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The Humor in Chapter Two of Wuthering Heights

Athlyn Green is an avid reader and discusses literary gems she's discovered with fellow enthusiasts.

When Lockwood Reaches the Heights, Will the Reception Prove as Chilly as the Day?


Does Inclement Weather Portend More Mishaps?

Lockwood plans to spend a cozy day by the fire in his study. The weather is chilly and damp, so it's a good day to stay indoors, but a servant is cleaning the fireplace, raising an infernal dust, so any hope of a warm fire disappears in a cloud of soot.

Lockwood decides to take his chances out-of-doors and he braves the mud and heath to walk from Thrushcross Park up to the Heights. Unlike his first visit, when he rode over on his horse, this time he chooses to go on foot (which will lead to a hilarious incident in Chapter Three). Surely, after what transpired during his first visit, this second attempt will prove a more agreeable experience.

The cold weather worsens and snow is falling by the time he reaches Heathcliff's gate. Lockwood is shivering "through every limb" and he cannot get the gate open, so he jumps over it. He knocks for admittance, which then sets the dogs howling. Thus far, things aren't looking one bit more promising.

"Wretched inmates! You deserve perpetual isolation from your species for your churlish inhospitality." Lockwood knows he would not keep his doors barred in the daytime. "I will get in!" He says and grabs the latch and shakes it vehemently.

What are ye for? ~ Joseph

— Emily Bronte

A Second Encounter With Vinegar-Faced Joseph

"What are ye for?" Joseph hollers down to Lockwood from a window in the barn. No word of greeting there.

"Is there nobody inside to open the door?" Lockwood inquires in frustration.

Joseph responds that no matter what kind of noise Lockwood makes the missus inside won't open the door to him.

Lockwood suggests that Joseph might help him by letting the missus know it is he who is calling.

"I’ll hae no hend wi’t," mutters Joseph and disappears into the barn. Joseph hasn't warmed up at all and refuses to offer assistance.

The snow is now coming down thickly and Lockwood is set to seize the handle again and apply brute force but a gruff youth appears and directs him around the house and inside.

At last! Lockwood is finally out of the elements and is greeted by a blazing fire and good food laid out. Things are looking up...

Tea at Wuthering Heights


I’m afraid, Mrs. Heathcliff, the door must bear the consequence of your servants’ leisure attendance... ~ Lockwood

— Emily Bronte

"Were You Asked to Tea?"



Lockwood discovers a young lady inside and he's pleased to finally meet the "missus." He mistakenly assumes she is Heathcliff's wife. He expects her to ask him to take a seat but she's every bit as lukewarm-bordering-on-hostile as the others.

Lockwood tries to make conversation and in a sarcastic remark that reveals his frustration over his knocking being ignored, he says, "‘I’m afraid, Mrs. Heathcliff, the door must bear the consequence of your servants’ leisure attendance..."

She says nothing, just stares at him coolly.

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"Sit down," the young man grunts out bossily.

Lockwood is decidedly uncomfortable and with no warmth from the human quarter, tries to befriend one of the dogs. Readers will remember how they attacked him in my first article in this series, The Humor in Chapter One of Wuthering Heights, so it's a good bet he likely does not wish a repeat of that canine behavior. He compliments the young woman about the dogs and she snaps out repellingly, "They are not mine."

Lockwood hems and haws and remarks on the wildness of the evening.

"You should not have come out," she replies.

"Were you asked to tea?" she demands.

Lockwood says he would be glad to have a cup.

"Were... you... asked?" she says pointedly.

And as if all this weren't bad enough, the young man looks at Lockwood as if the two have some type of mortal feud between them.

New Characters in Chapter Two

Young MaleYoung Female

Hareton--he is the son of the former owner, Hindley

Cathy--she is the daughter of Catherine who was Hindley's sister

Thing Go From Bad to Worse

This uncomfortable situation is interrupted by the appearance of Heathcliff. Lockwood greets him and mentions that because of the weather he will be weather-bound for about half an hour.

