Chapters 21, 22 and 23
It is now 3 years later and Catherine delights in
playing on the moors under the watchful eye of Nelly.
However, the exuberant Catherine is no match for Nelly who has difficulty in controlling Catherine when she runs wildly through the heather. She is thus unable to prevent Catherine from speaking to Heathcliff who has Hareton by his side. On this occasion Heathcliff asks Catherine and Nelly to come to the house and despite Nelly’s reservations, they agree. Catherine is curious about Heathcliff’s son. According to Nelly, it is Heathcliff’s intentions that the two cousins should fall in love and get married. Linton is still delicate although he has grown in height. Hareton offers to show Catherine around Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff orders Linton to follow his cousins so as not to be left out. Catherine is overheard mocking Hareton’s poor education and his difficulty in reading.
Back at the Grange, Catherine tells her father about her visit to Wuthering
Edgar tries in vain to explain to Catherine why he has kept her from her cousins. He specifically asks her not to have any further contact with Linton. This action only serves to make Catherine liaise with Linton via a series of secret letters. Nelly eventually discovers what is going on and destroys Linton’s letters to Catherine.
Winter approaches and Edgar’s health starts to fail, and Catherine spends
most of her time nursing him. When out walking one day Catherine and Nelly happen to meet Heathcliff who scolds Catherine for stopping the letters to Linton, accusing her of trifling with Linton’s
affections. He has become sicklier and is dying of a broken heart. He goes on to tell Catherine that he has to go away for a week and hopes that she will visit her poorly cousin.
Feeling guilty about what Heathcliff has said to her, she and Nelly decide to visit Wuthering Heights the next day.
On their way to Wuthering Heights, the weather turns for the worse and
eventually when they arrive they find Linton in a poor state. He complains about the servants and the moans at Catherine for not visiting sooner and the cessation of the letters.
Clearly Heathcliff has put the notion of marriage into Linton’s mind, and
Linton mentions this to Catherine, which angers her, and when she pushes Linton’s chair, he has a coughing fit. Linton tries to make Catherine feel guilty about her behavior and hopes that she will help to
nurse him back to health.
Nelly and Catherine return to the Grange, but Nelly develops a severe cold due to getting wet the previous day, and now Catherine has two patients to care for, but at night time she rides across the moors to visit Linton without the knowledge of Nelly and Edgar.
Heathcliff has clearly identified that Nelly is a key
player in his plans for obtaining revenge against the Linton family, and obtaining the Grange, for it is she that now acts as guardian for Catherine due to Edgar’s failing health. Rightly or wrongly, he feels
that he can confide in Nelly and reveals his plans to her regarding the marriage of Catherine and Linton.
Nelly’s only reservations are that if Edgar finds out that she is conniving with Heathcliff, she may lose her position at the Grange.
Heathcliff has, in fact, done his homework for it is revealed that Edgar’s
lawyer is in the pay of Heathcliff who has established that there is no clause in Edgar’s Will securing Catherine’s inheritance. Nelly had assumed that Catherine would be Edgar’s heir.
Again we see some duality concerning the behavior of Catherine and Linton
regarding Hareton’s lack of formal education, when Heathcliff first arrived at Wuthering Heights, he received the same treatment from Hindley and Cathy.
It is difficult to judge how clever Linton is, or whether he is just acting in accordance with Heathcliff’s wishes, but Linton advises Catherine that he is too sick to travel to her, so she must visit him.
We again have an insight into Nelly’s twisted view of proceedings.
Instead of advising Edgar about the secret letters, she decides to burn Linton’s letters to Catherine and only threatens to tell Edgar. Possibly the only reason for destroying the letters is so that Edgar will not discover them, and not that she disapproves of the relationship.
It is interesting to see how much loyalty Catherine has to her sick cousin
and she seems willing to care for him.
Nelly, too, is willing to go along with Catherine’s wishes and shows some measure of commitment to Catherine, which she did not show to her mother, Cathy. In fact, some of her actions made Cathy’s life miserable. Perhaps she wishes to make amends to the daughter, hoping that she will find some happiness. However, events seem to be escalating, and Nelly obviously fears that Edgar will find out about the secret relationship between Linton and Catherine. It is, therefore, convenient that she is taken ill at this time, and is thus removed from the equation with the hope that if Edgar does find out, she will not be blamed. Remember, it is Nelly’s narration that we are going by and it may be that she was taken ill, genuinely. It is up to the reader to decide.
One of the key elements of Heathcliff’s plan is for Catherine to marry
Linton. Although Catherine cares for her weak cousin, she also is excited by the idea of having control over a man, something that her mother was fascinated with as well.
It should be noted that the story is now close to the present day in the
novel, when Lockwood first came to the area.
This will come as a surprise to the reader, for up till now these events seem to have been in the distant past. Lockwood now understands more clearly the events he experienced and why the characters at Wuthering Heights behaved so strangely.
Although Heathcliff’s main objectives are to possess both Wuthering Heights
and Thrushcross Grange, he is also obtaining subtle degrees of revenge, which must give him some pleasure, e.g. he bullies Hareton, just as Hindley bullied him; he obtains satisfaction by persecuting the children of
those that persecuted him. The reader can now find no redeeming features regarding Heathcliff’s behavior. One might think that he is hoping for his son’s happiness through the marriage to Catherine, but
he is merely using his son as a tool, for he hopes that Catherine and Linton will marry before the sickly Linton dies. His way for claiming Thrushcross Grange must be through Isabella Linton’s son marrying
Edgar Linton’s daughter.