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Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff and Catherine introduced

Heathcliff and Catherine

Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff and Catherine introduced

As Nelly’s narrative begins, she lays the foundation for the characters of Heathcliff and Catherine.


Chapter 4  When Nelly brings him Lockwood his supper she begins to tell him the story of Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff at the time that the old master Mr. Earnshaw brings a foundling, later named Heathcliff, home to be raised as his own child. Heathcliff and Catherine grow close, but Hindley’s resentment at his father’s protective attitude towards Heathcliff soon turns into hatred.

Nelly: ‘Hareton is the last of them [Earnshaws], as our Miss Cathy is of us—I mean, of the Lintons.’


Nelly explains that the younger Catherine and Hareton are the only remaining members of either FAMILY.
Before she commences her long back story of Heathcliff, Nelly comments on Heathcliff’s character: ‘Rough as a saw-edge, and hard as whinstone!’
Do you know anything of his history?’
‘It’s a cuckoo’s, sir’
Nelly’s  NATURE IMAGE expresses the way in which Heathcliff’s CHARACTER HAS DEVELOPED due to his experiences. Cathy uses similar imagery later when she compares Heathcliff to ‘the eternal rocks’.

She compares his role in the Earnshaw family to a bird that takes possession of the host bird’s nest.

Mr Earnshaw announces the arrival of Heathcliff to his family: ‘you must e’en take it as a gift of God; though it’s as dark almost as if it came from the devil’.


Satanic IMAGERY is often associated with Heathcliff from this point on.
Heathcliff is said to speak ‘gibberish’ and is labelled a gypsy brat. The mysterious origins of Heathcliff portray him as an OUTSIDER from the start.


Nelly : ‘He seemed a sullen, patient child; hardened, perhaps, to ill-treatment: he would stand Hindley’s blows without winking or shedding a tear… So, from the very beginning, he bred bad feeling in the house…a usurper …[causing Hindley to ] grow bitter’… Hindley described him as ‘a beggarly interloper’ and an ‘imp of Satan’. From the start Heathcliff had a disruptive influence on FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS, causing rivalry, resentment, violence and alterations in family loyalties.

He never repaid Mr Earnshaw with any sense of gratitude.


After Heathcliff blackmails Hindley into swapping horses with him, his resentment deepens.

Chapter 5  Hindley is sent off to college, and the strong bond between Catherine and Heathcliff grows as they are left to themselves to roam about the countryside. The child Catherine is full of energy and high spirits, which often puts her at odds with her father and affects his health. At one point she strangely soothes her father into a death-sleep.


Nelly : ‘Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going—singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody… The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from him… being repulsed [by her father] continually hardened her’. Nelly offers insights into Catherine’s GROWING CHARACTER and helps the reader develop an understanding of her nature. She is spirited, increasingly attached to Heathcliff and deals with family disapproval by growing tougher in herself.

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