are made on her. Mrs. Dean says she gives in to "indulgent tenderness." She shows patience, forbearance, and vigilance in sickness, all qualities with strong religious associations. Linton begs her, "Leave me, and I shall be killed!" Perceiving what Linton's confusing implications are leading to when he asks, "You will not go then? ... perhaps you will consent" before she truly grasps his evil plan, Catherine responds, "To stay! tell me the meaning of this strange talk, and I will!" This suggests she already knows what Heathcliff is forcing Linton to do and why, and it is actually her choice to go back to Wuthering Heights—to save her cousin. She does not fully realize how dangerous Heathcliff actually is or how cruel Linton really is, but, still, Catherine's character shows through her actions that she is willing to be brave, merciful, and dutiful whether Linton deserves help or not.

What are Linton's true feelings toward Catherine in Wuthering Heights?

Linton's terror is more prominent than his love, but he does show love for Catherine at times, such as when "her magnamity provoked his tears," he kisses her hand, begs for her forgiveness, and passionately displays self-hatred for his cowardice and betrayal. Also, the first thing he says when he sees Catherine is "Is not your father very ill? I thought you wouldn't come." This subtly suggests he harbored a hope she would not come, and then he would not have to betray her. Later, when she asks him, "You wouldn't injure me ... you wouldn't let any enemy hurt me, if you could prevent it?" her words include trust in him, and Linton does tell her the essence of the truth, enough to warn her, which can only be motivated by some genuine fondness or love for her, considering how terrified he is of his father's abuse.

How is Linton's behavior in Chapter 27 of Wuthering Heights related to the theme of violence and revenge?

As soon as the threat of violence is alleviated, Linton turns callous and perverse in a way typical for the "indulged" children in Wuthering Heights, conveying a core message about violence in terms of apathy: as long as the violence is happening to someone else, all is well. Linton's demand for a new cup of tea because Catherine's tears have fallen into his cup makes this point very effective. Catherine is taking abuse on his behalf, but he will not drink her tears, meaning share kindly in her sorrow. Linton's change in mood from "intense anguish" outside of Wuthering Heights to what Mrs. Dean describes as "the little wretch's composure" once he felt safe illustrates the power of fear to create apathy toward violence and produce cowardice incapable of standing up to violence.

Why does Heathcliff ask Catherine, "How do you feel?" right after Linton dies in Chapter 30 of Wuthering Heights?

Heathcliff is not inclined to ask other characters the nature of their feelings, so it is particularly noticeable when he asks Catherine how she feels. Since in the previous chapter Heathcliff has been utterly consumed by Cathy's death and living in painful torment from his pursuit of seeking a visible glimpse of her ghost, it is likely the intention is to continue the idea of Heathcliff's obsession with death by having Heathcliff ask a strange and out-of-character question. He is at least curious about Catherine's feelings for some reason. That Heathcliff's relentless cruelty toward Catherine abates briefly after she answers the question suggests he has found some satisfaction in Catherine's response. She says she has felt so "alone" for so long with death, she can "see only death" and feels "like death." Contented that she feels as he does toward death, Heathcliff leaves Catherine alone and orders Zillah to wait on her. In an earlier chapter, Heathcliff blames Catherine for Cathy's death. Perhaps he feels satisfied from having exacted revenge by making her feel as he did.

How is Zillah similar to or different from Mrs. Dean in Chapter 30 of Wuthering Heights, and how do the differences or similarities relate to bigger ideas in the novel?

In the past, Mrs. Dean tries to help young Heathcliff clean up and impress Cathy the same way Zillah wants to help Hareton impress Catherine. In the past, Mrs. Dean wants Cathy's arrogance to be checked, so her pride will diminish the same way Zillah says about Catherine, she "should love well to bring her pride a peg lower" in the present. They are alike except Zillah sees Catherine as Mrs. Dean saw Cathy. Since Zillah is looking in from the outside, in a sense, judging Catherine without knowing as much about her as Mrs. Dean or the reader, the juxtaposition here leads the reader to wonder if perhaps Mrs. Dean gave an incomplete or unfair assessment of Cathy in the past. Maybe she judged her unfairly the way Zillah unfairly judges Catherine. However, there is one point that comes through powerfully since Mrs. Dean and Zillah both corroborate it: however different Catherine is from her mother, she is exactly like Cathy—repeating Cathy's treatment toward Heathcliff—when it comes to Hareton—through both Mrs. Dean and Zillah's eyes. Through the servants' juxtaposed perceptions, Catherine's one true flaw as seeing herself superior to Hareton stands out prominently.

In Chapter 31 of Wuthering Heights how has Catherine's character changed since the first time Mr. Lockwood meets her before his illness?

When Mr. Lockwood enters, Catherine is in the act of preparing vegetables for dinner. The last time Mr. Lockwood saw Catherine she was awkwardly attempting to make tea. This suggests she is more comfortable in Wuthering Heights than she was previously. Catherine carves "birds" and animals out of the turnip parings, which is a significant contrast to the previous occasion when she threatens Joseph that she will make "wax modells" of everyone in the house to use to practice magic. This suggests Catherine is less angry and rekindling her true, kind nature, even if slowly. She actually speaks to Hareton, as if they are becoming friendlier when she dreamily wishes to be riding her horse and spending time outside, telling him she's bored. Catherine is still uninterested in Mr. Lockwood and socializing with an outsider. In the beginning of Wuthering Heights, Catherine fought with Joseph, but in Mr. Lockwood's second visit, she chooses to eat dinner in the kitchen with Joseph, and the way Heathcliff gives her permission implies it is a preferred dining choice, suggesting she and Joseph have moved closer to being civil to each other. She does fight with Hareton and degrade him ruthlessly, so, in this way, Catherine's character has not grown or changed since Mr. Lockwood first met her.

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