Chapters 8–9 Summary and Analysis
Nelly resumes her tale in the summer of 1778. Frances gives birth to a healthy baby boy, but the doctor warns the family that Frances suffers from a chronic illness and will not live much longer. Unable to handle the truth, Hindley and Frances refuse to believe the doctor right up until the moment Frances dies in Hindley’s arms. Utterly devastated by the death of his beloved wife, Hindley becomes a drunken tyrant, and soon all the servants but Nelly and Joseph abandon Wuthering Heights. Hindley’s son, Hareton, is placed in Nelly’s care, and she takes great pains to keep him out of the way of his raging father. Hindley treats Heathcliff worse than ever, but Heathcliff is delighted to witness Hindley’s self-destruction. Catherine develops into a great beauty and continues her friendship with Edgar Linton, though she remains strongly attached to Heathcliff. She begins to take on a “double character,” behaving politely with the Lintons and poorly at home, where she knows nice manners will gain her nothing. Edgar and Heathcliff grow to despise one another, and Catherine is frequently caught in the middle.
One day when Hindley is away, Heathcliff decides to secretly take the day off, intending to spend it with Catherine. Unbeknownst to Heathcliff, Catherine is preparing for Edgar to make a rare visit to Wuthering Heights. Catherine urges Heathcliff to return to work and finally admits that Edgar might be stopping by. Frustrated, Heathcliff complains that she rarely spends time with him anymore. Catherine responds that Heathcliff is not educated or interesting enough to be a good companion, and Heathcliff angrily leaves the room just before Edgar enters. Nelly, acting on orders from Hindley, refuses to leave Catherine and Edgar alone together, even when Catherine orders her out. Thinking Edgar cannot see, Catherine pinches Nelly hard, but Nelly, knowing it will embarrass Catherine, cries out in pain. Enraged that her cruelty has been exposed, Catherine slaps Nelly hard across the face, shocking Edgar and causing little Hareton to cry. Hareton’s crying leads Catherine to lash out and begin hitting him over the head. When Edgar instinctively grabs her arms to stop her, she hits him as well. Hurt and stunned, Edgar says he will leave and not return. However, he only makes it as far as the courtyard before he returns to comfort Catherine. Later, Nelly comes to warn them that Hindley will return soon and observes that Catherine’s ill-mannered outburst only brought them closer together. Edgar leaves and Nelly, knowing that the master is in one of his drunken rages, takes the shot out of Hindley’s gun and goes to hide Hareton.
Nelly is about to hide Hareton in the cupboard when Hindley arrives and grabs the little boy. Hindley makes many drunken threats, even telling Nelly that he will make her swallow his knife. Nelly, who is clearly used to this behavior, responds calmly, though Hareton becomes increasingly distressed. As Hareton begins to scream and kick, Hindley carries him up the stairs and dangles him over the bannister before accidentally dropping him. Before Hareton can hit the floor, he is caught by Heathcliff, who just happened to be passing under the bannister. Nelly observes that Heathcliff is very disappointed when he realizes that his instinctual catch accidentally saved Hindley’s son.
Once the household has settled down, Catherine seeks Nelly in the kitchen. Unbeknownst to them, Heathcliff is listening to their conversation just outside the door. Catherine confides that Edgar proposed to her during his visit, and Nelly responds that he is a fool to have proposed after witnessing Catherine’s bad behavior. Undeterred, Catherine admits that she accepted, though she wonders whether she was right to do so. Nelly asks her a series of questions about her love for Edgar. Dissatisfied with Catherine’s shallow answers, Nelly nevertheless points out that in marrying Edgar, Catherine would...
(The entire section is 1,619 words.)