Wuthering Heights Chapters 15–17 Summary and Analysis
by Emily Brontë

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Chapters 15–17 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 15:

Lockwood eventually gets Nelly to resume her story. Several days after her visit to Wuthering Heights, she gives Heathcliff’s letter to Catherine while Edgar is away at church. Catherine is too weak to understand or even hold the letter, but she perks up when she realizes that it is from Heathcliff. Just then, Heathcliff strides into the room. He rushes over to Catherine, and the two share an intense embrace. Heathcliff is devastated to see that Catherine is obviously approaching death. Catherine, seeing his anguish, accuses him and Edgar of breaking her heart and causing her death. Becoming more and more upset, she continues to abuse Heathcliff, saying that he will move on with his life and forget her when she dies. Heathcliff forcefully denies this and begs her not to torture him, reminding her that her harsh words will hurt him all the more after she is gone and at peace. Seeing that she has hurt Heathcliff, Catherine declares that death cannot bring her peace, for it will mean she is separated from him. Once again, they frantically embrace as Heathcliff miserably asks Catherine why she betrayed her own heart and married Edgar. Catherine begs for his forgiveness, and Heathcliff replies that while he can forgive what she has done to him, he does not know how to forgive what she has done to herself. Nelly, knowing Edgar will return soon, urges the lovers to part ways. As Edgar approaches the house, Heathcliff tries to extract himself from Catherine’s arms, but she begs him to stay. Catherine loses consciousness just before Edgar enters the room. Heathcliff cuts off Edgar’s protests by placing Catherine’s body in his arms, ordering him to help her. Eventually, Nelly and Edgar are able to awaken Catherine, though she is confused and does not recognize them. Heathcliff vows to remain nearby and goes outside to wait in the garden. 

Chapter 16:

Later that night, Catherine gives birth to a premature baby girl. Although the baby survives, Catherine dies within hours of the birth. Aware that Heathcliff is still waiting in the yard, Nelly struggles with how to break the news. When she finally approaches him, however, he declares he already knows. Attempting to console him, Nelly says that Catherine looks at peace. To her surprise, Heathcliff curses Catherine and says that he hopes she is forced to haunt him as a ghost until he, too, dies. Though Edgar stands watch over Catherine’s coffin, he is eventually forced to rest. While he is away, Nelly takes pity on Heathcliff and allows him to come inside and see Catherine one last time. After he leaves, Nelly notices that he discarded the lock of Edgar’s hair that was in Catherine’s locket and replaced it with a lock of his own hair. Nelly twines the two locks together and places them both in the locket. Hindley is invited to his sister’s funeral but does not show up, and Isabella is not even invited. To the surprise of the villagers, Catherine is buried in a secluded and overgrown spot that overlooks the moors rather than in the Linton family tomb.

Chapter 17:

After Catherine’s funeral, Nelly is started when Isabella, soaking wet, bruised, and bleeding from the neck, unexpectedly shows up at Thrushcross Grange. Isabella explains that she has run all the way from Wuthering Heights and asks Nelly to have a carriage ordered immediately to take her away. Nelly convinces her to change her clothes and allow her wounds to be treated, and once Isabella has had a chance to calm down, she explains how she came to be in such a state. Flinging her wedding ring into the fire and vowing revenge on Heathcliff, Isabella explains that the situation at Wuthering Heights has become much more violent. Hindley intended to go to Catherine’s funeral but ultimately could not face it and spent all day drinking heavily instead. Later that night, Hindley locked Heathcliff out of the house and took out his weapon, intending to kill Heathcliff upon his return. When Heathcliff demanded to be...

(The entire section is 1,670 words.)