Wuthering Heights | Study Guide

Emily Brontë

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Wuthering Heights | Chapter 33 | Summary

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Summary

In the present, Mrs. Dean explains the events leading up to Heathcliff's death to Mr. Lockwood.

One day, Catherine and Hareton infuriate Joseph by ripping up his currant trees to plant a flower garden. Later Joseph complains to Heathcliff and threatens to leave. He calls Catherine the devil's temptress and accuses her of casting a spell on Hareton. He thinks Mrs. Dean's song about fairies is evil too. Heathcliff has recently come home, and seeing Catherine and Hareton being peaceful and loving disturbs him. He yells at Catherine for daring to alter Joseph's garden, or touch even a stick at Wuthering Heights, but when she responds that he's stolen her money and Hareton's and that Hareton will defend her now, Heathcliff grabs her by the hair. Hareton begs him not to hurt Catherine, just this one time, and he tries to pry Heathcliff's fingers out of Catherine's hair.

The next night, they all quietly eat dinner together, and after signaling for Catherine and Hareton to leave the table, Heathcliff opens up to Mrs. Dean: "It is a poor conclusion, is it not," he begins, and he continues, "I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses ... now would be the precise time to revenge myself ... but where is the use? I don't care for striking ... that sounds as if I had been labouring the whole time only to exhibit a fine trait of magnanimity." Heathcliff tells Mrs. Dean he has changed, and he feels strange. Hareton seems more like a personification of his youth than a human being; Heathcliff tells Mrs. Dean that "Hareton's aspect was the ghost of my immortal love; of my wild endeavours to hold my right: my degradation, my pride, my happiness, and my anguish." Heathcliff's words worry Mrs. Dean. She wants to know if he is afraid to die. Heathcliff says he is yearning to attain it with his whole being.

Analysis

Joseph's view of women is revealed in this chapter, and the argument he has with Catherine and Hareton about destroying his garden is an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve from the Old Testament. The idea of yoking, another biblical reference in the chapter, relates to doing one's duty, so, here, Joseph is emphatically denying to do what he knows is right in terms of his religious beliefs, making the point that Joseph's skewed view of women is the source of his long-running hypocrisy.

The past, represented symbolically by Cathy's ghost in the chapter, lives in the present everywhere for Heathcliff, but nowhere as clearly as it does in Hareton's and Catherine's eyes and burgeoning love. Hareton is Heathcliff. Catherine is Cathy. Hareton and Catherine in the present are Heathcliff and Cathy in their childhood. All are related through Cathy, and this inescapable truth disarms Heathcliff's final act of revenge and softens him. However, the novel makes certain readers make no mistake about what Heathcliff is. He wasn't secretly working the whole time toward a happy ending. The past turning good in the present deflated him; or perhaps the sight of love and friendship arising even in terrible circumstances allows Heathcliff to see beyond his own selfish, warped love. Heathcliff remains an antihero, not a romantic hero, and the themes of violence and revenge and good versus evil will end with this moral conclusion.

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