Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Wuthering Heights (1939)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

After a long pause, they rush into each other's arms, in another of their memorable, romantic scenes together on the moors:

Cathy: Forgive me, Heathcliff. Forgive me. Heathcliff. Make the world stop right here. Make everything stop and stand still and never move again. Make the moors never change, and you and I never change.
Heathcliff: The moors and I will never change. Don't you, Cathy.
Cathy: I can't. I can't. No matter what I ever do or say Heathcliff, this is me, now, standing on this hill with you. This is me forever. Heathcliff, when you went away, what did you do? Where did you go?
Heathcliff: I went to Liverpool. One night, I shipped for America on a brigantine going to New Orleans. We were held up by the tide and I lay all night long on the deck, thinking of you, and the years and years ahead without you. I jumped overboard and swam ashore.
Cathy: I think I'd died if you hadn't.
Heathcliff: Cathy, we're not thinking of that other world now.
Cathy: Smell the heather. Heathcliff. (She stands and holds her arms outstretched.) Fill my arms with heather. All they can hold. Come on.
Heathcliff: Cathy. You're still my queen.

After frolicking, they run down from the crag to the moors, where Heathcliff fills Cathy's arms with heather. In the wind, he touches her hair, and then they kiss each other.

And as time went by, Cathy again was torn between her wild, uncontrollable passion for Heathcliff and the new life she had found at the Grange that she could not forget.

Edgar pens a letter to Cathy: "I have passed weeks of misery. Our house has been so empty since you left. I am counting the hours until I shall see you tonight." Cathy's strong, spiritual love for Heathcliff is counterbalanced by her worldly care for Edgar and earthly things. Ellen describes how Cathy has been transformed by wearing a silk dress to prepare for Edgar's arrival:

I can't believe this change in you, Miss Cathy. Just yesterday it seems, you were a harem-scarem child with dirty hands and a willful heart. Look at you - oh you're lovely Miss Cathy.

Heathcliff derides Cathy for having Edgar call on her, and for changing so drastically from her mood on the moors:

Heathcliff: You're not gonna sit all evening, simpering in front of him again, listening to his silly talk.
Cathy: Oh I'm not!
Heathcliff: No.
Cathy: Well Heathcliff I am. It's much more entertaining than listening to a stable boy.
Heathcliff: Cathy. Don't you talk like that.
Cathy: I will. Go away. This is my room. It's a ladies room. Not a room for servants with dirty hands to come into with their insulting complaints. Now let me alone.
Heathcliff: Yes. Yes. Tell the dirty stable boy to let go of you. He soiled your pretty dress. But who soiled your heart? Not Heathcliff. Who turns you into a vain, cheap, worldly fool? Linton does. You'll never love him, but you'll let yourself be loved because it pleases your stupid, greedy vanity. Loved by that milksop with buckles on his shoes...
Cathy: Stop it. Stop it and get out. You had your chance to be something else. The people's servant were all you were born to be, a beggar in the center of the road, begging for favors, not earning them but whimpering for them with your dirty hands.
Heathcliff: That's all I've become to you. A pair of dirty hands. Well, have them then. Have them where they belong! (He strikes her across the face with one hand, and then with the other) It doesn't help to strike you.

After their violent quarrel and misunderstanding, Heathcliff leaves the house and goes out to the stable in the pouring rain, just as Edgar Linton arrives to call on Cathy. Heathcliff climbs to his bed in the stable loft and lies there in front of a window. After staring at his hands, he plunges them through the glass, cutting them badly. After Edgar has left, Ellen washes Heathcliff's hands, as he expresses his love for Cathy:

I want to crawl to her feet, whimper to be forgiven, for loving me, for needing her more than my own life, for belonging to her more than my own soul.

In the kitchen without her knowledge, Heathcliff overhears Cathy telling Ellen that she is considering Edgar's proposal of marriage:

Cathy: Ellen, can you keep a secret? Ellen, Edgar's asked me to marry him.
Ellen: What did you tell him?
Cathy: I told him I'd give him my answer tomorrow.
Ellen: Well, do you love him Miss Cathy?
Cathy: Yes, of course.
Ellen: Why?
Cathy: Why? That's a silly question isn't it?
Ellen: No, not so silly. Why do you love him?
Cathy: Because he's handsome and pleasant to be with.
Ellen: That's not enough.
Cathy: Because he'll be rich someday, and I'll be the finest lady in the county.
Ellen: Oh. Now tell me how you love him.
Cathy: I love the ground under his feet, the air above his head, and everything he touches.
Ellen: What about Heathcliff?
Cathy: Oh Heathcliff. He gets worse everyday. It would degrade me to marry him. I wish he hadn't come back. (Dejected, Heathcliff turns away from what he hears) Oh it would be Heaven to escape from this disorderly, comfortless place.

