Wuthering Heights: Chapter 7 - Summary & Analysis

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      Catherine remains at Thrushcross Grange for 5 weeks and returns home on Christmas eve. She had gone away as a tomboy, Heathcliff's equal but she returns transformed into a dignified, well-groomed, elegant young lady.

      She immediately asks for Heathcliff and after kissing him, bursts out laughing at his neglected and unkempt appearance. Hurt, angry and sensitive to the difference between them, he quickly dashes from the room and keeps out of her way for the rest of the evening. It is Christmas Eve and Nelly, remembering old Earnshaw's love for the boy, tries to encourage him to come into the kitchen but Heathcliff sulks and goes to his room without supper.

      Next day, however, he asks Nelly to tidy him up and when Cathy, with the two young Lintons, Isabella and Edgar, returns from the Church, he goes to greet them. Unfortunately, Hindley meets him and annoyed at seeing him neat and cheerful, pushes him roughly back, saying his manners were not fit for the company. Edgar Linton makes a disparaging remark about Heathcliff's long hair and as a result, receives a tureen of hot apple sauce on his face. Consequently, Hindley flogs Heathcliff and locks him in his bedroom without any Christmas dinner. Catherine is filled with scorn for her weeping guests and pities Heathcliff.

      In the evening, as everyone listens to the band from Gimmerton, Cathy contrives to slip up to Heathcliff's room and helps him escape to the kitchen but he is unable to eat the food Nelly offers him. He is lost in his own thoughts, and when Nelly asks him what troubles him, he answers, "I am trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last"

      The chapter ends with Lockwood persuading Nelly Dean to continue the story slowly, omitting nothing of importance.

Critical Analysis

      The fairy tale element of the novel is seen when Nelly describes Heathcliff as a prince in disguise. However, this is happy picture does not last. Heathcliff is ill-treated and this turns him into an 'imp of Satan' (chapter 4).

      For once in the novel we are given a picture of the traditional life of the country as it could be seen in farm-houses such as Wuthering Heights—the great fires, the sumptuous Christmas fare of goose: cakes, tarts, fruit and mulled ale, the carol singers and the village band. This Christmas cheer highlights the spiritual desolation all the more: Edgar and Isabella weep, Heathcliff is flogged (whipped), Catherine cannot eat her dinner. Nelly sadly remembers happier Christmases when old Mr. Earnshaw was alive. The dismal evening ends with Heathcliff's unchristian vow of revenge against Hindley. He is thus taking upon himself God's function of punishing the wicked. Yet we feel an overwhelming sympathy for Heathcliff has overcome his feelings of misery and despair and has tried to 'be good', only to be punished and treated as an outcast. This hardens his heart and begins a new phase of the action.

      We are henceforth always to see Heathcliff obsessed by bitterness and hate — the result of a denial of love and caring to him at this moment.

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