Wuthering Heights


Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Back at Thrushcross Grange, Lockwood starts feeling lonely and asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him about Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights. Nelly Dean says she grew up at Wuthering Heights with Hindley and Catherine Earnshaw, and tells Lockwood that Heathcliff has a dead son and is rich enough to live in a house grander than Wuthering Heights. She also explains that the young woman he met at Wuthering Heights is named Cathy, and is the daughter of Catherine Earnshaw and the previous tenant of Thrushcross Grange, Edgar Linton. Additionally, she says that Hareton is the last of the Earnshaws, a very old family.
Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights have been established as symbols of civilization and nature, respectively. Nelly now makes clear that the families that lived in the two houses are deeply entangled. The reference to Heathcliff's money and to Hareton's ancient family also brings up the question of class. If Heathcliff has so much money, why is he living in a weather-worn place like the Heights. And why is the high-class Hareton so rough?
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The point of view shifts from Lockwood to Nelly as she tells her story. Mr. Earnshaw, the former master of Wuthering Heights, was a strict but kind man. When Nelly was little, he returned from a business trip to Liverpool with Heathcliff, an orphan boy he'd found on the street. Earnshaw's daughter, Catherine, took to her foster brother almost immediately, but Earnshaw's son Hindley hated him. Hindley was jealous of his father's affection for Heathcliff and expressed his jealousy by bullying him. Heathcliff responded with silence. Only Mrs. Earnshaw, Earnshaw's wife, took Hindley's side against Heathcliff, but she died just two years after Heathcliff arrived.
Orphans are another common Gothic element. Heathcliff's status as an orphan also puts him in a peculiar position in regards to class—he is a low-class person brought into a higher class family. In other words, he's an outsider. And the fact that he was brought into the family, and in some ways stole Hindley's position, sets in motion the gears of revenge that will drive the rest of the novel—Hindley wants to regain his high position at the expense of Heathcliff, who (innocently, it must be said) took it from him.
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