Chapters 18–21 Summary and Analysis
Nelly watches young Cathy grow up over the next twelve years. By the time Cathy is thirteen, she is beautiful, smart, and kind—though somewhat spoiled by her father. Cathy leads a very sheltered life, and at her father’s insistence, she is confined to the grounds of Thrushcross Grange and is told nothing about the existence of Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights. The spirited young Cathy continually begs to be allowed to venture beyond the confines of Thrushcross Grange to Penistone Crags, a rock outcropping on the moors that can be seen from her window. Knowing that Wuthering Heights is on the way to Penistone Crags, Edgar and Nelly refuse to let her go. One day, Edgar leaves to visit his dying sister, intending to take young Linton into his care. During the three weeks in which Edgar is away, it is left to Nelly to entertain an increasingly bored Cathy. Cathy is allowed to ride her pony around the grounds, but when she fails to appear for tea one day, Nelly realizes that she must have set off for Penistone Crags on her own. Setting off in pursuit, Nelly stops at Wuthering Heights after noticing one of Cathy’s dogs in the yard. Cathy is inside, having visited Penistone Crags with Hareton, who is now eighteen. Nelly tries to convince Cathy to leave immediately, but Cathy resists. When Cathy realizes that Hareton is a servant and not, as she assumed, the son of the master of Wuthering Heights, her easy affection for him is quickly replaced with disdain. Cathy is horrified when the maid at Wuthering Heights reveals—much to Nelly’s chagrin—that Hareton is actually Cathy’s cousin. Cathy refuses to believe it, and during her denials, she lets slip that her “real” cousin is in London being fetched by her father. Nelly, knowing that everything that is said will get back to Heathcliff, finally convinces Cathy to leave. On the way home, Nelly begs Cathy not to tell her father about the visit to Wuthering Heights, warning her that he might fire Nelly if he ever found out.
(The entire section is 1,893 words.)