Summary: Chapter XXVII
During the next week, Edgar’s health grows consistently worse. Worried for her father, young Catherine only reluctantly rides to her meeting with Linton on the moors. Nelly comes with her. The cousins talk, and Linton seems even more nervous than usual. He reveals that his father is forcing him to court Catherine, and that he is terrified of what Heathcliff will do if Catherine rejects him. Heathcliff arrives on the scene and questions Nelly about Edgar’s health. He says that he worries that Linton will die before Edgar. Heathcliff asks Catherine and Nelly to walk back to Wuthering Heights, and, though Catherine reminds him that she is forbidden to do so by her father, she agrees because she is afraid of Heathcliff.
Heathcliff seems full of rage toward Linton, who is practically weeping with terror. Once he has Nelly and Catherine inside Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff locks them inside the house and refuses to allow them to leave until Catherine has married Linton. He allows Catherine to leave the bedroom in which they are locked, but he keeps Nelly imprisoned there for five days. During this time, the only soul Nelly sees is Hareton, who is ordered to guard and attend her.
Summary: Chapter XXVIII
At last, the housekeeper, Zillah, frees Nelly from her imprisonment, telling her that the villagers in Gimmerton have spread the news that both Nelly and Catherine have been lost in Blackhorse Marsh. Nelly searches through the house until she finds Linton, who tells her that Catherine is locked away in another room. The two are now husband and wife. Linton gloats over this development, claiming that all of Catherine’s possessions are now his, as Edgar is dying quickly.
Fearing discovery by Heathcliff, Nelly hurries back to Thrushcross Grange. Here, she tells the dying Edgar that Catherine is safe and will soon be home. She sends a group of men to Wuthering Heights to retrieve Catherine, but they fail in their task. Edgar plans to change his will, placing Catherine’s inheritance in the hands of trustees and thus keeping it from Heathcliff. He summons Mr. Green, his lawyer, to the Grange. Nelly hears someone arriving and believes it to be Mr. Green, but it is Catherine. Thus Edgar sees his daughter once more before he dies, believing that his daughter is happily married to Linton, and knowing nothing about her desperate circumstances.
Shortly after Edgar’s death, Mr. Green arrives, and dismisses all of the servants except Nelly. He tries to have Edgar buried in the chapel, but Nelly insists that he obey Edgar’s will, which states that he wishes to be buried in the churchyard next to his wife.
Summary: Chapter XXIX
“I got the sexton, who was digging Linton’s grave, to remove the earth off her coffin lid, and I opened it. . . .”
Heathcliff appears at Thrushcross Grange shortly after the funeral in order to take young Catherine to her new home. He tells her that he has punished Linton for having helped her escape, and says that she will have to work for her keep at Wuthering Heights. Catherine angrily retorts that she and Linton are in fact in love, despite Linton’s bad-temperedness, while Heathcliff has no one to love him. Thus no matter how miserable Heathcliff makes the young couple, Catherine says, they shall have the revenge of knowing that his cruelty arises from his greater misery.
As Catherine is packing her things, Nelly asks Heathcliff for Zillah’s position at Wuthering Heights, desperate to remain with Catherine. But Heathcliff interrupts Nelly to tell her his astonishing deed of the day before. While the sexton was digging Edgar’s grave, Heathcliff had him remove the earth from his beloved Catherine’s, and he opened her coffin to gaze upon her face, which he says is still recognizable. Heathcliff asserts that Catherine will not crumble to dust until he joins her in the ground, at which point they will share the transformation together.
He says that he forced the sexton to remove one whole side of her coffin—the side not facing Edgar—and that when he dies, he will require in his will that the corresponding side of his coffin be removed, so that he and Catherine might mingle in the earth. Nelly chastises him for disturbing the dead, and Heathcliff tells her that Catherine’s ghost has tormented him every night for the last eighteen years. He explains that he has felt her presence without being able to reach her.
As they leave, Catherine asks Nelly to visit her soon, but Heathcliff tells Nelly that she must never call at Wuthering Heights, noting that if he wishes to see her he will come to Thrushcross Grange.
Summary: Chapter XXX
Nelly has not seen Catherine since she left, and her only source of information about her is Zillah. Zillah says that Heathcliff refused to allow anyone at Wuthering Heights to be kind or helpful to Catherine after her arrival, and that Catherine tended to Linton by herself until the day he died. Since Linton’s death, Catherine has remained aloof from Zillah and from Hareton, with whom she has been in constant conflict. Desperate to help her, Nelly tells Lockwood that she has taken a cottage herself and wants to bring Catherine to live with her, but she knows that Heathcliff will not allow it. The only thing that could save Catherine would be another marriage, says Nelly, but she does not have the power to bring about such a thing.
