Chapters 26–28 Summary and Analysis
Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1454
Finally, Nelly and Cathy ride out to meet Linton. When they arrive at the agreed-upon meeting place, however, they are told that Linton is waiting a little way away. When they find Linton, he is lying in the grass only a quarter mile from Wuthering Heights. Nelly is angry that they have ended up so close to the house, but both women are shocked when they see how frail and sickly Linton looks. Although he insists that he is stronger, Linton is so weak that he cannot even follow their conversation. Seeing how ill he is, Cathy suggests that she and Nelly leave him. When Linton hears this, he becomes visibly agitated and insists that they stay with him for at least another half hour. Though Cathy is puzzled as to why Linton wants them to stay when he is clearly not interested in their company, Nelly realizes that he is afraid of Heathcliff. Linton asks Cathy to tell her father that he is better and begs her not to tell Heathcliff about how quiet and downcast he has been. Cathy tells him that she isn’t afraid of Heathcliff but promises to visit again. As Heathcliff approaches, Cathy and Nelly ride off, though Linton feebly tries to make Cathy stay. When they arrive home, Cathy and Nelly reveal little of Linton’s condition to Edgar, deciding to withhold judgment until after another visit.
Over the next seven days, Edgar’s health begins to rapidly deteriorate, and Cathy remains by his side. Nelly and Edgar encourage her to keep her date with Linton so that she may get fresh air. Edgar, knowing little of Linton’s true character, is convinced that he is a fine match for Cathy, and Nelly admits that she did not have the heart to tell him the truth. When Cathy and Nelly visit Linton again, he is more animated, though his energy appears to come from fear rather than genuine excitement to see Cathy. Linton admits that Heathcliff is forcing him to spend time with Cathy, and Cathy, irate at being unnecessarily taken from her father’s bedside, attempts to leave. Heathcliff appears and roughly orders Linton to get up. When Linton shrinks away from Heathcliff in terror, Heathcliff asks Cathy to help Linton back to the house. Unable to refuse, Cathy and Nelly walk Linton inside, intending to leave immediately. As soon as they cross the threshold, however, Heathcliff locks the door behind them and insists that they stay for tea. Cathy tries to wrest the key away from Heathcliff, and he slaps her several times before leaving the room. Nelly and Cathy turn to Linton—who is now totally calm—and demand to know what is going on. He explains that Heathcliff, fearing that Linton will die before Edgar, intends to force Cathy to marry Linton in the morning. Knowing that her unexplained absence will distress her dying father, Cathy is distraught at the thought of being kept overnight and vows to escape, even if she has to burn the house down. When Heathcliff returns, Cathy promises that she will return in the morning to marry Linton if he will let her go back to her father now. Heathcliff tells her that he delights in the idea of Edgar being tormented by her disappearance, and he vows to imprison her until she has married Linton. The next morning, Heathcliff removes Cathy from the bedroom in which she and Nelly are locked but leaves Nelly inside. Nelly is forced to stay in the bedroom for five days, during which time the only person she sees is Hareton.
Nelly is finally freed by Zillah, Heathcliff’s housekeeper. Zillah explains that the villagers all think Nelly and Cathy have been lost in Blackhorse Marsh. From Zillah, Nelly learns that Edgar is not yet dead, though his doctor believes he may only have a day left. Searching through the house, Nelly finds Linton lying down in front of the hearth. He tells Nelly that he and Cathy are now married, but she is locked upstairs because he and Heathcliff will not let her return to Thrushcross Grange. Nelly berates Linton for his terrible repayment of Cathy’s kindness. Unaffected, Linton boasts about owning all of Cathy’s possessions, gleefully describing how he and Heathcliff stole a locket containing pictures of her parents and recounting how Heathcliff struck Cathy hard enough to draw blood during the confrontation. Nelly rushes back to Thrushcross Grange, intending to reassure Edgar of his daughter’s whereabouts and gather a group of men to rescue Cathy from Wuthering Heights. Nelly explains what has happened to Edgar, and he sends her to fetch a lawyer, intending to alter his will so that Cathy’s money will not fall to Heathcliff after Linton’s death. Unfortunately, the men Nelly sends to fetch Cathy return empty-handed, and the lawyer—who later turns out to be on Heathcliff’s payroll—is nowhere to be found. Later that day, Cathy arrives at Thrushcross Grange. She is finally able to see Edgar, though she and Nelly decide to lie and say that she is happy as Linton’s wife. Cathy is by Edgar’s side when he dies peacefully hours after her arrival. The corrupt lawyer, Mr. Green, reappears shortly after Edgar’s death, knowing that the will cannot be changed now. Mr. Green, obviously acting on orders from Heathcliff, dismisses all the servants but Nelly and even attempts to prevent Edgar from being buried next to Catherine. Cathy later tells Nelly that she was only able to escape Wuthering Heights because Linton, terrified by her increasing anguish, helped her.
Heathcliff’s revenge continues to barrel forward, becoming a race against time as Linton’s and Edgar’s conditions deterioriate. In order for Heathcliff to inherit Thrushcross Grange, Edgar must die before Linton. However, as we have seen in previous chapters, Heathcliff is unwilling to allow a doctor to see Linton for fear that news of his frail condition will reach Edgar. Heathcliff’s increasing desperation is evidenced by his decision to break the law by kidnapping Cathy and Nelly and paying off Edgar’s lawyer. As it becomes clear that Heathcliff’s plan is falling into place, the reader sympathizes strongly with Cathy, who remains trapped at Wuthering Heights while her father is on his deathbed. Heathcliff is diabolical in these chapters, delighting in Cathy’s despair and the thought of Edgar’s distress. Though he is disgusted by Cathy’s impassioned pleas and appeals, Heathcliff hesitates when Cathy imperiously orders him to give her the key. This, for him, is a shocking reminder that Cathy is Catherine’s daughter and demonstrates that mother and daughter are, perhaps, more similar than he wants to acknowledge. With the death of Catherine, Heathcliff seems to have lost the last piece of his humanity, throwing himself entirely into his devious revenge plan. Though he has long since lost most of our sympathy, we are left to wonder what will become of him once his elaborate revenge is complete.
Readers also lose a great deal of sympathy for Linton during these chapters. Though he has obviously been bullied and threatened by Heathcliff, Linton cares nothing for the well-being of Cathy, who has been so generous to him. Once Linton and Cathy are married, it becomes clear that Linton is not just self-centered and weak but actively cruel as well. He clearly relishes his newfound ownership of Cathy’s possessions and shows little sympathy for Cathy’s brutal treatment at Heathcliff’s hands. Though Nelly has, so far, not seen Cathy and Linton interact since their marriage, Linton’s description suggests that Cathy is utterly miserable and filled with hatred for Linton:
“She cries so I can't bear it. And she won't give over, though I say I'll call my father. I did call him once, and he threatened to strangle her if she was not quiet; but she began again the instant he left the room, moaning and grieving all night long, though I screamed for vexation that I couldn't sleep.”
Although Linton’s behavior is undoubtedly abominable, he does eventually free Cathy from her imprisonment, allowing her to see Edgar one last time before he dies. While this small act of goodness in no way cancels out his other behavior, it shows that Linton, unlike Heathcliff, still has the ability to be moved by the fear or sadness of a fellow human being. We later find out that this small act of defiance cost Linton dearly, and given his cowardly nature, we can predict that this punishment will make him much less likely to take Cathy’s side in the future.