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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes
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Compare this opening with the opening of Chapter 9. In the
earlier chapter Heathcliff saved baby Hareton from a dangerous
fall. Ellen tells you that now Heathcliff has "saved" Hareton
from acquiring an education and good manners, and has taught
him to curse his father and go his own way. This is a good
measure of the change in Heathcliff.

Keep Chapter 9 in mind as you read the rest of this chapter. In
both, Cathy is asked to make an impossible choice between
Heathcliff and Edgar, and ends up making herself sick.

When Ellen tells Cathy she saw Heathcliff embracing Isabella,
Cathy is jealous. She confronts Heathcliff, who in turn accuses
her of having treated him "infernally," expressing his anger
even more strongly than he did at the first meeting. Yet when
Edgar comes in and tells Heathcliff to leave, Cathy lashes out
at her husband.

Here you have it at last, the showdown. It has been set up
perfectly. The two rivals are now equals. Heathcliff is no
longer a servant boy with all the "adults"- the elder Lintons,
Hindley, and Joseph-against him. Each man is forced, to some
extent, to fight on the other's terms. Heathcliff is at
Thrushcross Grange, where Edgar has servants at his
command. Edgar, the weaker of the two, is forced to fight
physically, which is contrary to his nature.

NOTE: Most readers find that their sympathies are divided
between these two rivals. Heathcliff, you feel, should have won
Cathy, yet he is behaving abominably. The fight centers on a
lock and key. Cathy has locked out the servants who are
supposed to come to Edgar's aid, and when he tries to wrench
the key from her, she throws it in the fire. For the rest of the
book Heathcliff will often be the "keeper of the keys"- with all
the freedom and the mastery over others that this implies.
When he isn't, as he's not in this scene, he will break down the
door. (This will be explored more fully in Chapter 27.)

There's no real resolution to the fight, of course. In trying to
have both men, Cathy has ended up pleasing neither. When
Heathcliff leaves, Edgar asks her to chose between them, and
she refuses. Instead, she throws herself into a fit.

NOTE: Think now of the role Ellen plays in both scenes.
Earlier she didn't tell Cathy that Heathcliff was listening, and
then didn't inform her immediately of his departure. This time
she's the one who tells Cathy of Heathcliff and Isabella's
embrace, who tells Edgar that Heathcliff and Cathy are
fighting, and who advises Edgar not to take Cathy's fit
seriously. All of Ellen's intrigues have disastrous
consequences; her meddling annoys everyone. In her defense
you can argue that she was probably trying to avoid larger
conflicts (Cathy and Heathcliff confronting each other in
Chapter 9; Heathcliff insinuating himself further into
Thrushcross Grange now). Whether events would have
unfolded as they did without her interference is something
you'll have to decide for yourself.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes

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