Wuthering Heights, A Happy Ending?

For today’s post, I have decided to take a look at the ending of my favorite novel of the nineteenth century, and one of my favorite books of all time.   Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is one of the great novels of the English language and has long been accepted as a masterpiece of literature.   However, many people view the ending as purely tragic, an indictment of the immoral way the two protagonists behaved within the novel.    I have a different opinion of the ending of this novel, as I personally see the ending as romantic!

The story of Wuthering Heights is both well-known, as well as more complex than many may think.   It is not simply a straightforward love story with a tragic triangle, although it is that in part.   It is also a story with two very difficult to like protagonists, although I love them despite their darkness and flaws, or possibly because of them.   Cathy and Heathcliff are not your average love-struck teenagers, instead, they are intelligent, loyal, and even cruel at times.

Cathy decided to marry Edgar Linton in the hopes of being able to use his money to help Heathcliff.   This is misguided, and hurtful to Heathcliff who fled upon learning of this, not hearing the reasoning behind her decision.   Heathcliff married Linton’s sister in order to spite Cathy, as upon his return as a wealthy man, he wanted her to realize what she had lost!   Now, this does not seem like loyalty I know, however, their reasoning for doing things was out of love for the other.   Cathy saw Heathcliff as her soulmate and wanted him out from under her brother’s thumb, so she would marry Edgar to have the money to make this happen.   Heathcliff married a woman he did not love to prove a point to the one he did.   Upon Cathy’s death, Heathcliff literally begged her to haunt him, as living without her would be unbearable!

Even with their cruelty to others, and even to each other upon occasion, I cannot help but root for these two to be together.   At the end of the day, they are two people torn apart by a misunderstanding.    They grew up together as young lovers who were best friends and wanted nothing more than to be with one another.   A chance meeting would bring Edgar and Isabella Linton into their world and would draw some of Cathy’s attention to them, and away from Heathcliff.   However, she never forgot her love for her closest confidant, and referred to him as her as having a soul the same as hers!

The novel begins with Heathcliff being haunted by Cathy and enjoying it, as the narrator observes.   This caused him to speak with Nelly about who the ghost he saw was, and she told him the story of Cathy and Heathcliff as children.   It was Nelly that explained the truth to Mr. Lockwood, and he was eager to learn!   Catherine had died in childbirth with her daughter, whom Edgar also named Catherine.    Heathcliff had a son with Isabella that was named Linton.   The other plot point of the book included Heathcliff marrying the two cousins to one another to consolidate the Linton and Earnshaw fortunes for himself, after the death of both Linton siblings.   That is how Heathcliff owns both Wuthering Heights (the Earnshaw estate) and Thrushcross Grange (the Linton estate).    The novel ends with Mr. Lockwood returning to the area again, only to learn that Heathcliff died, and Catherine Linton Heathcliff (who had been widowed when Heathcliff’s son died) was able to marry her other cousin Hindley Earnshaw, now that Heathcliff could not stop them.

The romantic part for me is that Mr. Lockwood sees Cathy and Heathcliff haunting the Moors together!    While most people interpret this ending as tragic, I see it as utterly romantic.   After everything that they had been through, and all the mistakes they made that prevented them from being together in life, they are finally united in death.    There is a tragic and perfect beauty to this ending, yes they are both dead making it tragic, but they are together and seem to be happy haunting their homeland of the Moors as a couple!   

The final thing that I do want to acknowledge is that many people view this novel as not being a love story, instead, they view it as horrific in its vision of love.   Even though I actually find it romantic, I do understand that Cathy and Heathcliff’s love was not healthy.   They were obsessive and treated one another with cruelty, as I have acknowledged, and that is toxic.   I am also not calling their relationship one that should be idealized, but I am saying that I think they belonged together and that their love was true!    I happen to love them for their cruelty and flaws, as it makes them interesting and layered characters, but I do understand those that think that is not a love story at all.    I have read and re-read this novel enough times to understand the layers and see all of the positive and negative things about their characters!   I respect all of the multilayered views of this piece of classical literature and hope other readers of this work will likewise respect my views.

I hope that you have enjoyed this overview and analysis of Wuthering Heights.   Do you agree with my romantic interpretation of the ending?   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Kate Bush in one of her Wuthering Heights music videos.   I found the image on http://breakingmorewaves.blogspot.com/2011/09/music-that-made-me-34-kate-bush.html.

Further Reading

  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte