No Death to Conflict

Note: HC is Heathcliff

So, Mr. Earnshaw has died (the discovery of which was quite unfortunate), and this has varying degrees of impact on the children. Hindley was sent to college shortly before he passed, and when he came back for the funeral he brought his wife, Frances, with him. Upon returning to Wuthering Heights, Hindley seems largely unbothered (or he at least puts on that he is) by his father’s death, and given how Mr. Earnshaw treated Hindley, I cant say I blame him for not being too distraught. It is not long after his arrival that he turns his attention to Heathcliff and Cathy, his feelings towards which have not changed at all for the better. He refuses to treat HC as anything more than a laborer, and Catherine receives the same disdain he always had for her. It only goes downhill after Frances has their baby and is diagnosed with consumption. I myself did not realize just how much Hindley really cared for her until Nelly (Mrs. Dean) said “…he had room in his heart for only two idols– his wife and himself– he doted on both, and adored one, and I couldn’t conceive how he would bear the loss” (57).

In Hindley’s negligence, Catherine and Heathcliff grow as reckless as ever. This comes to a head one night when they are caught sneaking around the Linton’s estate: Thrushcross Grange. HC gets away but Cathy is caught and, as a result, spends five whole weeks with the Lintons while she recovers from a dog attack. I found this to be an awfully long time. Of course, I know that in the 1800s it wasn’t uncommon to say at a friend or relative’s house for months at a time, but she lived only a ways down the road, and her injuries were at most a sprained ankle.

Still, she stayed with the Linton’s and thus grew close with the family, especially the son Edgar Linton. The first time they come to the Earnshaw’s estate, they make no attempt to hide their elevated social and economic state, and this causes conflict with Heathcliff. HC is obviously going through a lot since Mr. Earnshaw died, and he is no longer shown any favor; I’m not making any excuses for him either because readers know that as much as you blame his standoffish personality, his manners and attitude are still deplorable. However, I don’t think it’s appropriate for the Linton’s to refer to him as being a “vulgar young ruffian” and “worse than a brute” and constantly talk about him like he is a lesser human (which, if we are being honest here, likely has something to do with the color of his skin as well) (59). It’s this discrimination that deters Heathcliff from the Lintons entirely, but Catherine is still increasingly drawn to Edgar and his lifestyle, which creates a divide between the childhood companions.

By this point, it is clear that one of the main themes in the novel Wuthering Heights is forgiveness versus punishment as well as who should give it and how it should be given. The scene that made me realize this happened after Hindley punished Heathcliff for trying to socialize with the Linton’s before Edgar made him feel small and unworthy (though seemingly unintentional). HC is fuming over having to be exiled to his room all night and tells Nelly how he will get his revenge, but she responds by saying, “It is for God to punish wicked people; we should learn to forgive.” The sentiment is lost on Heathcliff, however, as he says, “…God won’t have the satisfaction that I shall” (55).

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