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Chapter 17 in Wuthering Heights: Summary

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In chapter 17 of ''Wuthering Heights'' by Emily Bronte, Heathcliff's grief over Catherine's death compounds his already abusive treatment of Isabella. In this lesson, we find out how much Isabella is willing to take.

Catherine's Death

At this point in the story, Catherine has died after giving birth to Edgar's child at Thrushcross Grange, leaving behind two men who are in love with her-- her husband, Edgar, and her step-brother, Heathcliff. Catherine's older brother, Hindley, has always been jealous of Heathcliff and has tried to keep him from Catherine. After Catherine's marriage to Edgar, it becomes Edgar's job to try to keep Heathcliff and Catherine apart. To get revenge against Edgar for taking Catherine from him, Heathcliff marries Edgar's sister, Isabella, and treats her badly. In chapter 17 of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, grief intensifies Heathcliff's abuse of Isabella to the point that she must run away. Let's find out what happens.

Isabella Returns to the Grange

After Catherine's funeral, the weather takes a turn for the worse. Edgar stays in his room while Nelly sets up a nursery in the parlor. As Nelly rocks the baby, Isabella comes bursting in. Laughing, she announces that she has run all the way from Wuthering Heights. Isabella asks for clothing and a carriage ride to Gimmerton.

Nelly helps Isabella change into dry clothes and tends to Isabella's wounds as Isabella has a deep cut under her ear and her face is scratched and bruised. Isabella throws her wedding ring on the floor and stomps on it. 'I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death, and flung it back to me. People feel with their hearts, Ellen: and since he has destroyed mine, I have not power to feel for him: and I would not, though he groaned from this to his dying day, and wept tears of blood for Catherine!' cries Isabella.

Hindley and Heathcliff Argue

Isabella tells how Hindley tried to stay sober so that he could attend Catherine's funeral, but he couldn't. Heathcliff doesn't eat and goes to the Grange at night to visit Catherine's grave. Hindley begins playing a game with Heathcliff, locking him out of the house. Hindley invites Isabella to join up with him against Heathcliff, but she doesn't for fear that any attempt at revenge will backfire.

Hindley confesses his plan to kill Heathcliff, but Isabella encourages him to leave Heathcliff outside. Trying to do the right thing, Isabella warns Heathcliff that he needs to find another place to stay, but Heathcliff demands that she open the door for him. When Hindley sees Heathcliff out the window, he points his gun at Heathcliff. Lunging at the gun, Heathcliff takes it from Hindley. In the process, the gun discharges and the knife on the gun cuts Hindley's wrist.

Blaming Isabella for conspiring against him, Heathcliff shakes her and throws her. Heathcliff tells Hindley to sleep it off and goes to bed.

The Morning After

The next morning at breakfast, Isabella gloats at Heathcliff's grief. Goading him, Isabella says to Hindley in Heathcliff's presence, 'At the Grange, everyone knows your sister would have been living now had it not been for Mr. Heathcliff. After all, it is preferable to be hated than loved by him. When I recollect how happy we were - how happy Catherine was before he came - I'm fit to curse the day.' Heathcliff throws a knife that sticks just below her ear. She throws a knife back at Heathcliff before Hindley grabs him, wrestling on the floor in front of the fireplace.

That is the point when Isabella ran out the door and sprinted the full way to the Grange. As soon as she finishes her story and her tea, Isabella says goodbye and boards her carriage. Isabella does not return to the Grange, but eventually reestablishes a connection with Edgar. Soon after settling near London, she gives birth to Heathcliff's son, Linton.

Isabella and Hindley Die

Heathcliff asks Nelly about Isabella and his son, but he doesn't bother them. When Linton turns twelve, Isabella dies. Edgar becomes a hermit in order to avoid seeing Heathcliff anywhere, but continues to visit Catherine's grave in the evening. Eventually, Edgar's pain dies and he is able to remember Catherine fondly.

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