Wuthering Heights: Chapter 23 - Summary & Analysis

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      Next day, after a wet night Cathy in accordance with her wishes, goes to the Heights along with Nelly.

      They find Joseph smoking and drinking in the kitchen beside a roaring fire. However, Linton in the absence of Heathcliff is totally neglected by everyone. His fire is nearly out and he is coughing and feverish.

      Linton is in a querulous and complaining mood. He complains against everyone at the Heights and accuses Catherine too, of neglecting him. Nelly gets no thanks, though she has made the fire for him.

      Cathy is touched by his illness and tells him that next to her father and Nelly, she loves him the most. This soon leads to a quarrel between the two, regarding their parents. Cathy gets so angry that she pushes his chair violently. Linton falls into a paroxysm of coughing which frightens both Nelly and Catherine. Nelly however suspects that he is exaggerating his condition. Catherine pets and soothes him and sings for him. She believes she can save his life with her care.

      On their way back Cathy and Nelly argue and Nelly forbids Cathy to return to Wuthering Heights. During the walk, Nelly's shoes and strings are soaked through and this brings on a chill. She is confined to bed for three weeks and Catherine divides her day between nursing her father and Nelly. Her evenings are her own, however, and she rides over the moor to visit Linton at Wuthering Heights without Nelly's knowledge.

Critical Analysis

      This chapter establishes a strong contrast between the passionate fierce love that Heathcliff and Catherine had for each other, and the love of the younger Cathy and Linton, which is but a pale shadow. What Cathy feels for Linton is pity rather than love though she fails to realize it. It seems unconvincing that Cathy defies the wishes of her father whom she claims to love so much, in order to have a relationship with the weak and far from attractive Linton.

      Cathy appears selfish too, in not realizing the discomfort caused to Nelly in walking across the damp moor. She is however, a very kind and caring nurse to both Nelly and her father.

      We see yet another example of her deceit as she once more betrays her father's and Nelly's trust by going secretively to Wuthering Heights. The imagery of keys and locked doors once again appears. Cathy tells Nelly "The Grange is not a prison ... You are not my jailer", thus, asserting her independence. Indeed, she is to learn later, that not the Grange but the Heights will be her prison and not Nelly but the diabolic Heathcliff will be her jailer.

      Linton appears more sick than ever in this chapter and it is puzzling that Cathy is ready to risk everything for him.

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