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Free Study Guide-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-Free BookNotes
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Chapter 8

Summary

In the summer of 1778, Frances, Hindley's wife, gives birth to a son. One week later she dies of tuberculosis. The child is given into Nelly Dean's complete charge. Hindley "gives himself up to reckless dissipation" and shows little interest in his son. His tyrannical conduct drive away most of the servants; only Nelly and Joseph stay behind. At the same time, Hindley becomes more cruel toward Heathcliff, who tries to ignore him while delighting in his tormentor's deterioration. Almost nobody visits Wuthering Heights, but Edgar Linton sometimes comes to see Catherine. Edgar, however, seems intimidated by both Hindley and the beautiful, proud Cathy.

One afternoon, in Hindley's absence, Catherine invites Edgar over. Unfortunately, Heathcliff also wants to spend the day with Cathy. Cathy tells Heathcliff of her plans, and when Heathcliff protests and accuses her of preferring the Lintons to him, she gets very irritated. She tells Heathcliff that she does not enjoy his company any longer. When Edgar arrives, Catherine compares her two male friends and becomes aware of the vast differences between them.

Catherine displays violent behavior when Nelly refuses to leave her alone in the room with Edgar. In spite of the maid's presence, the meeting concludes with a declaration of love between Cathy and Edgar. When Mr. Hindley arrives home drunk, Edgar leaves and Cathy returns to her room.

Notes

This is an important chapter to the plot development of the novel. Hindley's son is born, Frances dies, Cathy judges Heathcliff harshly, and Edgar and Cathy declare their love for each other. Hindley's son, the newest member "of the ancient Earnshaw stock," is named Hareton. He becomes important in the novel, for he and the youngest Cathy will fall in love and marry.


The chapter greatly develops the stormy character of Cathy. She hits Nelly, shakes little Hareton, and slaps Edgar. It is appropriate that Nelly calls the girl too proud to be pitied. She cares little for the feelings of others and demands to have her own way. Even Edgar, her newfound love, tells her, "You've made me afraid, and ashamed of you." However, Cathy quickly makes up with Edgar, and the two of them then declare their love for each other.

The death of Frances marks the beginning of Hindley's total downfall. In this chapter, he is seen as brutal and morose. Not surprisingly, his treatment of Heathcliff, who is now sixteen, becomes even worse than before. Nelly says his behavior is bad enough to "make a fiend of a saint." Heathcliff also seems to be changing. Nelly says of him that he seems "possessed of something diabolical." He openly shows his disgust, has become unsociable and morose, and has acquired "a slouching gait" and "an ignoble look." He is openly angry that Cathy has befriended Edgar and Isabella, now refusing to concentrate all her attention on him. When Heathcliff accuses her of not talking to him anymore, Cathy bluntly tells him that he is not worth conversing with.

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