Wuthering Heights: Chapter 14 - Summary & Analysis

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      Nelly tells Edgar of Isabella's return and begs forgiveness for her, but he insists there shall be no communication between the two houses. However, he allows Nelly to go to Wuthering Heights. Nelly finds the house dirty and cheerless. Isabella herself is wan and listless, untidy and neglected. She looks a slattern. She is bitterly disappointed at receiving no letter from Edgar.

      Nelly informs Heathcliff that Cathy is recovering though she would never be her old self. Nelly praises Edgar's devotion and love for Cathy and the way he has nursed her during her long illness.

      Heathcliff is not impressed by Nelly's praise of Edgar and mocks at his humanity and sense of duty. He believes that Cathy can never forget him and that their love for each other is deeper than anything Edgar can experience.

      When Isabella tries to defend her brother, Heathcliff scorns her and derides Isabella's passion for him. He calls her an abject thing, a disgrace even to the name of Linton, and boasts of all he has made her endure: "The more the worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails".

      Desiring to talk to Nelly privately, he brutally pushes Isabella out of the room. He refuses to allow Nelly to leave until she has promised to carry a letter for Cathy and try to arrange a meeting between them.

Critical Analysis

      Heathcliff appears more of a monster than ever. He has acquired outward civility, but has become more of a savage than before. His treatment of Isabella is brutal and her assessment of him is correct when she says, “Don't put faith in a single word he speaks. He's a lying fiend, a monster and not a human being the single pleasure I can imagine is to die or see him dead."

      Heathcliff thus, evokes the hatred of almost everyone he comes in contact with.

      However, he is not a totally unredeemed man. His great love for Cathy is proof of this. Bronte here underlines the passionate intensity of Heathcliff. He does nothing by halves. He loves as fiercely as he hates. He can be entirely hateful towards Isabella and yet bear an entirely selfless love for Catherine fuelled by a burning passion within him.

      Heathcliff's passionate intensity is a contrast to Edgar's coldness. Edgar withholds even his anger from Isabella. He only sorrows for her. Nelly's description also shows him tending to Catherine through 'duty' and 'humanity' rather than through love. His love for Cathy pales into insignificance compared to Heathcliff's whole-hearted and fierce love for her. It seems Heathcliff is right when he says Cathy cannot recover at the Grange for, "he (Edgar) might as well plant an oak in a flower pot, and expect it to thrive, as imagine he can restore her to vigor in the soil of his shallow cares."

      The bond, the affinity between Cathy and Heathcliff is mysterious and inexplicable. One can recall the cry wrenched out from Cathy's soul, "I am Heathcliff" in chapter 7.

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