Six months after Catherine’s death, Hindley dies. Nelly returns to Wuthering Heights to see to the funeral arrangements, and to bring young Hareton back to Thrushcross Grange. She is shocked to learn that Hindley died deeply in debt, and that Heathcliff, who had lent Hindley large amounts of money to supply his gambling addiction, now owns Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff does not allow Hareton to return to Thrushcross Grange with Nelly, saying that he plans to raise him on his own. He also intimates that he plans to recover his son Linton at some point in the future. And so, Nelly tells Lockwood, Hareton, who should have lived as the finest gentleman in the area, is reduced to working for his keep at Wuthering Heights. A common, uneducated servant, he remains friendless and without hope.
Young Catherine grows up at Thrushcross Grange, and by the time she is thirteen she is a beautiful, intelligent girl, but often strong-willed and temperamental. Her father, mindful of the tormented history of the neighboring manor, does not allow young Catherine off the grounds of Thrushcross Grange, and she grows up without any knowledge of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff, or Hareton. She longs to visit the fairy caves at Penistone Crags, but Edgar refuses her request. He receives word one day, however, that Isabella is dying, and he hurries to London to take charge of young Linton. While he is gone, Catherine is left in Nelly’s care, and she is able to escape the confines of the Grange.
She travels toward Penistone Crags but stops at Wuthering Heights, where she meets Hareton and takes an instant liking to him. She and Hareton spend a delightful day playing near the crags. Nelly arrives in pursuit of her charge, and tries to hurry her back to Thrushcross Grange. But Catherine refuses to go. Nelly tells Catherine that Hareton is not the son of the master of Wuthering Heights—a fact that makes the girl contemptuous of him—but she also reveals that he is Catherine’s cousin. Catherine tries to deny this possibility, saying that her cousin is in London, that her father has gone to retrieve him there. Nelly, however, explains that a person can have more than one cousin. At last, Nelly prevails upon her to leave, and Catherine agrees not to mention the incident to her father, who might well terminate Nelly’s employment in rage if he knew she had let Catherine learn of Wuthering Heights.
Edgar brings young Linton to the Grange, and Catherine is disappointed to find her cousin a pale, weak, whiny young man. Not long after he arrives, Joseph appears, saying that Heathcliff is determined to take possession of his son. Edgar promises that he will bring Linton to Wuthering Heights the following day.
Nelly receives orders to escort the boy to the Heights in the morning. On the way, she tries to comfort Linton by telling him reassuring lies about his father. When they arrive, however, Heathcliff does not even pretend to love his son—he calls Linton’s mother a slut, and he says that Linton is his property. Linton pleads with Nelly not to leave him with such a monster, but Nelly mounts her horse and rides away hurriedly.
Wuthering Heights is, in many ways, a novel of juxtaposed pairs: Catherine’s two great loves for Heathcliff and Edgar; the two ancient manors of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange; the two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons; Heathcliff’s conflicting passions of love and hate. Additionally, the structure of the novel divides the story into two contrasting halves. The first deals with the generation of characters represented by Catherine, Heathcliff, Hindley, Isabella, and Edgar, and the second deals with their children—young Catherine, Linton, and Hareton. Many of the same themes and ideas occur in the second half of the novel as in the first half, but they develop quite differently. While the first half ends on a note of doom and despair with Catherine’s death and Heathcliff’s gradual descent into evil, the novel as a whole ends on a note of hope, peace, and joy, with young Catherine’s proposed marriage to Hareton Earnshaw.