During the following summer, Frances gives birth to Hareton, but Frances dies a week later because she had been suffering from consumption. Nelly is expected to take complete control of the newborn. Hindley is distraught over the death of his wife and becomes tyrannical, forcing all the servants but Nelly and Joseph away. He also begins to treat Heathcliff more cruelly, and Heathcliff delights in Hindley's downfall.
Catherine begins "to adopt a double character," behaving one way with Heathcliff and another with the Lintons. Heathcliff begins keeping track of how much time she is spending with Edgar and the Lintons, and he is angry that Catherine belittles him when he confronts her with this. Edgar arrives at the end of the argument.
Nelly keeps herself in the room with Catherine during Edgar's visit, and this annoys Catherine greatly. Unable to convince Nelly to leave, Catherine ends up pinching Nelly and then lies about it. Edgar tries to intervene, and Catherine boxes his ears. This is the first time he has seen the wild side of Catherine and he tells her that he must leave; however, on the way out, he sees Catherine through the window and returns. Later, Nelly interrupts the sweethearts to inform them that Mr. Earnshaw has returned home, drunk again.
After his wife dies, Hindley starts a disintegration from which he never recovers. Avoiding his son and becoming a tyrannical drunkard, Hindley's demise serves as an eerie precursor to Heathcliff's own downfall. Heathcliff takes pleasure witnessing Hindley's self-destruction.
In addition to showing Heathcliff's delight in the downfall of others, this chapter, perhaps more than any other, reveals Nelly's genuine dislike of Catherine. She admits "I own I did not like her after her infancy was past" and claims she is "as bad as marred [spoiled] child." This admission immediately draws suspicion on her reliability. Clearly, at this point in time, she favors Heathcliff to Catherine, although this does not always remain constant.
A connection between love and cruelty surfaces in this chapter and is repeated constantly and consistently throughout Wuthering Heights. Those characters — especially Heathcliff — who exhibit the strongest love (that is, those who are most passionate) also tend to be the cruelest. Brontë explores this interconnection through the various types of relationships that she creates in Wuthering Heights.
consumption a wasting away of the body, most likely tuberculosis.
rush of a lass a girl who is slender and delicate, like a rush.
infernal hellish; inhuman.
coquette a girl or woman who merely from vanity tries to get men's attention and admiration.
almanack [Archaic spelling] an almanac, a yearly calendar.
equanimity evenness of mind or temper.
assiduously with constant and careful attention.
consternation great fear or shock that makes one feel helpless or bewildered.
askance with a sideways glance.