Writing in his diary—where all of Nelly’s story has been recorded—Lockwood says that this is the end of Nelly’s story, and that he is finally recovering from his illness. He writes that he plans to ride out to Wuthering Heights and to inform Heathcliff that he will spend the next six months in London, and that Heathcliff may look for another tenant for the Grange. He emphatically states that he has no desire to spend another winter in this strange company.
Analysis: Chapters XXVII–XXX
As Edgar Linton grows weak and dies, Heathcliff’s cruelty rages unchecked. Without fear of repercussion, he abuses the other characters mercilessly, kidnapping Nelly and young Catherine. With no one left who is strong enough to counter Heathcliff, the course of events in these chapters seems inevitable. Heathcliff easily succeeds in marrying his son to young Catherine, and in inheriting Thrushcross Grange.
However, a new force begins to rise up against the tyrant. Catherine shows a defiant spirit, and she triumphantly declares that the love between her and Linton will save them from misery and make them superior to Heathcliff. This foreshadows her eventual strong-willed rebellion against Heathcliff—and her redemption of her oppressed predecessors through her love for her other cousin, Hareton Earnshaw.
The young Catherine’s manifestation of her mother’s boldness, as well as Heathcliff’s progressing revenge, bring to mind the older Catherine and the defiant marriage to Edgar with which she first sparked Heathcliff’s wrath. Indeed, perhaps because of young Catherine’s behavior, Heathcliff himself seems to become increasingly preoccupied with thoughts of the late Catherine. The horrifying spectacle of Heathcliff uncovering her grave and gazing upon her corpse’s face, as well as his intense concern about the fate of Catherine’s body, testifies to the extreme depth of his obsession. In a sense, Heathcliff’s interest in the decomposition of his beloved is quite in keeping with the nature of their relationship.
The text consistently describes their love not only in spiritual terms, but in material ones. Thus Catherine declares in Chapter IX, “Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” Moreover, the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine has come to be associated with the soil where it has been conducted; its fate becomes intertwined with that of the earth, as the narrative repeatedly links both Heathcliff and Catherine to the severe and wild moors, which frequently symbolize the unruly nature of their love.
These chapters give us insight not only into the story’s main characters and their relationships, but also into the story’s narrator, Nelly Dean. First, Nelly chooses to lie to Edgar about his daughter’s condition as Edgar lingers near death, a well-meaning untruth that resembles her earlier lie to Linton, which she told en route to deliver him to Heathcliff. Just as she declared to Linton that his father was kind and generous, she now tells Edgar that his daughter is happily married. Nelly thus shows herself willing to lie and distort the truth in order to spare feelings and ease social situations.
Nelly again displays a certain manipulative quality in a statement she makes outside the story, to Lockwood. She tells him that the young Catherine’s last hope for salvation would be a second marriage, but that she, Nelly, is powerless to bring about such a union. This remark seems intended to express more than idle wishfulness. As the reader may recall, Nelly insinuates in Chapter XXV that Lockwood might fall in love with Catherine himself. At the time, the comment seemed nothing more than speculation. Yet now the reader can see that Nelly may be pursuing a plot to rescue her former mistress.
Indeed, Nelly’s willingness to narrate the story to Lockwood in the first place may stem from this notion of saving Catherine. Nelly paints a far more flattering picture of young Catherine than she does of the girl’s mother, even when they exhibit similar traits. Nelly frequently emphasizes young Catherine’s beauty, and she may subtly frame her story in a certain way so as to pique Lockwood’s interest in the girl. Of course, this is merely one possible interpretation of the text, but again, it is extremely important to consider the motivations and biases of the character who narrates the story.
One of the most impressive aspects of Emily Brontë’s achievement in Wuthering Heights is her ability to include such finely drawn, subtle psychological portraits as that of Nelly Dean—many of whose most fascinating human qualities emerge only when one reads between the lines of her narration.
Take a Study Break
Every Shakespeare Play Summed Up in a Quote from The Office
Every Book on Your English Syllabus, Summed Up in Marvel Quotes
A Roundup of the Funniest Great Gatsby Memes You'll Ever See
QUIZ: How Many of These Literary Jeopardy! Questions Can You Answer Correctly?
7 "Crazy" Women in Literature Who Were Actually Being Totally Reasonable
Honest Names for All the Books on Your English Syllabus
QUIZ: Are You a Hero, a Villain, or an Anti-Hero?