Wuthering Heights By Emily Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 15

Summary

Four days later, Nelly delivers the letter, while the rest of the household is at church. Catherine is close to death and cannot even hold it. Nelly tells her it is from Heathcliff, but before Nelly can call him to the room (he is lurking around the Grange), Heathcliff bursts into the room.

When Catherine sees him, she claims that both Edgar and he have broken her heart. She laments dying while he is still alive and longs for them never to be parted. An emotional reunion, of sorts, takes place, and they embrace. After the embrace Heathcliff speaks harshly to Catherine, saying, "You deserve this. You have killed yourself."

Distraught, Catherine sobs that "I forgive you. Forgive me!"

Holding her responsible for breaking both of their hearts, Heathcliff considers her the murderer of both of them and tells her, "I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer — but yours! How can I?"

Edgar returns from church services at this time, but as Heathcliff prepares to leave, Catherine begs him to stay. He consents. Nelly cries out; Edgar quickens his pace; Catherine collapses. As Edgar bursts into the room, Heathcliff puts Catherine's body into Edgar's arms, begging him to take care of her before he attacks Heathcliff. Nelly makes Heathcliff leave, promising to give him word about her condition in the morning.

Analysis

Ironically, at the start of the chapter, Lockwood claims Nelly to be "a very fair narrator," yet he has proven himself to be a bad judge of character, so his words should not be all that reassuring for the discerning reader. Reliability aside, Nelly continues the narrative.

What Catherine says and does not say reveals telling and compelling information about her character. She tells Heathcliff, "You and Edgar have broken my heart," placing the blame at their feet. But while she is being open and honest with Heathcliff, not once does she say she regrets marrying Edgar. Her comments about not being at peace and about Heathcliff's happiness when she is buried foreshadows her ghost walking the world for eighteen years, haunting Heathcliff.

After rambling for a while, Catherine begs forgiveness, but Heathcliff cannot or will not give it. Perhaps this lack of forgiveness is what haunts him: The memory that he did not fully forgive her on her deathbed may be the worst of all the terrible things he has done in his life. Catherine herself alludes to this possibility when she says, "if you nurse anger, that will be worse to remember than my harsh words!" Perhaps only in her last moments of life does Catherine come to a true understanding of love.

At the end of the chapter, when Catherine collapses into Heathcliff's arms and Nelly thinks Catherine has died, Nelly remarks "Far better that she should be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to all about her." These cold and callous comments reveal the truth about Nelly and her feelings, just as Heathcliff giving Catherine's body to Edgar, placing Catherine's needs ahead of his own, reveal the truth about the depths of his love. For Nelly, Catherine's death will be a blessing, a lessening of a burden; for Heathcliff, Catherine's death is the beginning of his own personal hell.

Glossary

vindictiveness the state of being revengeful in spirit, and inclined to seek vengeance.

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