Wuthering Heights Chapter 5: Summary and Analysis
In this chapter Nelly Dean takes Lockwood deeper into the heart wrenching story of Heathcliff and Catherine. Catherine was a naughty creature which her father disliked. His health had started failing him with age. While Catherine is a bold and defiant girl, it makes readers feel all the more sympathetic towards her. The story gets even more tragic and heart touching with her father’s death in this chapter. Readers cannot help feeling for the kids who were left helpless after Mr Earnshaw’s death. Except Nelly Dean, there was no one any more to care for either Heathcliff or Catherine. A tragic storm had set into their lives for which the poor kids were never responsible.
With age, Mr Earnshaw grew weaker and highly irritable. He would sit by the fire and would grow vexed at nothing. Any slight on his authority would be enough to throw him into fits. It was especially evident when anybody tried to trouble or dominate Heathcliff. The notion had gotten into his head that because he liked Heathcliff everyone hated him. Most people did not try to contradict or bother him since it would annoy him and his partiality was taken in good humor by people. However, this only added to the pride of the black child. If Hindley tried to demonstrate his hatred for Heathcliff it would make him angry and he would pick his stick to strike him and trembling with rage would find himself unable to. A curate (tutor) advised him to send Hindley to college and while he agreed, he added that it would not bear any fruitful results.
Nelly hoped that there would be peace now as she was hurt that her master was being tormented for a good deed he had committed. His age and his family discontent were taking a toll on his health. His condition grew worse because of Heathcliff and Catherine. Joseph continued to fuel his discontent and while he tried to make a great impression on Mr Earnshaw through his pious discourse, he always ensured he remained worried about his soul’s concerns. He suggested him to rule his children rigidly and that he should regard Hindley as unprincipled. This kindled both fury and frustration in him and he continued to lose his physical and mental health. Mr Earnshaw was worried about his daughter too and Joseph did not let a chance go to make tales about her and Heathcliff where he would lay the blame on the girl so as to burden the old man’s conscience. As Mr Earnshaw grew more agitated and weaker, Joseph found himself proud and satisfied.
Catherine was a constant trouble, out of control and a problem from the time she woke up to when she got to bed. She was wicked and yet she had the nicest smile and was not a bad creature at heart. She would make you cry and then console you. Her fondness for Heathcliff was well known and to punish her they would keep her away from him. When they played, she would act as the mistress and would slap people freely but Nelly disliked it and could not bear any slapping. She could not understand why her father had changed so much with age. The more irritated he felt, the more she loved to tease him. Defying everyone boldly she would turn Joseph’s religious cursing ineffective. To tease her father even more she would like to show off how she had more control over Heathcliff than her. Sometimes after having been naughty all the day, she would go to her father at night to make up when he would say that she must go and say her prayers and she was worse than her brother. He would even curse her mother for having reared her that way. First she may have cried at being told so but grew harder day by day. When Nelly Dean would ask her to be sorry for her faults she would laugh.
Mr Earnshaw died one October evening in his chair by the fire. Catherine was sitting by him leaning against his knee and Heathcliff lay on the floor with his head in her lap. Mr Earnshaw felt good about his daughter’s occasionally good behavior and wanted to see her being so always. Catherine was again naughty and said if he were god all the time, she too would be so. It was wild and stormy outside but not cold. Catherine proposed to sing her father to sleep and after he was asleep, Nelly Dean warned the kids to not wake him up. While he lay there in his chair, Joseph came to wake him up for prayers. He called his name and shook him but got no response. So, he brought a candle and looked at his face. He had discovered it but did not tell the children. Joseph asked the kids to go to bed and say their prayers alone but Catherine would first kiss her father good night. She put her arms around his neck but then discovered it instantly. She cried to Heathcliff that her father was dead and both kids gave a cry that could wrench hearts. Nelly Dean also joined and started crying. However, Joseph asked her to run and bring the doctor and the parson. The doctor came and the parson said he would come in the morning. Nelly went to the kids room where they were calm and trying to console each other. They were talking of heavens where their father must be and that innocent picture made Nelly dean’s heart warm who wished they were always together and happy.