Study Guide

Wuthering Heights Suffering

By Emily Brontë

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Chapter 3

Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of the bed as I spoke, finally sitting down almost concealed behind it. I guessed, however, by his irregular and intercepted breathing, that he struggled to vanquish an access to violent emotion. (3.74)

Heathcliff yearns to believe in Lockwood's vision of a ghostly Catherine. He is so physically overcome by emotion that he can't even be angry at Lockwood for sleeping in the bed.

Chapter 7
Ellen "Nelly" Dean

"Don't get the expression of a vicious cur that appears to know the kicks it gets are its desert, and yet, hates all the world, as well as the kicker, for what it suffers." (7.42)

Good advice, Nelly, but it's lost on the vengeful Heathcliff. Still, she tries, and this is an important moment. Though Heathcliff has no mentor (see "Character Roles"), Nelly makes an attempt here to provide some useful guidance. (Plus, the dog metaphor is a good one for that house!)

Chapter 9

"I never saw Heathcliff last night," answered Catherine, beginning to sob bitterly: "and if you do turn him out of doors, I'll go with him. But, perhaps, you'll never have an opportunity: perhaps, he's gone." Here she burst into uncontrollable grief, and the remainder of her words were inarticulate. (9.145)

Though unwilling to treat him well, Catherine is bereft the very moment Heathcliff departs. She lacks the sort of self-awareness that would lead her to see that much of this mess is her fault.

"Nay, you'll not drive me off again. You were really sorry for me, were you? Well, there was cause. I've fought through a bitter life since I last heard your voice; and you must forgive me, for I struggled only for you!" (10.60)

At least all of his suffering has meaning. This confession is one of Heathcliff's most romantic, in a twisted sense, because everything he does is for Catherine.

"And I like her too ill to attempt it," said he, "except in a very ghoulish fashion. You'd hear of odd things if I lived alone with that mawkish, waxen face: the most ordinary would be painting on its white the colours of the rainbow, and turning the blue eyes black, every day or two: they detestably resemble Linton's." (10.121)

Heathcliff is fantasizing about physically abusing his wife. What's really disturbing is how poetically he describes his desire to hurt her. His choice of words suggests that he has really given some thought to what he wants to do.

"And, Nelly, say to Edgar, if you see him again to-night, that I'm in danger of being seriously ill. I wish it may prove true. He has startled and distressed me shockingly! I want to frighten him." (11.80)

Because Edgar will never suffer as much as Catherine would like, she will never love him as much as he would like. Edgar's cool-headedness is one of the qualities that sets him apart from Heathcliff.

She had no breath for speaking. I brought a glass full; and as she would not drink, I sprinkled it on her face. In a few seconds she stretched herself out stiff, and turned up her eyes, while her cheeks, at once blanched and livid, assumed the aspect of death. Linton looked terrified. (11.90)

What begins partly as a charade becomes full-blown affliction and, ultimately, death for Catherine. Her death is quite a visual spectacle. Finally, she gets a reaction from Linton, who realizes what he is about to lose.

"He told me of Catherine's illness, and accused my brother of causing it; promising that I should be Edgar's proxy in suffering, till he could get hold of him." (14.103)

Isabella will receive the punishment that Heathcliff intends for Edgar. In the end, everyone is a victim of Heathcliff's rage. Isabella's remark here suggests that Heathcliff is in denial about the real reason for his rage.

"Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?" (15.28)

As if Catherine could ever rest in peace. Even if she could, Heathcliff would not want her to. He actually wants her to suffer with him, because that means she loves him as much as he loves her.

"Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!" (16.25)

Heathcliff turns Catherine's accusations into a strange sort of love poem. He is willing to call himself her murderer if it means that she will haunt him.

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