Notes on Wuthering Heights Themes

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Wuthering Heights Topic Tracking: Madness

Chapter 3

Madness 1: Heathcliff does not know that Mr. Lockwood is sleeping in Catherine's room. Therefore, when he hears the screaming, he thinks it is Catherine's ghost. He is sorely disappointed to see that it is Mr. Lockwood, and after he orders him to leave, Heathcliff opens the window and calls outside for his beloved, dead Catherine. He receives no answer.

Chapter 9

Madness 2: Heathcliff secretly leaves Wuthering Heights when he overhears Catherine say that it would degrade her to marry him. Guilty for what she said, Catherine looks for him even in the pouring rain. When he cannot be found, she becomes detached. But when Hindley starts to yell at her, Catherine has a fit of madness. The doctor is called, and does what he can. She is so mad and delusional, the doctor is fearful that she will kill herself.

Chapter 11

Madness 3: Heathcliff returns after Catherine's marriage. When he visits, he and Edgar Linton have a terrible fight, which upsets Catherine. She determines to become frenzied, which will hurt them both. Raging, she hit her head against the sofa and her lips became bloody. She was out of breath, and when Nelly told Edgar about his wife's decision to act madly, Catherine's rage hit its peak. Her muscles stood out irregularly, her eyes were wild, and Nelly feared she would turn violent.

Chapter 12

Madness 4: Catherine refuses all food and drink for several days. She does not understand why she is not getting her way, and becomes paranoid that her former friends are now enemies. The knowledge that her husband has been in his library, seemingly unconcerned about her welfare, makes her hysterical. She feels alone in the world, and wishes to be out on the moors, or with her Heathcliff.

Madness 5: Catherine plucks the feathers from her pillow, and starts to confuse the past with the present. She recalls a time when Heathcliff shot a bird, leaving the babies to die.

Catherine talks about elf-bolts and cows, the black press, and her bed in the fairy cave. She talks as though she knows more than Nelly, as though she is better off. The black press turns out to be a mirror. Catherine, lost without her Heathcliff, cannot recognize her own reflection in the mirror. Afraid it is a ghost, she makes Nelly cover it.

Chapter 13

Madness 6: Hindley, crazed with the loss of his wife and his land, tells Isabella about his plan to kill Heathcliff. Every night he tries to open Heathcliff's bedroom door, and when one night it is unlocked, he plans to shoot him. He believes some kind of devil urges him to settle the score this way.

Chapter 14

Madness 7: Heathcliff tells Nelly how blinded Isabella was to him, and how every act of meanness and violence just made her come back for more. He did nothing illegal, so she would have no grounds for divorce. Nelly is horrified at this speech and thinks Heathcliff is crazy.

Heathcliff suggests to Nelly that Isabella isn't capable of taking care of herself because she is crazy. Before coming to the Heights, Isabella never exhibited any such behavior. It is only her association with Heathcliff that seems to have brought it out.

Chapter 15

Madness 8: Heathcliff insists he has another visit with Catherine, despite the disastrous effects of his last one. She is dying, and her face is wild and pale. He sees that she is mad, and it hurts to see her so tortured. They embraced almost violently, and Heathcliff foams at the mouth like a wild animal.

Chapter 28

Madness 9: Like her mother, Cathy's fits are frightening. She married Linton, but Heathcliff still has not released her. With her father near death, Cathy becomes crazy with the idea that she may not see him before he dies. Unlike her mother, whose fits were selfish and meant to hurt others, Cathy's arise from a fear of hurting her father. Her frenzy scares Linton so much that he agrees lets her out.

Chapter 34

Madness 10: After nights of wandering the moors, and many days without food, Heathcliff is going mad. His face and eyes are altered; he seems excitable and agitated. There is also a strange happiness in his face. When he returns home the night before his death, Nelly hears him say Catherine's name as though she was present. She can also hear him mumbling in low tones, talking to someone who isn't there. He believes Catherine has been haunting him for years, and now that he is near death, he acts as though Catherine's spirit is closer than ever.

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