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Chapter 8 in Wuthering Heights: Summary

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

In Chapter 8 of Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights', Lockwood is getting all the gory details of how the situation at the house got so bad from his maid, Nelly Dean. Here's what she tells him.

Hareton's Birth, Frances's Death

Lockwood has been pressing Nelly for more details on the history of Wuthering Heights, and though she's reluctant to let him in on all of the details, she finally opens up at the beginning of Chapter 8. She's the narrator for this section of the book.

Nelly starts this part of her story with the birth of Hareton Earnshaw. It's a June morning, and Nelly and several others are working in the fields when another servant runs up to them to tell them the news. Hareton is a healthy baby boy, but his mother Frances Earnshaw, Hindley's wife, is very sick and not likely to last until winter. Nelly is designated as Hareton's nursemaid -- she'll raise him after Frances passes away.

Hindley is in denial about the whole thing, sending the doctor away and refusing to entertain the idea that Frances is sick at all. She is sick, badly, and she dies after just a few days.

Hindley Unhinged

Care for Hareton falls totally under Nelly's responsibility. Hindley is satisfied to see that the baby is well cared-for, but other than that, he's basically in a constant state of rage against God, the servants, anybody that roams into his field of vision. He eventually becomes abusive enough that none of the servants want to work at Wuthering Heights anymore -- Nelly and Joseph are the only ones that stick around.

Hindley is especially abusive toward Heathcliff. Nelly tells us that his treatment of the boy 'was enough to make a fiend of a saint,' and Heathcliff mostly returns the favor. He starts to get more and more withdrawn and nasty as Hindley descends more into rage.

Catherine's Double Personality

Catherine also becomes a real jerk during this time, according to Nelly. She's the belle of the ball wherever she goes, which makes her extremely arrogant and disdainful toward just about everybody. Everybody, that is, except the Linton family.

When Catherine is visiting the Lintons, or when they're around, she's the picture of kindness. They're all very fond of her, because she's so polite and respectful. But at home, she doesn't have that incentive to be nice, so she joins Heathcliff in being generally nasty to everybody around.

Heathcliff and Catherine

Heathcliff and Catherine join forces over the next year or so; she defends him when people insult his looks or his mannerisms, and they spend a lot of time together. Heathcliff struggles significantly during this time, though -- since he wasn't treated well as a child, he doesn't have the education or social skills Catherine does. But rather than making him work harder socially or intellectually, this gap just makes Heathcliff meaner.

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