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Explain the following quote from Wuthering Heights: "Are you possessed with a devil......

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shewa55 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 15, 2013 at 3:31 AM via web

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Explain the following quote from Wuthering Heights: "Are you possessed with a devil... to talk in that manner to me, when you are dying? ...Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell? " 

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 15, 2013 at 5:42 AM (Answer #1)

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In Wuthering Heights, Nelly has worked for the families for many years. She is one of the main narrators of the story and has, over the years, felt sympathy for Heathcliff, trying to protect him and acting as Cathy's conscience, questioning her decisions although, unfortunately, she cannot sway Cathy from marrying Edgar. It is Cathy's conversation with Nelly, before her imminent acceptance of Edgar's marriage proposal, that Heathcliff overhears but unforunately, he runs away before he hears her declare her feelings for him and her reasons for marrying Edgar - so that she can "aid Heathcliff to rise" (Ch 9).

It is Nelly who now brings Heathcliff's letter to Cathy  against her own better judgment - and urges her to consider whether she will see Heathcliff. However, Heathcliff has waited ong enough for her reply and comes to see her anyway, despite the possibility of being discovered by Cathy's husband.

Cathy and Heathcliff each blame the other for ruining any chance of a life together; Cathy not knowing that Heathcliff heard her say that "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now" (Ch 9) and Heathcliff not hearing her plans for them or that "Nelly I am Heathcliff.."   

When they are reunited then in Chapter 15, Heathcliff is overcome -"Oh, my life! How can I bear it"- but Cathy's immediate claim that he and Edgar "have broken my heart" torments Heathcliff who cannot contemplate a world without her. He is angry with her and cannot understand how she could think that any life for him, after she has gone , will be anything more than the same as him writhing "in the torments of hell." Cathy is selfish and self-absorbed and Heathcliff holds her so tightly - too tightly - in his efforts to make her understand his grief.

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