Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 15 | Summary

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Summary

Mr. Lockwood has heard Mrs. Dean's story and is retelling it in a condensed version.

When Edgar's at church, Mrs. Dean gives Cathy a letter from Heathcliff. Before she can get a response from Cathy, Heathcliff walks through the open doors of Thrushcross Grange. Recognizing that Cathy is dying, he breaks down as they hold and kiss each other, both crying and talking about Cathy's impending death. Cathy says Heathcliff and Edgar have both broken her heart, and to Heathcliff she says, "you have killed me—and thriven on it, I think." She wants to hold Heathcliff until they are both dead. To Mrs. Dean, who refers to herself as a cool spectator, it seems fitting "Cathy deem that heaven would be a land of exile to her," unless with death she loses "her moral character also."

Upset by being blamed for her death, Heathcliff asks if she is possessed by a devil to talk to him that way. Cathy also lashes out at Mrs. Dean: "Nelly, you think you are more fortunate ... you are sorry for me ... I shall be sorry for you. I shall be incomparably beyond and above you all." Excited, Cathy stands up, but the strain makes her convulse. Heathcliff and she spring toward each other, and he "foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her to him with greedy jealousy." Heathcliff accuses her of being cruel, of leaving him, betraying her own heart, because "degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it." Sobbing, Cathy tells him to leave her alone. She is dying for whatever she did wrong. She forgives him and asks that he forgive her. He says he can forgive her for murdering him, but not for killing herself.

Mrs. Dean is nervous because Edgar will return soon, but Cathy won't let Heathcliff leave. "Don't go," she cries, "It is the last time! I shall die! I shall die." Edgar appears in Cathy's room; Heathcliff holding her in his arms, but Cathy has fainted, so Edgar must tend to her instead of fighting with Heathcliff. Mrs. Dean thinks to herself "Far better that she should be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to all about her." Heathcliff slips out, telling Mrs. Dean he will be hiding in the garden tomorrow.

Analysis

The narrator changes back to Mr. Lockwood, raising questions: Will he alter Mrs. Dean's version of the story? What is the reason for the narrative switch? Is it out of character for Mrs. Dean to wish Cathy dead as she does in this chapter? It is impossible to know now that another character stands between Mrs. Dean and the reader.

The themes of good versus evil and love run together in Chapter 15. The idea that going against the heart and soul causes suffering is reinforced by Cathy and Heathcliff's intense agony in the chapter. Then Heathcliff, the antihero himself, questions if his beloved is evil, and he judges her, declaring everything is her fault and her choice. The idea of "free will" is an important religious concept alluded to in this chapter; it is central to the choice individuals make between good and evil. The exploration of free will and people choosing their own suffering begins here, and it will continue as the story moves forward.

An exploration of unrequited love began with Isabella, and now it is more fully revealed in the exchange between Cathy and Heathcliff. Isabella suffered alone. There is an emotional difference (and tone difference in the chapters) when both lovers have loved and lost equally.

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