Last Updated on June 27, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1139
Later that year, Lockwood is visiting a friend when he realizes that he is actually quite close to Thrushcross Grange. Driven by curiosity, he decides to stop by and spend the night as he is still technically renting the house. An unfamiliar servant informs Lockwood that Nelly Dean is at Wuthering Heights. Surprised, Lockwood decides to walk over to the Heights and see what has happened in his absence. Upon arrival, he finds the usually locked gate open and notices that flowers have been planted in the garden. As he approaches the house, Lockwood spies Cathy and Hareton through the window. Cathy is helping Hareton read, and Lockwood is shocked to see them affectionately touch and exchange kisses. Feeling rather jealous of the two handsome lovers, Lockwood continues on to the kitchen, where Nelly is sitting. Surprised to see him, Nelly informs Lockwood that Heathcliff died a few months earlier, and she begins to fill Lockwood in on the events that have transpired in the last several months. Only a couple of weeks after Lockwood left, Heathcliff summoned Nelly to live at Wuthering Heights, instructing her to keep Cathy out of his sight. Cathy is happy to see Nelly but eventually becomes restless after being confined to a small part of the house for so long. She begins to take her boredom out on Hareton more often, relentlessly mocking and annoying him. When Cathy tells Nelly about how Hareton gave up on his attempt to become literate, Nelly scolds her, and Cathy admits that she regrets discouraging him. Soon after, Cathy attempts to make amends by offering to teach Hareton to read. Though he initially refuses her offer, Cathy continues to try to befriend him. When Hareton indignantly tells Cathy that he has frequently angered Heathcliff on her behalf, Cathy expresses genuine regret and apologizes for her treatment of him. Her persistence eventually wins out, and the two develop a close bond. Nelly interrupts her tale to tell Lockwood that she is glad he never romantically pursued Cathy, as nothing could make her happier than seeing Cathy and Hareton together.
Returning to her story, Nelly recounts how Cathy convinced Hareton to dig up some of Joseph’s beloved old black-currant trees to make space for flowers from Thrushcross Grange. When they later eat with Heathcliff, Cathy and Hareton do a poor job of concealing their relationship, and the normally indifferent Heathcliff is irked by Hareton’s laughter. When Joseph comes in to complain about the trees, Heathcliff yells at Cathy for altering his property. Emboldened by Hareton’s affection, Cathy stands up to Heathcliff and says that altering the garden hardly compares with Heathcliff’s theft of both Hareton’s and her property. Furious, Heathcliff orders Hareton to remove Cathy as she continues to boast about how she will turn Hareton against him. Caught in the middle, Hareton tries to calm Cathy down, but she continues to taunt Heathcliff until he roughly grabs her by the hair, threatening to kill her. Hareton begs Heathcliff not to hurt Cathy, and Heathcliff, seemingly startled by his own behavior, lets her go. Before leaving the room, Heathcliff warns that he will turn Hareton out on the street if Cathy and Hareton try to be together. Afterward, Cathy tries to convince Hareton to take her side against Heathcliff, but he refuses, explaining that Heathcliff is like a father to him. Realizing how important Heathcliff is to Hareton, Cathy regrets trying to turn them against one another, and Nelly never hears her speak ill of Heathcliff again.
After this incident, Cathy and Hareton resume their reading lessons, while Heathcliff becomes increasingly withdrawn. One day, Nelly is watching the pair read, reflecting on their newfound maturity with a maternal pride, when suddenly Heathcliff walks in. Cathy and Hareton both look up from their book, startling Heathcliff with their resemblance to Catherine. He later confides in Nelly that even though he has Cathy and Hareton at his mercy, he is losing his energy for revenge. Heathcliff makes it clear that he has not abandoned his revenge out of generosity but simply because it no longer interests him. He speaks of a “strange change” that he feels is approaching and describes how apathetic he feels toward life. Though he does not care for Cathy at all, Heathcliff admits that he strongly identifies with Hareton, seeing both Catherine and himself in the young man. Nelly, concerned by Heathcliff’s talk of a “change,” asks whether he feels ill. Heathcliff explains that though he is healthy and neither fears nor welcomes death, his overwhelming desire to be reunited with Catherine has rendered everything else in life meaningless.
The Wuthering Heights that we see in these chapters is greatly changed from the one Lockwood encountered during his last visit. The gate is unlocked and flowers have been planted in the garden—both of which suggest a more open, pleasant environment than the closed-off and barren Wuthering Heights that Lockwood saw last winter. More specifically, the flowers from Thrushcross Grange that now flourish at Wuthering Heights symbolize the successful mingling of the two previously opposed locations, echoing the thriving romance between their respective occupants. The enjoyable new atmosphere at Wuthering Heights is reflected in the weather, with the balmy summer night marking a drastic shift from the snowy, gloomy weather from earlier in the narrative.
Lockwood—and perhaps the reader as well—is shocked to see that Cathy and Hareton are now in a romantic relationship. Though the young couple’s love has clearly flourished in the absence of Heathcliff, Nelly reveals that Heathcliff lost interest in his revenge plot well before his death, as his desire to be reunited with Catherine overshadowed all else.
In many ways, the romance between Cathy and Hareton brings closure to the fraught relationships of the earlier generation of characters. Embodying the best traits of their parents, Cathy and Hareton are passionate enough to love and fight but kind enough to forgive one another. This is perhaps most clear when Cathy apologizes to Hareton for mocking his attempts at educating himself; in this way Cathy is unlike her mother, who never apologized to Heathcliff for making fun of his intelligence. Likewise, Hareton chooses to forgive Cathy—a direct contrast to Heathcliff’s inability to forgive the dying Catherine. The cycle of revenge is finally fully severed when Cathy decides not to speak ill of Heathcliff after realizing how important he is to Hareton. Even though Cathy has been wronged time and time again by Heathcliff, her love for Hareton prevents her from following Heathcliff down a path of revenge. Through Cathy and Hareton, Brontë shows us a form of love that is passionate without being destructive, suggesting that hatred, bitterness, and vengeance can only be successfully countered by wholesome and unconditional love.
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