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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 10

Mrs. Dean broke off her narrative in the last chapter, and we're
still in the present as this one begins. Lockwood has learned
he'll be confined to bed until spring because of the fever.
Despite his love of solitude, he misses people terribly.

Heathcliff visits, and surprises everyone with his friendly and
entertaining behavior. What a difference between his present
state and the savage "ploughboy" that ran off in the last
chapter. His friendliness reinforces your sympathy for him.
You're inclined to excuse his "genuine bad nature" the way
Lockwood excuses him for causing his illness. When
Lockwood asks Ellen Dean to continue her story, he refers to
Heathcliff as the hero, and to Cathy as the heroine. You may
see them in the same light, but your sympathies for them will
soon be tested.



When Ellen Dean describes the Lintons' early married life, it's
clear that she's firmly allied with Edgar, who preserves peace
in the house by humoring Cathy. At first this doesn't seem to
represent a change in Ellen's point of view, which has always
been basically anti-Cathy, rather than pro-anyone else. But now
that Heathcliff has returned, the Heathcliff-Edgar conflict will
become more explicit, and she will-understandably-take
Edgar's side.

When Ellen announces Heathcliff's return to the Lintons, she
enters a scene of perfect domestic tranquility: from the window
you can't even see Wuthering Heights, that place of storm. But
as soon as the Lintons learn of Heathcliff's presence, Bronte's
language again becomes violent. Cathy's embrace of Edgar
tightens to a squeeze, and she seizes Linton's reluctant fingers,
and crushes them into Heathcliff's.

When Ellen Dean first sees Heathcliff she doesn't recognize
him-his looks, clothes, posture, and manners have greatly
improved, at least in the eyes of the world. He puts Edgar to
shame. You get the strange feeling that Heathcliff had made a
pact with the devil. (How did he transform himself? You are
never told.) He does seem not quite of this world anymore, and
he shows a new harshness under his gentility. He says he
struggled only for Cathy, and he warns her against trying to
drive him away again.

In Chapter 9 you saw that Cathy wanted to have both
Heathcliff and Edgar. She tries to perform the same balancing
act here, too, and manages to keep them on an outwardly
friendly footing for a while. The truce can't last for long,
though, just as it couldn't that Christmas day years ago when
Edgar ended up with applesauce on his face. This time the fight
is caused by Isabella's infatuation for the new, gentlemanly
Heathcliff.

NOTE: When Cathy tells Isabella to stay away from Heathcliff,
she calls him "an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone"; that
is, a wilderness with spiny shrubs and hard rock. He is not "a
pearl-containing oyster," but a "wolfish" man who would crush
Isabella like "a sparrow's egg."

Cathy's not the only character who uses plants and animals to
describe the people in this book; everyone does. On almost
every page someone is being compared to a tree, a
honeysuckle, a dog, a lamb, or some other animal. Weather-
related terms are used too (Edgar gets upset if a servant grows
"cloudy" at one of Cathy's orders), and so is fire (Heathcliff's
eyes are full of black fire). Since Emily Bronte lived in the
country, it was only natural for her to find metaphors and
symbols in the world that surrounded her. Nature and the
supernatural (heaven-hell, angel-devil) are her frames of
reference, the things by which all else is judged. This seems to
place her closer temperamentally to Wuthering Heights than to
Thrushcross Grange.

Cathy tells Heathcliff of Isabella's infatuation in the girl's
presence (a surprising cruelty that will be amply punished), and
Heathcliff is horrified. "You'd hear odd things if I lived alone
with that mawkish, waxen face," he says; "the most ordinary
would be painting on its white the colours of the rainbow, and
turning the blue eyes black...." It is a chilling statement that
gives you a glimpse of the tortured man behind the
gentlemanly veneer.

When Heathcliff asks about Isabella's property, Cathy says that
Edgar will have many male heirs to wipe out his sister's claim.
The question remains in your mind: is Cathy right to accuse
him of greed? If not, why doesn't he deny Cathy's charges?

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