Wuthering Heights: Chapter 8 - Summary & Analysis

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      In the summer (June) of 1778 Hindley's wife Frances, gives birth to a son Hareton Earnshaw. Frances, however, never recovers, and her health deteriorates till a year later she dies in Hindley's arms. Nelly Dean takes complete charge of the child Hareton. Hindley is so affected by his wife's death that he behaves like a demented man cursing God and man. He begins to lead a life of reckless dissipation. Life at Wuthering Heights thus worsens, the servants leave and even the curate no longer makes a call.

      By the time Catherine is fifteen, in 1780, she has become a beauty. However she is as haughty, headstrong and arrogant as ever. She leads a double life—ladylike, dignified and well-behaved with the Lintons, but wild and unrestrained at home. She is courted by Edgar Linton and she seems to have less and less time for Heathcliff causing him hurt and misery.

      Heathcliff lacks all supervision and education and deteriorates in every way. Neglected and unloved, he takes pleasure in arousing aversion rather than esteem.
One afternoon, when Hindley is away, Heathcliff comes in hoping to spend the afternoon with Cathy, but is annoyed and angry to find that she is expecting Edgar Linton.

      Catherine upset over her quarrel with Heathcliff takes it out on Nelly. Nelly retaliates by insulting her in front of Edgar. Losing her temper completely Catherine slaps Nelly, shakes little Hareton and hits Edgar on the ears when he tries to intervene. Edgar is shocked to see Catherine behave in this unlady-like manner and is prepared to leave. However, Catherine weeps and Edgar returns. The incident ends with both of them declaring their love for one another.

Critical Analysis

      Here we see that Frances, the record generation of Earnshaw dies leaving behind the child Hareton. Hindley for all his cruelty towards Heathcliff obviously loved his wife so deeply that her death makes it impossible for him to lead a normal life.

      The reader's sympathy for Heathcliff is further aroused as we see how he is unable to compete with the elegant Edgar Linton. His education is totally neglected and he has to labor at rough and dirty jobs around the farm for long hours. The circumstances, the ill-treatment and cruelty towards Heathcliff are all responsible for his desire for revenge as he grows up.

      Catherine, we see is very much prone to fits of temper. Her unstable nature is here revealed to Linton too, who has till then only seen her as a lady. However, her tears win him over and thus the chapter forwards Edgar Linton courtship of Catherine — a further cause of angry disappointment to Heathcliff.

      The theme of passionate love and revenge are to be noted here. The love Hindley has for his wife Frances is definitely more passionate than normal — so much so that it destroys him when Frances dies. Violence is part of this theme and violence is seen in Catherine's wild behaviour. Heathcliff's love for Catherine is rebuffed and this makes him burn with a passionate, intense desire for revenge.

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