Lockwood goes to Wuthering Heights to see Heathcliff and tell him he is moving to London and thus doesn’t want to stay at the Grange any longer. He notices that Hareton is "as handsome a rustic as need be seen" (299). He gives Cathy a note from Ellen. Initially, Cathy thinks it is from Lockwood and rejects it, but when Lockwood makes it clear that it isn’t, Hareton snatches it away, saying that Heathcliff should look at it first (he isn’t home yet). Cathy tries to hide her tears, but Hareton notices and lets the letter drop beside her seat. She reads it and expresses her longing for freedom, telling Lockwood that she can’t even write Ellen back because Heathcliff has destroyed her books. Hareton has all the other books in the house: he has been trying to learn to read. Catherine mocks him for his clumsy attempts at self-education: "Those books, both prose and verse, were consecrated to me by other associations, and I hate to hear them debased and profaned in his mouth!" (302) Poor Hareton fetches the books and throws them into her lap, saying he doesn’t want to think about them any longer. She persists in her mockery, reading aloud in "the drawling tone of a beginner," for which Hareton slaps her and throws the books into the fire. Lockwood "read[s] in his countenance what anguish it was to offer that sacrifice to spleen."
Heathcliff enters and Hareton leaves, "to enjoy his grief and anger in solitude” (303). Heathcliff moodily confides to Lockwood that Hareton reminds him more of Catherine Earnshaw than he does of Hindley. He also tells Lockwood that he will still have to pay his full rent even if he leaves the Grange, to which Lockwood, insulted, agrees. Heathcliff invites Lockwood to dinner, and informs Cathy that she can eat with Joseph in the kitchen. Lockwood eats the cheerless meal and leaves, contemplating the possibility of his courting Cathy and bringing her "into the stirring atmosphere of the town” (304).
Books take on an important role in the relationship between Hareton and Catherine: Hareton's illiteracy is the most glaring result of Heathcliff's mistreatment of him, designed to reduce him to rustic ignorance. Hareton never rebels against Heathcliff, but his contact with Catherine, who was carefully educated by her father, makes him extremely conscious of his shortcomings. One might wonder how great the value of book-learning is in this novel: Linton, who can read, is obviously inferior to his more vigorous cousin Hareton, which might lead one to think that Brontë is championing native energy over imposed refinement. However, for Catherine and Hareton to become close it is absolutely necessary for Hareton to wish to educate himself, and in the last chapter their love will be symbolized in the joint reading of a book. Similarly, Heathcliff's youthful degradation really begins when he ceases to follow Catherine's lessons. It appears that book-learning is not enough to make a person good, but that the lack of it is enough to make someone ridiculous. Literacy is, in short, a basic and essential quality.
In the fall of 1802, later that year, Lockwood returns to the Grange because he is passing through the area on a hunting trip. He finds the Grange more or less empty: Ellen is now at Wuthering Heights, and an old woman had replaced her. Lockwood visits Wuthering Heights to see what has changed. He notices flowers growing around the old farm house, and overhears a pleasant lesson from indoors. Cathy, sounding "sweet as a silver bell" (307) is teaching Hareton, now respectably dressed, to read. The lesson is interspersed with kisses and very kind words. Lockwood doesn’t want to disturb them, and goes around to the kitchen to find Ellen singing and Joseph complaining as usual. Ellen is glad to see Lockwood and tells them that he will have to settle the rent with her, since she is acting for Cathy. Heathcliff has been dead for three months. Ellen tells Lockwood what has happened in his absence.
A fortnight after Lockwood left the Grange the previous spring, Nelly was summoned to Wuthering Heights, where she gladly went, hoping to keep Cathy out of Heathcliff's way. She was pleased to see Cathy, but saddened by the way the young woman’s personality had changed.
One day when Cathy, Ellen, and Hareton were sitting in the kitchen, Cathy grew tired of the animosity between herself and her cousin and offered him a book, which he refused. She left it close to him, but he never touched it. Hareton was injured in a shooting accident in March, and since Heathcliff didn't like to see him, he spent a lot of time sitting in the kitchen, where Cathy found many reasons to go. Finally her efforts at reconciliation succeeded, and they became loving friends, much to Joseph's indignation.
Cathy and Hareton’s is not surprising given Brontë’s preoccupation with symmetry.. At the beginning of the story, Hindley and Catherine inhabited Wuthering Heights and Edgar and Isabella inhabited the Grange. The obvious symmetrical plot would have been: Hindley married Isabella producing a son, while Catherine married Edgar, producing Cathy. Then Cathy and her male cousin would marry, unifying the two houses completely, and Cathy Linton would become Catherine Earnshaw, taking her mother's maiden name. The harmony of this plot was disrupted by the introduction of Heathcliff, an alien figure who destroyed the potential marital balance. By the end of the novel, however, Heathcliff and his issue are eliminated, and the unifying marriage between the Linton and Earnshaw families will take place after all, as though Heathcliff had never existed. The union between Isabella and Heathcliff should not have taken place, so naturally Linton Heathcliff was a mistake, an unlikable and weakly being. Cathy Linton's marriage to Linton Heathcliff was likewise a mistake, forced by Heathcliff, and in order to preserve the integrity of the pattern, their marriage was childless. For harmony to be reinstated, no descendants of Heathcliff must remain by the end of the novel.
