Chapters 13–14 Summary and Analysis
Heathcliff and Isabella stay away for two months, during which time Edgar slavishly nurses Catherine. Although Catherine eventually recovers some of her strength, she remains mentally and physically weak. Nelly and Edgar are given another reason to hope for Catherine’s full recovery when it becomes apparent that she is pregnant. The pregnancy holds extra significance in light of Isabella’s recent elopement, as a male heir will cut off Heathcliff’s claim to Edgar’s property. Several weeks after Isabella’s elopement, Nelly receives a letter from her that details what life with Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights is like. Isabella begins her letter by asking Nelly whether Heathcliff is mad or even human. The rest of the chapter is given over to Isabella’s letter, in which she describes her first night at Wuthering Heights. After arriving and immediately being left alone by Heathcliff, Isabella attempts to befriend little Hareton, who proceeds to swear and threaten to set the dog on her. She fares no better with Joseph, who disgusts her by stirring the porridge with his bare hands. During Isabella’s brief encounter with Hindley, he warns her to lock the door at night, explaining that he checks Heathcliff’s door every night to see if it is locked, intending to shoot him if it is not. Isabella is further distressed to realize that there is no maid or, in fact, any other woman in the household. When she tries to find a bedroom to sleep in, she realizes that Heathcliff’s room is locked, and she is forced to spend the night on a chair. When she brings this up to Heathcliff, he verbally abuses her and forbids her from staying in his room. Isabella explains that Heathcliff has found out about Catherine’s illness and, believing Edgar to be at fault, has promised to make Isabella “Edgar’s proxy in suffering.” Declaring that she has made a terrible mistake by marrying Heathcliff, Isabella begs Nelly to secretly come visit her.
Nelly informs Edgar of his sister’s unhappy situation, and even though he refuses to write or see Isabella, he allows Nelly to visit her. When Nelly arrives at Wuthering Heights, she notes that it is in a filthy state of decay. Isabella’s appearance has already begun to reflect her dismal surroundings, and her hair is limp and unkempt. In contrast, Heathcliff greets Nelly cordially, and she observes that he has never looked better. When Nelly accuses him of mistreating Isabella, Heathcliff responds that he never misled her as to his character and that it is not his fault Isabella deluded herself into thinking that he was a “hero of romance.” According to Heathcliff, Isabella even continued to pursue him after he hanged her pet dog right in front of her. After sending Isabella away, Heathcliff turns the conversation to Catherine’s health, insisting that Nelly help him visit her. Nelly initially refuses, but when he threatens to imprison her at Wuthering Heights and make a scene at Thrushcross Grange, Nelly decides it might be wiser to acquiesce to his wishes for a secret meeting. Nelly agrees to take a letter from Heathcliff to Catherine, and though she feels bad about deceiving Edgar, she hopes that word from Heathcliff might brighten Catherine’s spirits. Nelly’s story comes to an abrupt halt when the doctor arrives to see Mr. Lockwood. Later, Mr. Lockwood reflects on the beautiful young Catherine Heathcliff—Catherine and Edgar’s daughter—whom he recently met at Wuthering Heights. He thinks about what might happen if he allows himself to fall in love with her, only to realize she is just like her mother.
In these chapters, we see the progress Heathcliff has made in his quest for revenge. He has transformed Hareton from a sweet little boy into a crude savage and has taken the first step toward revenge on Edgar by marrying Isabella. Heathcliff’s reappearance also serves as the catalyst for Catherine’s illness, though Heathcliff places the blame...
(The entire section is 1,202 words.)