As Ellen speaks, the candles flicker and the lights dim, indicating that Heathcliff has opened the outer door and left. He departs in a rage before hearing Cathy's confession that she wasn't made for Edgar's Heaven. Tortured and confused by the warring dualities in her nature, one part of her is wild and passionate, the other ambitiously desiring security and wealth. She identifies herself with the bedeviled man-child creature Heathcliff, and associates his soul with her own in one of the most famous lines in film history:

Ellen: Well, if Master Edgar and his charms and money and parties mean Heaven to you, what's to keep you from taking your place among the Linton angels.
Cathy: I don't think I belong in Heaven, Ellen. I dreamt once that I was there. I dreamt I went to Heaven, and that Heaven didn't seem to be my home. And I broke my heart with weeping to come back to Earth. And the angels were so angry they flung me out into the middle of the heap, on top of Wuthering Heights. And I woke up sobbing with joy. That's it, Ellen. I have no more business marrying Edgar Linton than I have of being in Heaven. But Ellen, Ellen, what can I do?
Ellen: You're thinking of Heathcliff.
Cathy: Who else? He's sunk so low. He seems to take pleasure in being mean and brutal. And yet, he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. And Linton's is as different as frost from fire...Ellen, I am Heathcliff.

Lightning flashes and strikes and thunder simultaneously rolls behind her, as she realizes her bond with Heathcliff's soul:

Everything he's suffered, I've suffered. The little happiness he's ever known I've had too. Oh Ellen, if everything in the world died and Heathcliff remained, life would still be full for me.

She is startled to hear horse's hoofbeats and Joseph's voice calling after Heathcliff to stop. Ellen tells Cathy - to her dismay: "He must have been listening," and overheard their conversation up to the point at which Cathy stated that she wouldn't marry him because of his unsuitable low birth - it would degrade her. Cathy runs outside into the driving rainstorm, hoping to tell him of her long-repressed feelings and love, but Heathcliff has already disappeared. Jealousy has driven him away. Cathy calls after him, and then makes the difficult ascent on foot to Peniston Crag, but he is nowhere to be seen. There, she collapses as the rain beats down on her.

Alcoholic Hindley refuses to help search for Cathy because she ran off with Heathcliff - a "gypsy scum." He chastises both of them, demanding a drink instead: "They're birds of a feather and the devil can take them both. Now get me a bottle." The next morning, Cathy is found by Edgar "near one of the rocks on Peniston Crag, the life almost out of her," and brought to the Linton estate. As she is revived, she deliriously murmurs the name: "Heathcliff," but apparently, Heathcliff has "disappeared into thin air."

As Cathy is convalescing from pneumonia at the Linton home, an overly-attentive, well-meaning, but vapid Edgar promises life-long caring, and she quickly forgets her love and memories of Heathcliff, consenting to Edgar's flattering proposal of marriage:

Edgar: Darling, let me take care of you forever. Let me guard you and love you always.
Cathy: Would you love me always?
Edgar: Yes. It's so easy to love you.
Cathy: Cause I'm no longer wild and black-hearted, and full of gypsy ways?...Of course you were right Edgar. What you said long ago was true. There was a strange curse on me, something that kept me from being myself, or at least from being what I wanted to be - living in Heaven.
Edgar: How sweet you are! I never kiss you. (Edgar kisses her gently)
Cathy: No one will ever kiss me again but you. No one. I'll be your wife and be proud of being your wife...And I'll be good to you and love you truly, always.

With a troubled look on her face after the marriage ceremony, Cathy feels Heathcliff's cold and dark presence: "A cold wind went across my heart just then. A feeling of doom. (To Edgar) You touched me and it was gone." As Edgar's carriage takes Cathy away, a zoom close-up finds the teary-eyed, worried countenance of Ellen, the Wuthering Heights housekeeper:

And I too felt a cold wind across my heart as they rode away together. But as the years went on, they were really in possession of a deep and growing happiness. I wish you could have seen Miss Cathy then. She became quite the lady of the manor, and seemed almost overfond of Mr. Linton. For Isabella, she showed great affection, and presided over Thruschcross Grange with quiet dignity.

