Resolution in Wuthering Heights

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Wuthering Heights draws to a close with a death and an impending marriage. Though Cathy and Hareton seem to have gotten what they wanted, people begin to report two ghosts who walk the moors near the manor, together forever.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë's only novel, Wuthering Heights, was published in 1847. It tells the story of two families, the Lintons and the Earnshaws, and how a forbidden love brings about both families' downfalls. This lesson will focus on the resolution of the novel Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff and Catherine
Heathcliff and Catherine

Resolution of Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff, found as a child by the head of the Earnshaw family, only wants one thing: everything.

Throughout the novel, the mistreated orphan Heathcliff controls the action. His love for Catherine drives his marriage (to her sister-in-law), and his desire for control leads him to treat the true heir to Wuthering Heights as a servant and force Catherine's daughter, Cathy, to marry his own son Linton. Heathcliff then controls both Thurshcross Grange and Wuthering Heights.

But the moment of Heathcliff's death marks the resolution of the novel.

Heathcliff, who in death resolves the conflict in the novel
Heathcliff, who in death resolves the conflict in the novel.

Theme of Resolution in Wuthering Heights

It is only when Heathcliff dies that Cathy and Hareton, left alone at Wuthering Heights, discover their love for each other. Cathy tells Nelly that the two plan to marry.

Even when her marriage to Linton ends, Cathy (who never wanted to marry him in the first place) is left in a really bad place. She's living with Heathcliff (whom she despises, and who controls her father's home of Thrushcross Grange) and Hareton (whom she sees as a servant) at Wuthering Heights. Even though Wuthering Heights should be Hareton's by right, it is owned and controlled by Heathcliff.

After Heathcliff dies, her situation improves greatly. Both ancestral houses are back in the correct hands: Thrushcross Grange with Cathy, the last of the Lintons. And Wuthering Heights has reverted back to Hareton, the last Earnshaw. Brontë gives hope for the future of the both of them, and in this way, the resolution of Wuthering Heights is a happy one.

But...not quite. For also in the resolution, we have the image of Heathcliff, who Nelly describes in death 'his parted lips and sharp white teeth sneered'. He seems almost an animal, and the readers are told that he will walk the moors and haunt the area. And if that isn't enough, there is a little boy whom Nelly finds sobbing. When she asks him what is wrong, he tells her that he saw Heathcliff with a woman (probably Catherine), and that their ghosts 'walk'.

The ghosts of Heathcliff and Catherine haunt the moors
The ghosts of Heathcliff and Catherine haunt the moors.

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