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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 24

Cathy, against her father's orders, has been visiting Wuthering
Heights. Most of this chapter is her story. Showing once more
how cruel she can be, Cathy makes fun of Hareton for priding
himself on learning to read his name in the inscription over the
door. In passing, you learn something new about Hareton.
Before, he never quite understood why he was being mocked.
Now he does catch on, even though it takes him a while. His
pride, you learn, is quite different from Cathy's. Hers is an
exercise in power, as she tries to put herself above him. His
takes the form of a natural dignity, which has been affronted. If
you think that Cathy's mother rejected Heathcliff because he
was beneath her, then you will be able to see parallels in her
daughter's behavior.



NOTE: Many readers find the story of the second generation a
letdown after the high drama of the first, and certainly there is
a sense of moderation here. Take the younger Cathy, for
instance. Like her mother, she is given a fairly long speech
comparing the stormy-calm sides of life through natural
imagery. The daughter's idea of happiness is rocking in a
rustling green tree, with everything around her in motion. It's a
wonderful speech, but it's more static than her mother's
turbulent comparison of Edgar and Heathcliff, or her delirious
longing for childhood. Or think of Cathy's feeling for Linton.
She finally shows some understanding of his character here,
and he is given an endearing speech of his own. But Cathy's
feeling seems closer to pity than to love. What a far cry from
her mother's passion. There are many other examples in the
younger generation's behavior of a lessening of passion and a
growth of moderation. This diminishment is built into the
story. In chapters 18 through 28 Heathcliff comes dangerously
close to becoming a cardboard villain. His power is so
inexorable that the younger generation can't stand up against
him; they pale in comparison. Furthermore, a fight against total
evil is rarely as interesting as a struggle among complex
beings. What makes the fight between Hareton and Cathy so
interesting is the fact that Heathcliff doesn't cause it. The
younger generation seldom use words such as heaven and hell
or angel and devil. Ellen calls Cathy an "angel," but from her
that's like saying "dear." Even Heathcliff avoids references to
these unyielding forces. The absence of this mythic dimension
makes you realize that compared to their parents, members of
this generation have their feet on the ground. The story of
Cathy and Linton is told as it appears. Ellen rarely shifts from
the past to the present. In addition, Cathy's story is the only one
told by someone else. Think back on the first part of the book.
You had Cathy's diary, Heathcliff's description of Thrushcross
Grange, Cathy's delirium, Isabella's letter, Isabella's story.
These accounts gave the impression that many mysterious
things were happening at once. The story now has a more
plodding rhythm. Some readers think that this counterpoint
between the first and second halves of the novel is an integral
part of its theme. Others just want to get back to Cathy and
Heathcliff.

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