Chapter 9


Narrator: Nelly. 

A drunken Hindley threatens Nelly and baby Hareton. Heathcliff catches Hareton as he is dropped over the banister by Hindley. Heathcliff overhears Catherine talking to Nelly about whether to marry Edgar and referring to the prospect of marrying Heathcliff as degrading. Heathcliff leaves and, when Catherine realises what has happened, she stands out in the rain all night waiting for him to return. She falls ill with a fever. She spends some time at Thrushcross Grange recovering, but Mr and Mrs Linton catch the fever and both die. Three years later, Edgar and Catherine are married, and Nelly moves with them to Thrushcross Grange, leaving Hareton, nearly five years old, at his father’s mercy.


The opening of the chapter continues, and intensifies, the violence of Chapter 8. The overheard conversation is perhaps the pivotal event of the whole novel. At the end of the chapter, Catherine takes her passion and destruction to Thrushcross Grange.

with the help of Satan, I shall make you swallow the carving-knife: Hindley fits the Gothic image of maddened villain who calls on demonic powers.

Had it been dark .. smashing Hareton's skull: The reader needs to decide to what extent this reflects Heathcliff’s real desire or Nelly’s prejudiced view of him.

The Seven Deadly Sins and The Four Last Things painting by Hieronymus BoschHave mercy .. hearty damnation!: Nelly’s anxiety about Hindley’s drunkenness echoes the historic belief that indulging in the seven deadly sins (of which gluttony regarding food or drink was one) would endanger his chance of salvation (see Big Ideas from the Bible > Sin). However, Hindley wants to punish God (his ‘Maker’) by voluntarily sending his soul to hell (‘perdition’).

bairnies grat: children cried.

Mither … mools: mother…earth (of her grave). This is an appropriate song for Nelly to sing!

I've dreamt … the colour of my mind.: The transforming power of dreams and visions is a common Gothic motif, which Brontë reinforces with Nelly’s mentions of ‘unusual gloom’, ‘dread’, ‘prophecy’ and ‘fearful catastrophe’. 

Milo: a celebrated strong man of ancient Greece who was attempting to split a tree trunk with his hands when he became stuck and was eaten by wolves. Catherine is saying that no-one should try to separate Heathcliff and herself.

girt eedle seeght!: great idle sight.

war un war: worse and worse.

two rigs o' corn: On sloping fields crops were planted in ridges (‘rigs’) around three feet high. These were then ploughed from end to end, so that the resulting furrows would allow excess water to drain from one rig down to the next.

hahsomdiver: nevertheless.

Noah and Lot: Old Testament characters who were saved by God. (See Genesis 7:1-7 and Genesis 19:15-24.)

Jonah: an Old Testament character who was seen to be the bringer of bad luck in the shape of a destructive storm, because he tried to avoid doing what God asked (Jonah 1:3-12).

Vociferate .. that a wide distinction might be drawn between saints like himself and sinners like his master: Joseph lacks any kind of Christian charity – he is happy for Hindley to be killed by the storm as long as he himself is saved. The phrases employed recall Jesusparable about the Pharisee and the tax collector Luke 18:9-14

All warks togither … th' rubbidge! Joseph self-righteously suggests that he, Nelly and Catherine have escaped the storm which may have been Heathcliff’s undoing, by quoting Romans 8:28. It is ironic that he uses a passage designed to encourage early Christians facing suffering as he relishes the suffering of another (Heathcliff).

fahl, flaysome divil of a gipsy, Heathcliff: Referring to Heathcliff as a gipsy conveys the mystery of his origins, his unconfined disposition and his association with a heathen lifestyle. In the eighteenth century, superstitions about gipsies abounded, associating them with witchcraft, child theft and cannibalism. 

bled her: a common way to treat a fever at the time.

whey: the liquid part of milk after the curds have been taken off for cheese.

water-gruel: oatmeal mixed with water rather than milk.

she would not bear crossing much … serious threats of a fit that often attended her rages: Brontë prepares readers for the increasing instability of Catherine’s mental and physical health, which will culminate in her death.

Investigating Chapter 9

  • Note Catherine’s dream about heaven. Several dreams are mentioned in the novel. Why do you think they are important?
  • The sudden storm is seen in Biblical terms. What extra power or significance might this give it?
  • If you can, read the conversation between Nelly and Catherine aloud with a partner, reading only the dialogue. You should notice the flow of the exchange, and be aware of the person overhearing. What do you notice about the point when Heathcliff departs?
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