Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë

Chapters XV–XX

Summary Chapters XV–XX

Summary: Chapter XV

Four days after visiting Wuthering Heights, Nelly waits for Edgar to leave for church, and then takes the opportunity to give Heathcliff’s letter to the ailing Catherine. Catherine has become so weak that she cannot even hold the letter, but nearly as soon as Nelly tells her that it is from Heathcliff, Heathcliff himself enters the room. Heathcliff and Catherine enter into a dramatic, highly charged conversation during which Catherine claims that both Heathcliff and Edgar have broken her heart. She says that she cannot bear dying while Heathcliff remains alive, and that she never wants to be apart from him. She begs his forgiveness. He says that he can forgive her for the pain she has caused him, but that he can never forgive her for the pain that she has caused herself—he adds that she has killed herself through her behavior, and that he could never forgive her murderer.

The church service over, Edgar reaches the house, but Catherine pleads with Heathcliff not to leave. He promises to stay by her side. As Edgar hurries toward Catherine’s room, Nelly screams, and Catherine collapses. Heathcliff catches her, and forces her into Edgar’s arms as he enters the room, demanding that Edgar see to Catherine’s needs before acting on his anger. Nelly hurries Heathcliff out of the room, promising to send him word about Catherine’s condition in the morning. Heathcliff swears that he will stay in the garden, wanting to be near her.

Summary: Chapter XVI

At midnight, Catherine gives birth to young Catherine two months prematurely. She dies within two hours of giving birth. Nelly solemnly declares that her soul has gone home to God. When Nelly goes to tell Heathcliff what has happened, he seems to know already. He curses Catherine for the pain she has caused him, and pleads with her spirit to haunt him for the rest of his life. She may take any form, he says, and even drive him mad—as long as she stays with him. Edgar keeps a vigil over Catherine’s body. At night, Heathcliff lurks in the garden outside. At one point, Edgar leaves, and Nelly permits Heathcliff a moment alone with the body. Afterwards, Nelly finds that he has opened the locket around her neck and replaced a lock of Edgar’s hair with a lock of his own. Nelly twines Edgar’s lock around Heathcliff’s, and leaves them both in the locket.

Hindley is invited to Catherine’s funeral but does not come, while Isabella is not invited at all. To the surprise of the villagers, Catherine is not buried in the Linton tomb, nor by the graves of her relatives. Instead, Edgar orders that she be buried in a corner of the churchyard overlooking the moors that she so loved. Nelly tells Lockwood that now, years later, Edgar lies buried beside her.

Summary: Chapter XVII

Not long after the funeral, Isabella arrives at Thrushcross Grange, out of breath and laughing hysterically. She has come at a time when she knows Edgar will be asleep, to ask Nelly for help. Isabella reports that the conflict between Hindley and Heathcliff has become violent. Hindley, she says, tried to stay sober for Catherine’s funeral, but could not bear to go. Instead, he began drinking heavily that morning. While Heathcliff kept a vigil over Catherine’s grave, Hindley locked him out of the house and told Isabella that he planned to shoot him. Isabella warned Heathcliff about Hindley’s plan, and when Hindley aimed his knife-gun out the window at Heathcliff, the latter grabbed it and fired it back at its owner’s wrist, wounding Hindley. Heathcliff forced his way in the window, then beat Hindley severely. The next morning, Isabella reminded Hindley what Heathcliff had done to him the previous night. Hindley grew enraged, and the men began fighting again. Isabella fled to Thrushcross Grange, seeking a permanent refuge from Wuthering Heights.

Soon after her visit to Nelly, Isabella leaves for London, where she gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, Linton. Isabella corresponds with Nelly throughout the following twelve years. Heathcliff learns of his wife’s whereabouts, and of his son’s existence, but he doesn’t pursue either of them. Isabella dies when Linton is twelve years old.