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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 12

Cathy shuts herself in her room and won't eat for two days. On
the third day, Ellen enters the room and is shocked by the
change. Cathy's face is wasted, and her manner is strange and
exaggerated. Cathy's revenge on Edgar and Heathcliff is to kill
herself. (Remember that when his wife died Hindley tormented
others and started to drink himself to death. You will see more
of this reaction.)

NOTE: Cathy says that Heathcliff set a trap over the nest of
some lapwings; the older birds wouldn't come near it, so the
babies died.

In a similar manner, many of the parent-child relationships in
this book are distorted and cruel. Mr. Earnshaw detests
Hindley; Hindley nearly kills Hareton; and Hindley as a
substitute father mistreats Cathy and Heathcliff. Heathcliff,
another substitute father, does everything he can to degrade
Hareton. Often this is due to some outside agent, like the trap
put over the lapwing nest. Heathcliff comes between Mr.
Earnshaw and his son, and the death of Hindley's wife makes
him lose any real interest in his son. In every case, it's the child
who is vulnerable, almost as vulnerable as the baby lapwings.



Though Bronte's characters have painful childhoods, they also
remember their youths as times of freedom and innocent,
animallike joy. Soon after she speaks of the lapwings, Cathy
says, "I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and
free... and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them!"

You have contrasted the qualities of Wuthering Heights and
Thrushcross Grange (stormy-calm, etc.). You should now add
another: between child and adult. The Wuthering Heights type
characters-Heathcliff and Cathy, especially-behave in many
ways like children even when they're grown up; they have little
self-control, for instance. The Thrushcross Grange qualities of
courtesy and self-restraint belong more to the adult world.
Does that explain why the Thrushcross Grange characters, like
Edgar and Isabella, are the good parents? Emily Bronte's
obvious love for the vulnerable age of childhood softens you
toward many of the sins of those who live at Wuthering
Heights.

It is Cathy's reliving of her childhood now that makes you
forget how difficult a person she was in the previous chapter.
She talks distractedly for a while, and when she refers to a
clothes press that is not there, you know she's hallucinating.
The clothes press, you may remember from Lockwood's
description in Chapter 3, is back in her old room at Wuthering
Heights.

Cathy sees a face in the press (which is in fact a mirror), and
screams that the room is haunted. The ghostly face she sees is,
of course, her own. What a chilling reminder of the "ghost"
that Lockwood sees. Cathy, imagining herself back home,
relives her first separation from Heathcliff (this is the scene
that Lockwood reads in her diary). Longing to be out in the
heather, she throws open the window, just as she tried to get in
through the window in Lockwood's dream.

In her delirium Cathy accuses Ellen several times of being a
witch, trying to harm her. Considering the harm that Ellen has
caused her, there may be a grain of truth in this.

When Edgar comes in, he's horrified. He asks Cathy again if
she loves Heathcliff, and again she hushes him. Why? Cathy's
images of unhappiness in this scene have all revolved around
her separation from Heathcliff.

As Ellen goes to get help, she notices Isabella's pet spaniel
hanged with a handkerchief, and hears hooves galloping away.
Emily Bronte tantalizes you by slowly giving you clues to the
other drama of the night: the elopement of Heathcliff and
Isabella.

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