Chapter 34 Summary and Analysis
As time goes by, Heathcliff becomes increasingly withdrawn and begins eating very infrequently. After spending an entire night rambling on the moors, he returns the next morning with a “strange joyful glitter in his eyes.” Heathcliff then goes into seclusion, refusing both food and medical attention. When Nelly asks what is going on, Heathcliff enigmatically replies that he is “within sight of heaven.” Nelly notices that even when he is conversing with her, Heathcliff seems to be following some invisible apparition with his eyes. In the evenings, Heathcliff can be heard pacing, groaning, and muttering Catherine’s name in his room. He continues to behave strangely, taking care to remind Nelly of his wish to be buried next to Catherine. Concerned, Nelly advises him to turn to God, though her suggestion falls on deaf ears. The next evening, it rains hard all night. When Nelly walks around the house in the morning, she sees that Heathcliff’s window is wide open and finds his dead body in bed, drenched with rain from the storm. Hareton is very upset by Heathcliff’s death, though he is alone in his sorrow. Ultimately, Heathcliff is buried next to Catherine as he requested—a decision that scandalizes the villagers. In the months following Heathcliff’s death, several people report seeing Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s ghosts wandering together through the moors. Nearing the end of her tale, Nelly explains that Cathy and Hareton will be married on New Year’s Day. They are all planning to live at Thrushcross Grange, leaving Joseph to tend Wuthering Heights. As Cathy and Hareton return from a walk, Lockwood feels suddenly compelled to leave. He wanders through the moors to the churchyard where Heathcliff has been recently buried. There, he sees for himself the graves of Edgar and Heathcliff with Catherine’s grave between them. Seeing the beautiful flowers that bloom over the graves and feeling the gentle summer breeze from the moors, Lockwood feels certain that the three people below are finally at peace.
Although Heathcliff is certainly not wholly redeemed in these last chapters, the abandonment of his revenge plot coupled with his increasing desire to be reunited with Catherine restores some of the reader’s sympathy for him. Heathcliff has been the dominating figure throughout the book, though he begins to recede from the storyline in the final chapters. This diminished presence foreshadows his impending death; the more he fixates on Catherine, the less he is tethered to the human world. After a night roaming on the moors, Heathcliff returns full of a strange, wild joy, the implication being that he has had some kind of supernatural experience with Catherine’s spirit. From that point on, he stops eating and shuts himself off from human company, signifying both his decision to embrace death and his rejection of the mortal world. Whereas it was once figuratively true, it is now literally the case that Heathcliff’s desire to be with Catherine is all that sustains him. As Heathcliff continues to wither away, Nelly notices him watching an invisible apparition, which we can only assume is Catherine:
“Now, I perceived he was not looking at the wall; for when I regarded him alone, it seemed exactly that he gazed at something within two yards' distance. And whatever it was, it communicated, apparently, both pleasure and pain in exquisite extremes: at least the anguished, yet raptured, expression of his countenance suggested that idea. The fancied object was not fixed, either: his eyes pursued it with unwearied diligence, and, even in speaking to me, were never weaned away.”
This mysterious apparition seems to confirm Heathcliff’s belief that he is on the very brink of death or, as he sees it, reunion with Catherine. As Heathcliff approaches death, his inner torment is expressed increasingly through his appearance. Haunted as he is, Heathcliff begins to resemble something ghostlike himself:...
(The entire section is 1,424 words.)