"Half an hour?" Heathcliff says perhaps hinting that even this small amount of time is an intrusion. "‘I wonder you should select the thick of a snow storm to ramble about in."

Lockwood requests a guide to make his way back to the Grange and Heathcliff flatly denies his request. He also orders the young woman to make the tea in a tone so savage that Lockwood no longer views Heathcliff as "a capital fellow." Lockwood's enthusiasm is wearing thin at the way he has been treated by all and sundry.

The meal commences but it's every bit as forbidding as the inhabitants. Lockwood tries to lighten the mood and commends Heathcliff on having a missus to make his home comfortable. This provokes a diabolical sneer from Heathcliff, who indicates that the young lady is his daughter-in-law.

Lockwood now commends the young man but he clenches his fist, with every appearance of a meditated assault on Lockwood!

Lockwood Asks Helplessly

But... how will I do? ~ Lockwood

— Emily Bronte


How Will Lockwood Get Home in the Snow Storm?

Once the meal is concluded, Lockwood worries about how he is to get home. His neighbors offer no comments or offers of help. He finally concludes that in that case, he will have to stay the night at Wuthering Heights.

"I hope it will be a lesson to you to make no more rash journeys on these hills," Twits Heathcliff.

Lockwood offers to sleep in a chair and is forbidden to do so, because Heathcliff won't permit Lockwood the range of the place while Heathcliff is off guard.

This proves too much for Lockwood, who now feels disgust and aversion for "the unmannerly wretch" and the other boorish people who live there. He rushes out into the yard, figuring that risking getting lost on the moors in a snowstorm and potentially perishing is a better bet than staying one moment longer at Wuthering Heights. He seizes Joseph's lantern and even though he tells him he will return it the next day, Joseph claims he's stealing it and sets the dogs on him!

Maister, maister, he’s staling t’ lanthern!’ Hey, Gnasher! Hey, dog! Hey Wolf, holld him, holld him! ~ Joseph

— Emily Bronte

Attacked by the Dogs Again

Two hairy monsters lunge at Lockwood's throat and knock him down, pinning him to the ground, and Lockwood is enraged when he hears guffaws from Heathcliff and the young man, Hareton.

Fortunately, the beasts seemed more bent on stretching their paws, and yawning, and flourishing their tails, than devouring me alive.

Zillah Renders Assistance


A Novel Way of Rendering "Aid"

Lockwood scolds and Heathcliff laughs. He scolds some more and Heathcliff continues to laugh. Lockwood becomes so upset, his nose starts to bleed; and Zillah, the housekeeper, "rescues" him and attempts to restore him. How so? Why, by pouring a bucket of icy water down his neck! This is truly the crowning moment to a visit that has proven a far worse experience than Lockwood's first brush with the inhabitants at Wuthering Heights.

Zillah then pulls Lockwood into the kitchen and condoles with him. Lockwood feels dizzy and faint and in spite of his determined resolve to leave, he is now forced to stay the night at Wuthering Heights. Not a prospect he is looking forward to by any stretch of the imagination.

And... it may prove a night that stays lodged in his memory.

With these words she suddenly splashed a pint of icy water down my neck.

While Trying to Escape, Lockwood Now Has to Stay Overnight


Dark Humor

The mishaps that befall Lockwood are funny indeed. The poor man is completely out of his element and no efforts on his part defrost the wintry reserve of the inhabitants at Wuthering Heights. What's even funnier is that his second visit proves a worst disaster than the first: he's treated poorly and rendered zero assistance, he's knocked and pinned to the ground by the dogs, his nose starts to bleed, and... the coupe de gras, he has icy water poured down his neck! He is cured of wanting to ever set foot there again.

Bronte makes clever use of dark humor to bring the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, with all their vagaries, to life, giving them a raw human edge that makes them real and humorous.

This Video Starts at Chapter Two

© 2016 Athlyn Green

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