Plot – The story starts when Mr Lookwood, the temporary tenant of Thrushcross Grange, asks the housekeeper Nelly Dean to tell him the story of the owners of Wuthering Heights. It all began about twenty years before, when Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights, brought back from Liverpool an orphan, Heathcliff. Mr Earnshaw had a daughter, Catherine and a son, Hindley. After his father’s death, Hindley treated the foundling brutally while a deep understanding grew between Cathy and Heathcliff. One day, Cathy met Edgar Linton of Trushcross Grange; he fell in love with her and they got married even if she still loved Heathcliff. Heathcliff disappeared and came back only after three years, mysteriously rich. He started his revenge, first on Hindley, then on Edgar’s sister and on Cathy, who died after giving birth to a daughter, Catherine. Heathcliff stopped his revenge when he heard the voice of his Cathy calling him from the moors where they had been happy together and died in the storm. Wuthering Heights can be considered an allegory about the conception of the universe built from different forces, storm and calm. It is the psychological study of a man whose soul is divided between love and hate, a work of edification and growth that teaches the vanity of human wishes and the impossibility of reducing human life to a strict moral code.
chapter 3 – let me go
The narrator of the first extract is Mr. Lookwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, a writer, who has come to Wuthering Heights on a stormy night. He is let into a room to rest and on a board he reads three names scratched by the same hand: Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff and Catherine Linton. Then he falls into a sleep disturbed by the wind and by the thought of the three names.
This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible; and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement. The hook was soldered into the staple: a circumstance
‘I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in – let me in!’
‘Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself.
‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton) – ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’
As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear.
‘How can I!’ I said at length.
‘Let Me go, if you want me to let you in!’
The fingers relaxed, I snatched mine through the hole, hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it, and stopped my ears to exclude the lamentable prayer. I seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour; yet, the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on!
‘Begone!’ I shouted. ‘I’ll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.’
‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’
Thereat began a feeble scratching outside, and the pile of books moved as if thrust forward. I tried to jump up; but could not stir a limb; and so yelled aloud, in a frenzy of fright. To my confusion, I discovered the yell was not ideal: hasty footsteps approached my chamber door; somebody pushed it open, with a vigorous hand, and a light glimmered through the squares at the top of the bed.
closet: small room
fir bough: branch of a conifer
to unhasp: to open
soldered: tightly fixed
staple: U-shaped metal bar
muttered: said unintelligibly
knuckles: part of a finger (nocca)
clung (cling, clung, clung): held
wrist: part of the body between the hand and the arm (polso)
soaked: made totally wet
gripe: grip, clutch (stretta)
snatched: took away
Begone: go away
waif: abandoned child
thereat: in that moment
yelled: cried out
frenzy: great agitation
Chapter 9 – I am Heathcliff!
Mr Lookwood now is curious and wants to know more about the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, so he asks Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, to tell him their story. Here she tells when Catherine , after meeting Mr Edgar Linton , Thrushcross Grange’s owner, decides to accept his proposal.
‘Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?’ she said, suddenly, after some minutes’ reflection.
‘Yes, now and then,’ I answered.
‘And so do I. I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this is one: I’m going to tell it – but take care not to smile at any part of it.’
‘Oh! don’t, Miss Catherine!’ I cried. ‘We’re dismal enough without conjuring up ghosts and visions to perplex us. Come, come, be merry and like yourself! Look at little Hareton! He’s dreaming nothing dreary. How sweetly he smiles in his sleep!’
‘Yes; and how sweetly his father curses in his solitude! You remember him, I daresay, when he was just such another as that chubby thing: nearly as young and innocent. However, Nelly, I shall oblige you to listen: it’s not long; and I’ve no power to be merry to-night.’
‘I won’t hear it, I won’t hear it!’ I repeated, hastily.
I was superstitious about dreams then, and am still; and Catherine had an unusual gloom in her aspect, that made me dread something from which I might shape a prophecy, and foresee a fearful catastrophe. She was vexed, but she did not proceed. Apparently taking up another subject, she recommenced in a short time.
‘If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should be extremely miserable.’
‘Because you are not fit to go there,’ I answered. ‘All sinners would be miserable in heaven.’
‘But it is not for that. I dreamt once that I was there.’
‘I tell you I won’t hearken to your dreams, Miss Catherine! I’ll go to bed,’ I interrupted again.
She laughed, and held me down; for I made a motion to leave my chair.
‘This is nothing,’ cried she: ‘I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.’
Ere this speech ended I became sensible of Heathcliff’s presence. Having noticed a slight movement, I turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench, and steal out noiselessly. He had listened till he heard Catherine say it would degrade her to marry him, and then he stayed to hear no further. My companion, sitting on the ground, was prevented by the back of the settle from remarking his presence or departure; but I started, and bade her hush!
‘Why?’ she asked, gazing nervously round.
‘Joseph is here,’ I answered, catching opportunely the roll of his cartwheels up the road; ‘and Heathcliff will come in with him. I’m not sure whether he were not at the door this moment.’
‘Oh, he couldn’t overhear me at the door!’ said she. ‘Give me Hareton, while you get the supper, and when it is ready ask me to sup with you. I want to cheat my uncomfortable conscience, and be convinced that Heathcliff has no notion of these things. He has not, has he? He does not know what being in love is!’
‘I see no reason that he should not know, as well as you,’ I returned; ‘and if you are his choice, he’ll be the most unfortunate creature that ever was born! As soon as you become Mrs. Linton, he loses friend, and love, and all! Have you considered how you’ll bear the separation, and how he’ll bear to be quite deserted in the world? Because, Miss Catherine – ‘
‘He quite deserted! we separated!’ she exclaimed, with an accent of indignation. ‘Who is to separate us, pray? They’ll meet the fate of Milo! Not as long as I live, Ellen: for no mortal creature. Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing before I could consent to forsake Heathcliff. Oh, that’s not what I intend – that’s not what I mean! I shouldn’t be Mrs. Linton were such a price demanded! He’ll be as much to me as he has been all his lifetime. Edgar must shake off his antipathy, and tolerate him, at least. He will, when he learns my true feelings towards him. Nelly, I see now you think me a selfish wretch; but did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother’s power.’
‘With your husband’s money, Miss Catherine?’ I asked. ‘You’ll find him not so pliable as you calculate upon: and, though I’m hardly a judge, I think that’s the worst motive you’ve given yet for being the wife of young Linton.’
‘It is not,’ retorted she; ‘it is the best! The others were the satisfaction of my whims: and for Edgar’s sake, too, to satisfy him. This is for the sake of one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself. I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable; and … ‘
She paused, and hid her face in the folds of my gown; but I jerked it forcibly away. I was out of patience with her folly!
fit: good enough
harken: listen to
heath; waste land
steal out: go out furtively
bade her hush (bid, bade, bidden): made her sign to be silent
to sup: to have supper
to cheat: to trick, to deceive
They’ll meet…Milo: they will have Milo’s same destiny. Milo from Crotone was an athlete very famous for his strength. Once old, he tried to pull down a tree, but his hand was trapped and he was killed by a group of wild animals.
wretch: bad, evil person
beggar: tramp, poor person
pliable: flexible, well disposed
whim: fancy, caprice