Wuthering Heights: Chapter 21 - Summary & Analysis

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      Catherine is disappointed to find that her cousin has gone when she wakes up. Two years pass. Nelly keeps receiving news of life at Wuthering Heights from the housekeeper. The accounts of Linton are uncomplimentary. His weakness and selfishness make him unpopular at the Heights. He is constantly sick with colds, coughs, aches and pains and spends a great deal of time in bed. There is now a new housekeeper at the Heights — Zillah—whom Lockwood has met on his visit to the Heights.

      Catherine we are told, is to celebrate her sixteenth birthday on March 20th but it being also the anniversary of her mother's death, Edgar very rarely indulges in celebrations. He invariably spends the day alone in the library or walks to his wife's grave at Gimmerton.

      On the day she is sixteen, Catherine is given permission to go with Nelly for walk on the moor. Running ahead, she meets Heathcliff and Hareton who invite her to the house despite Nelly's objections.

      At the Heights, Catherine sees Linton again now a tall youth of fifteen. She realizes then that Heathcliff is her uncle and he tells her that the two families have been separated because of his quarrel with Edgar in the past.

      Heathcliff frankly admits to Nelly, his desire to see Catherine and Linton married so that on Linton's death he (Heathcliff) can inherit the Thrushcross Grange.

      Linton however, seems at first to be disinterested in Catherine and it is Hareton who proceeds with her to the garden. Hareton is as clumsy and boorish as ever and Heathcliff rejoices in it. Yet he compares him very favorably with his-own son; 'gold put to the use of paving stones', whilst Linton is tin polished to ape a service of silver.

      Linton is finally, persuaded to follow Hareton and Cathy outside where Cathy is asking about the inscription over the door. Catherine and Linton then cruelly mock Hareton for being unable to read his own name inscribed over the front door.

      After much urging from Nelly, Cathy and Nelly return home in the afternoon. The next day Cathy tells her father of the visit. Greatly distressed, he tries to explain to her Heathcliff's diabolical nature, but Catherine brought up in gentle and loving circumstances cannot comprehend such cruelty and she refuses to believe her father. Edgar warns to cut off all ties with the Heights. 

      As the weeks pass Cathy becomes very secretive and one day Nelly discovers a bunch of letters from Linton in a drawer. A milk boy has been acting as a go between carrying letters from one to another. Nelly, though very angry at the deceit, is persuaded by Cathy not to tell Edgar. Nelly burns the letters and sends a note to Linton asking him to refrain from sending further letters.

Critical Analysis

      There is much development of pilot in this chapter. Heathcliff's plan of revenge is taking concrete shape with Cathy being introduced to Linton and Linton being encouraged to woo Cathy. Heathcliff's evil intention is to secure Thrushcross Grange for himself by getting Linton to marry Cathy.

      Hareton continues to suffer brutish degradation to atone for the indignities his father had heaped on Heathcliff's head. Heathcliff seems totally irredeemable and like the devil himself when he proudly talks of his despicable achievement in bringing up Hareton:

      "And he'll never be able to emerge from his bathos of coarseness and ignorance, I've got him faster than his scoundrel of a father secured me, and lower; for he takes a pride in his brutishness"

      Catherine at sixteen is a sparkling beauty with health and spirits. Linton on the other hand is sickly, pale and languid. Heathcliff seems to be convinced that Linton will die early and thus he himself will inherit Thrushcross Grange.

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