Cathy considers herself fortunate for having found Edgar, unlike the misfortune of her unmarried sister-in-law Isabella: "Poor Isabella. I'm afraid I got the only prize in the county." And then she is told by Ellen that Heathcliff - "a ghost," has returned. Heathcliff suddenly reappears as a worldly, refined, wealthy gentleman who has come back from America, to see Cathy:

Ellen: There's someone wishes to see you.
Cathy: You sound as if it were a ghost.
Ellen: It 'tis. He's come back.
Cathy: (after pausing and slowly raising her head): Who?
Ellen: Heathcliff.
Cathy: What does he want?
Ellen: He wants to see you.
Cathy: Tell him, tell him I'm not at home.
Edgar: Not at home? To whom Cathy, you're 'not at home'?
Cathy (to Edgar): It's Heathcliff. It means he's come back.
Edgar: Well that's news. Where's he been?
Ellen: In America he said. He's so changed I hardly recognized him.
Edgar: Oh, for the better I hope.
Ellen: Oh yes, he's quite the gentleman. Fine clothes, a horse...
Cathy: Don't stand there prattling. Go and tell him I don't wish to see him.
Edgar: Oh nonsense Cathy. We can't be as cruel as that. He's come a long way and he's a fine gentleman, so Ellen says. Let's see how America has managed to make a silk purse out of old Master Heath. Show him in, Ellen.

A distinguished, sophisticated Heathcliff returns after amassing a considerable material fortune, with a polished manner and a persistent interest in reviving Cathy's love. After seeing him again, Cathy resists the inner awakenings of her feelings for him, as he explains how he has acquired Wuthering Heights by playing "the Good Samaritan in secret" and buying up all Hindley's debts and obligations:

Edgar: Well, what brought about this amazing transformation? Did you, uh, discover a gold mine in the New World, or perhaps you fell heir to a fortune?
Heathcliff: The truth is, I remembered that my father was an Emperor of China and my mother was an Indian Queen. (He glances at Cathy, watching her reaction to their childhood make-believe) And I went out and claimed my inheritance. It all turns out just as you suspected Cathy - that I had been kidnapped by wicked sailors and brought to England, that I was of noble birth.
Cathy: Are you visiting here long? I mean, in the village?
Heathcliff: For the rest of my life. I've just bought Wuthering Heights - the house, the stock, and the moors.
Edgar: You mean that Hindley has sold you the estate?
Heathcliff: He's not aware of it as yet. I'm afraid it will be somewhat of a surprise to him when he finds out that his gambling debts and liquor bills were all paid up for him by his former stable boy. Or perhaps he will merely laugh at the irony of it, Mr. Linton.

Before Heathcliff excuses himself, after being treated "abominably" and accused of theft by Edgar (an "underhanded piece of work") of Cathy's dissolute brother Hindley's property, Cathy advises that as a new neighbor, Heathcliff must show less bitterness:

Cathy: Edgar and I have many neighbors whom we receive with hospitality and friendship. And if you are to be one of them, you're welcome to visit our house, but not with a scowl on your face or an old bitterness in your heart.
Heathcliff: Thank you. It occurs to me that I have not congratulated you on your marriage. I've often thought of it. Allow me to express my delight over your happiness now.

After Heathcliff has departed, Isabella expresses her disappointment at both her brother and sister-in-law for being uncivil to Heathcliff:

Isabella: You dismissed him as if he had been a servant.
Edgar: Don't tell me you thought of him as anything else?
Isabella: I thought him very distinguished.
Edgar: I hope I misunderstood you. It's impossible that any sister of mine could think of Heathcliff as anything but a surly dressed-up beggar, a lout, and a boor. I shall take precautions to insure that you never see him again.

Back at Wuthering Heights, the broken down Hindley bemoans to Joseph about his misfortune at the hands of Heathcliff:

How can I stay sober with that vulture's beak inside me? He stabbed me in the dark, Joseph. He robbed me, he robbed me of my home and gold.

Although Heathcliff allows Hindley to remain at Wuthering Heights, he cruelly torments Hindley and encourages him to become bitter and disconsolate:

What I have done to you Hindley is to enable you to be yourself. My money has helped you to drink and gamble and enjoy the world as you wished. And now that you're without a home of your own, I remember that you once gave me a place to sleep when you might have turned me out. And I allow you to remain Hindley and even provide you with solace... (Heathcliff pours him wine from a bottle, goading him to drink) against the doctor's orders.

Miserable from continued torment, Hindley threatens to shoot Heathcliff with a gun, but his cowardice and fear prevent him from doing so. Heathcliff banishes Hindley from the house and announces his long-awaited ownership:

I'm master here now.

A visitor from the Grange arrives at Wuthering Heights - it isn't the expected Cathy, but Isabella. Her excuse that her horse went lame isn't entirely credible. Isabella shares with Heathcliff her anger at her brother and sister-in-law and apologizes for their behavior:

I was furious with my brother and Cathy too. I told them so. I thought they acted most shamefully.

Realizing how helpless he is, but that he can use lonely Isabella as his pawn and spitefully avenge himself on Cathy for being married to Edgar, Heathcliff pays attention to Isabella. He calls her a unique friend: "So that in all the county, you are my only friend." As the scene fades to black, he promises her:

You won't be lonely anymore.

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