Catherine & Heathcliff as Children in Wuthering Heights

Instructor: Kiesa Kay

Kiesa Kay has taught college English and has a master's degree in English, with honors.

As children, Heathcliff and Cathy initially adore each other in Emily Bronte's ''Wuthering Heights.'' Things take a turn as they mature, and as his dark passion counters her boundless energy for living. In this lesson, we'll look at the two characters and their personalities as children.

Charming and Cheerful

Cathy Earnshaw, the primary female character in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, kept things stirred up, in a way that often delighted people near her. Emily Bronte wrote, 'Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going--singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same.' She not only behaved joyfully and energetically, but also wanted everyone around her to share her boisterous enthusiasm. Most of all, she wanted attention from Heathcliff, and she protected him as well as she could. She had a tendency to slap people, but she was such a saucy minx with so much charm that she quickly got forgiven. She could charm her way out of the trouble she created for other people.

Heathcliff would do whatever she wanted him to do, and it bothered Cathy's father no end to see how Heathcliff obeyed her slightest command, even at risk of disobeying Mr. Earnshaw. The two children simply showed devotion to each other. When Cathy finds her father dead, she cries out for Heathcliff before thinking of anyone else, and the two children cry together.


Heathcliff received brutal floggings, and Cathy was punished by being told to skip meals or read chapters, but the two of them became reckless and wild when they got together. Heathcliff chaffed from neglect, but Cathy taught him all she learned in her lessons. A frightful incident with a bulldog led to their undoing; the dog bit Cathy, and Heathcliff came to negative attention as a result, too. As Cathy grew more mature, more beautiful, and more gentile, Heathcliff grew more dirty and unkempt. Cathy came back from five weeks at Thrushcross Grange, where she had recuperated, with hands white from being indoors, wearing splendid garments. Heathcliff had lost her as his friend, advocate, and protector through that time, and he had grown filthy. Cathy called him black and cross and funny and grim, and she hurt his feelings.

'I shall be as dirty as I please,' he said. 'And I like to be dirty, and I will be dirty.'

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