He got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears. ‘Come in! come in!’ he sobbed. ‘Cathy, do come. Oh, do—once more! Oh! my heart’s darling! hear me, this time, Catherine, at last!’
Mr. Lockwood describes to Nelly Heathcliff’s grief-stricken response to Mr. Lockwood’s supernatural experience with Catherine’s spirit. Heathcliff’s emotional reaction to the mention of Catherine’s name tells Mr. Lockwood as well as the reader that Catherine’s character overshadows the novel. From the onset, Mr. Lockwood and the reader are drawn into the story of the mysterious Catherine.
Certainly she had ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; and she put all of us past our patience fifty times and oftener in a day: from the hour she came downstairs till the hour she went to bed, we had not a minute’s security that she wouldn’t be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going—singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same.
Nelly Dean describes Catherine’s personality and behavior as a young child. Nelly explains that Catherine was a difficult and high-spirited child, a constant source of trouble. This description reveals Catherine’s strong-willed character while reflecting social expectations of the time, when children, especially girls, were expected to be reserved and respectful. Catherine breaks this mold, setting her apart as a strong, impactful character in the novel.
A wild, wicked slip she was—but she had the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish: and, after all, I believe she meant no harm; for when once she made you cry in good earnest, it seldom happened that she would not keep you company, and oblige you to be quiet that you might comfort her.
Nelly gives Mr. Lockwood a description of Catherine as a child. She explains that while Catherine was difficult and she often misbehaved, her unique beauty and the fact she did not intend to cause harm often redeemed her character. This description reveals how Catherine could easily manipulate others into forgiving her and adoring her despite her faults.
[S]he was never so happy as when we were all scolding her at once, and she defying us with her bold, saucy look, and her ready words; . . . After behaving as badly as possible all day, she sometimes came fondling to make it up at night.
Nelly explains to Mr. Lockwood how Catherine enjoyed the negative attention she received when she misbehaved as a child. She recalls that Catherine displayed a feisty and fierce personality, traits that continue to show into adulthood. Catherine seems to enjoy defying expectations and rules, but she also quickly turns on the charm when needed. Catherine’s strong, defiant, and persuasive personality plays a major role in the conflict throughout the novel.
But it was one of their chief amusements to run away to the moors in the morning and remain there all day, and the after punishment grew a mere thing to laugh at. The curate might set as many chapters as he pleased for Catherine to get by heart, and Joseph might thrash Heathcliff till his arm ached; they forgot everything the minute they were together again.
Nelly describes to Mr. Lockwood the strong connection that Catherine and Heathcliff have from the beginning. This conversation occurs after Catherine’s father dies and her brother, Hindley, returns to Wuthering Heights, often degrading and mistreating Heathcliff. Nelly explains how Catherine and Heathcliff, when children, would run off to the moors together to escape Heathcliff’s mistreatment. Catherine’s loyalty to Heathcliff seems unbreakable at this point in the novel.
She, supposing Edgar could not see her, snatched the cloth from my hand, and pinched me, with a prolonged wrench, very spitefully on the arm. . . . ‘I didn’t touch you, you lying creature!’ cried she, her fingers tingling to repeat the act, and her ears red with rage. She never had the power to conceal her passion . . . She stamped her foot, wavered a moment, and then, irresistibly impelled by the naughty spirit within her, slapped me on the cheek: a stinging blow that filled both eyes with water.
Nelly describes a confrontation between herself and Catherine during one of Edgar’s visits to Wuthering Heights. Catherine lashes out at Nelly, revealing her true character to Edgar. Catherine may be an adult, but she still behaves like an angry, spiteful child. The outburst appalls Edgar. However, in typical Catherine style, she finds a way to bring Edgar right back to his adoration of her.
‘Oh, I’ve endured very, very bitter misery, Nelly! If that creature knew how bitter, he’d be ashamed to cloud its removal with idle petulance. It was kindness for him which induced me to bear it alone . . . However, it’s over, and I’ll take no revenge on his folly; I can afford to suffer anything hereafter! I’ll go make my peace with Edgar instantly.’
After an awkward tea with Edgar and Heathcliff, Catherine explains to Nelly how she feels about Heathcliff’s return to Wuthering Heights. Catherine’s words reveal her strong-willed personality as well as her desire to make amends with Edgar. However, Catherine also shows passionate feelings towards Heathcliff, keeping the conflict between Edgar and Heathcliff intense.
And sliding from the bed before I could hinder her, she crossed the room, walking very uncertainly, threw it back, and bent out, careless of the frosty air that cut about her shoulders as keen as a knife. I entreated, and finally attempted to force her to retire. But I soon found her delirious strength much surpassed mine (she was delirious, I became convinced by her subsequent actions and ravings).
Nelly describes the toll the conflict between Edgar and Heathcliff has on Catherine’s mental and physical state. Heathcliff has recently returned to Wuthering Heights, and his presence immediately disrupts the couple’s contented relationship and Catherine’s emotional well-being. Catherine’s health declines from the stress of being torn between her two loves, a passionate love with Heathcliff and a platonic love for Edgar.
‘I’ll inform you Catherine Linton is as different now from your old friend Catherine Earnshaw, as that young lady is different from me. Her appearance is changed greatly, her character much more so; and the person who is compelled, of necessity, to be her companion, will only sustain his affection hereafter by the remembrance of what she once was, by common humanity, and a sense of duty!’
Nelly Dean tells Heathcliff about Catherine’s sickened physical and mental state. She then pleads with Heathcliff to leave Catherine alone since his presence and his conflict with Edgar caused her decline. The Catherine Heathcliff grew up with has changed and diminished.
Her appearance was altered…but when she was calm, there seemed unearthly beauty in the change. The flash of her eyes had been succeeded by a dreamy and melancholy softness; they no longer gave the impression of looking at the objects around her: they appeared always to gaze beyond, and far beyond—you would have said out of this world . . . and to any person who saw her, I should think—refuted more tangible proofs of convalescence, and stamped her as one doomed to decay.
Nelly describes Catherine’s physical and emotional state to Mr. Lockwood. Nelly recognizes that Catherine’s physical features take on aspects of her current mental health. Catherine almost appears more delicate and soft, but this drastic change in her character from once feisty and strong to weak and lost indicates Catherine’s deterioration to those around her, as well as to the reader.