Wuthering Heights: Chapter 12 - Summary & Analysis

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      A grim scenario greets us at the beginning of the chapter. Catherine remains locked in her bedroom. Edgar stays in his study with his books; Isabella mopes in the garden; only Nelly goes stoically about her usual duties around Thrushcross Grange.

      Catherine emerges from her room on the third day. She is weak and suffering from delirium. Nelly gives her tea and toast. Catherine cannot bear to think that Edgar is indifferent to her condition, and becomes more agitated and wild, tearing the pillow with her teeth. Then she begins to contemplate the feathers as she pulls them out. Her mind constantly reverts to life at Wuthering Heights and to her childhood with Heathcliff. Her ravings recall aspects of story already significant to us; the clothes press and the oak-paneled bed of the room where Lockwood had his nightmare; the fire tree which tapped on the window; the death of old Mr. Earnshaw and Hindley's ill-treatment of Heathcliff, the first visit to Thrushcross Grange. In her state of delirium, she becomes unmanageable and climbs out of bed, and leans out of the window in the cold night air. Hearing voices, Edgar comes in and is horrified and shocked at Cathy's haggard appearance. He. blames Nelly for making light of Cathy's condition and for not informing him of her serious state. He tries to soothe Cathy but she has realized the spiritual violation she has committed on herself by marrying Edgar and rejects his love. She tells him, "I don't want you, I'm past wanting you. Return to your books. I'm glad you possess consolation, for all you had in me is gone."

      Nelly sets out to fetch the doctor and as she passed through the garden she finds Isabella's dog suspended by a handkerchief from a hook in the wall almost in its last gasp. It is soon discovered that Isabella has gone off with Heathcliff and Edgar severs all relationship with Isabella.

      Dr. Kenneth, who had attended on Catherine during her previous fever, is disturbed at her state but does what he can for her.

Critical Analysis

      Catherine's delirium and ravings reveal a mind which is almost unhinged. Her deep love for Heathcliff also revealed. She has almost a premonition that she will die before spring and it is significant that she tells Edgar that she would like to be buried in the open air with a headstone, and not among the Lintons under a chapel-roof. She is a child of the wild heath much as Heathcliff is and. the proper, dignified but mild-mannered Edgar with his refined sense of love and honour is no match the wild passions of his wife.

      Edgar, truly loves Cathy. His solicitude about Cathy's condition is genuine And he scolds Nelly for failing to inform him of Cathy's serious condition.

      In the midst of all this trouble, it is discovered that Isabella has eloped with Heathcliff. Bronte makes little of the actual elopement, emphasizing the plight of the little dog Fanny more than that of Isabella herself.

      Edgar receives the news in a dignified and stoical manner. He does not fly into a rage and merely says. "She went on her own accord: She had a right to go if she pleased. Trouble me no more about her."

      By the end of this chapter, it appears that all the characters are pursuing their own ends. We may recall Nelly's introduction of this phase of the story back in Chapter 10: "Well, we must be for ourselves in the long run; the mild and generous are only more justly selfish than the domineering".

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