Chapter 4


Narrators: Lockwood and Nelly Dean. 

Nelly answers Lockwood’s questions about the Earnshaw and Linton families. She tells the story of Heathcliff’s arrival and how different characters reacted to him, and of old Mrs Earnshaw’s death. 


Some of the reader’s questions about the characters are answered. The description of Heathcliff as a boy is important, and the reliability of Nelly’s narration is established.

Indiginae: natives (Latin).

He had a son, it seems: Nelly begins to explain who the characters are, before the reader starts to find the confusion annoying.

Whinstone: hard sandstone.

Cuckoo: Heathcliff has displaced the rightful inhabitants like a cuckoo does when it chooses another bird’s nest. The natural imagery of this (continued with ‘dunnock’- a hedge-sparrow) is appropriate for the character and is continued throughout the novel.

Liverpool: a major trading port, especially of slaves. Is Heathcliff connected with this in some way?

The three kingdoms: England, Scotland and Wales.

A gift of God…from the devil: the first words of description applied to Heathcliff. 

Mr. Earnshaw told me to wash it .. let it sleep with the children. .. the stupid little thing: from the start Heathcliff is dehumanised.

He blubbered aloud: immediately Heathcliff causes conflict and upset; even Catherine grins and spits. Hindley’s reaction prepares us for his later behaviour, though Catherine changes her mind.

You must exchange horses with me: we are given an idea of Heathcliff’s ability to manipulate and be vindictive even as a child.

Flighted: Yorkshire dialect for scolded.

Investigating Chapter 4

  • Find the description of Heathcliff as a boy and list the terms that Brontë uses to describe him.
    • What overall themes do you notice?
  • The endings of chapters are often significant. What is your response to the final sentence of Chapter 4?
  • To help avoid confusion about the various names and relationships, draw up a family tree of the parallel Earnshaw and Linton families.
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