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Free Study Guide-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-Free BookNotes
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Chapter 5


As the years go by, Mr. Earnshaw becomes an invalid. He is still, however, protective of Heathcliff, whom he prefers over his own son Hindley. The old man is easily angered whenever Heathcliff is abused, and this only serves to make relations worse between Heathcliff and Hindley. At last, following the curate's advice, Hindley is sent away to college. After the son's departure, Mr. Earnshaw is plagued by Joseph and Catherine. Joseph gains tremendous control over the master with his sermons. He complains about Heathcliff and Catherine all the time, and he holds Catherine responsible for whatever wrongs they commit. She also provokes her father by showing off her power over Heathcliff. This upsets her father, who asks her to pray to God for forgiveness. At first she takes offense at her father's advice, but later she openly laughs at his spiritual counsel.

One October evening Earnshaw dies quietly in his chair. Catherine, Heathcliff, and Nelly cry bitterly. Later, Nelly finds Catherine and Heathcliff comforting each other with a beautiful picture of Heaven.


The chapter describes in quick succession the animosity of Hindley towards Heathcliff, the closeness between Catherine and Heathcliff, the departure of Hindley for college, the growing weakness of old Mr. Earnshaw, the exploitation of his master by Joseph, the scolding of Catherine by her father, and Earnshaw's eventual death.

Hindley looks upon Heathcliff as a rival, for he senses that his father prefers this foundling to himself. His deep hatred and cruel treatment of the Heathcliff creates a great deal of strife in the house. Mr. Earnshaw always stands up for Heathcliff, and only his poor health prevents him from striking Hindley. He, however, shakes with rage when injustice is meted out to Heathcliff. Finally, in order to bring peace to the house, Hindley is sent away to college.

The chapter also throws some light on Joseph's character. Not liking Catherine or Heathcliff, he tries to create a rift between her and Mr. Earnshaw. He blames all the trouble in the house on this mischievous daughter. He also proves himself to be cunning, gaining control over his master by his pretentious and pious talk.

Catherine reveals herself to be a self-assured and dominating kind of person. Although most of the household cannot stand Heathcliff, she judges the newcomer as her closest friend in life and states that the greatest punishment on earth for her would be separation from Heathcliff. Despite her warm feelings for him, she also tries to control Heathcliff and angers her father by saying she has more power over the boy than he does. Because Earnshaw finds Cathy to be a vexing bother, he continually scolds her; as a result, Cathy becomes hardened to his criticism, caring little about her father's opinion of her. She also openly defies Joseph and ignores his religious exhortations to her.

This chapter introduces complications in the plot. Mr. Earnshaw, the guardian and protector of Heathcliff who prefers the adopted child to his own children, dies; there is now no one around to keep others from treating Heathcliff in a cruel or unkind manner. Hindley immediately begins to torment and abuse his old enemy. Even though his cruelty to Heathcliff is terrible, it is almost understandable, for Hindley has felt abused by his own father.

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