Another beauty of Brontë's plot is that the three names that Lockwood reads when he stays at Wuthering Heights in Chapter 3––Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, and Catherine Linton––are all assumed at one point or another by each of the two Catherines. The first Catherine is named Earnshaw, then Linton when she marries Edgar, then perhaps Heathcliff when she and Heathcliff are finally united in the grave. Her daughter is first Catherine Linton, then Heathcliff, then Earnshaw.
The next morning Ellen found Catherine with Hareton in the garden, planning a flower garden in the middle of Joseph's cherished currant bushes. She warned them that they would be punished for destroying the bushes, but Hareton promised to take the blame. At tea, Cathy was careful not to talk to Hareton too much, but she put flowers into his porridge, which made him laugh and made Heathcliff angry. Heathcliff assumed Cathy had laughed, but Hareton quietly admitted his fault. Joseph came in and incoherently bewailed the fate of his bushes. Hareton said he had uprooted some, but would plant them again, and Cathy said it had been at her instigation. Heathcliff called her an "insolent slut” (319) and Cathy accused him of having stolen her land and Hareton's. Heathcliff commanded Hareton to throw her out. The poor boy was torn between his two loyalties and tried to persuade Catherine to leave. Heathcliff seemed "ready to tear Catherine in pieces" (319) when he suddenly calmed down and told everyone to leave. Later Hareton asked Catherine not to speak ill of Heathcliff in front of him because Hareton considers him to be his father. Cathy understood his position and refrained from insulting her oppressor from then on. Ellen was glad to see her two ‘children’ happy together; Hareton quickly shook off his ignorance and boorishness and Catherine became sweet again.
When Heathcliff saw them together he was struck by their resemblances to Catherine Earnshaw, and told Ellen that he had lost his motivation for destruction. He no longer took any interest in everyday life. Catherine and Hareton didn't appear to him to be distinct characters of their own, but apparitions that evoked his beloved. He also felt Hareton to be very much like himself as a youth. But most importantly, his Catherine haunted him completely: "The most ordinary faces of men, and women my own features mock me with a resemblance. The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!" (324) He told Nelly that he felt a change coming––that he could no longer exist in the living world when he felt so close to that of the dead, or the immortal. Nelly wondered whether he was ill, but decided that he was in fine health and mind, except for his “monomania” (324) for Catherine Earnshaw.
This chapter offers us an extraordinary window into Heathcliff’s mind. Whenever he looks at something, he sees Catherine in it, and he hears her voice in every sound. This is Brontë's conception of true haunting, which seems to bear far more resemblance to madness than it does to scary noises in the dark. It is mainly an interior phenomenon: if the ghost of Catherine is at work, she has found her home in Heathcliff's mind, and her vocation in distorting his perception and his ability to communicate with the outside world.
In the next few days Heathcliff all but stopped eating, and spent the nights walking outside. Catherine, happily working on her garden, came across him and was surprised to see him looking "very much excited, and wild, and glad" (327). Ellen urged him to eat, and indeed at dinner he took a heaping plate, but abruptly lost interest in food, seemed to be watching something by the window, and went outside. Hareton followed to ask him what was wrong, and Heathcliff told him to go back to Catherine and not bother him. He came back an hour or two later, with the same "unnatural appearance of joy” (328), shivering the way a "tight-stretched cord vibrates a strong thrilling, rather than trembling." Ellen asked him what was going on, and he answered that he was within sight of his heaven, hardly three feet away. His heaven, needless to say, was being buried alongside Catherine Earnshaw.
Later that evening, Ellen found Heathcliff sitting in the dark with all the windows open. His black eyes and pale face frightened her. Ellen half-wondered if he were a vampire, but told herself that she was foolish, since she had watched him grow up. The next day he was even more restless and could hardly speak coherently, and stared with fascination at nothing with an "anguished, yet raptured expression" (331). Early the next morning, ¬¬he declared he wanted to settle things with his lawyer, Mr. Green. Ellen said he should eat, and get some sleep, but he replied that he could do neither: "My soul's bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself" (333). Ellen told him to repent his sins, and he thanked her for the reminder and asked her to make sure that he was buried next to Catherine: "I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued, and uncoveted by me." Heathcliff behaved more and more strangely, talking openly of Catherine. Ellen called the doctor, but Heathcliff refused to see him. The next morning she found him dead in his room, by the open window, wet from the rain and cut by the broken window-pane, with his eyes fiercely open and wearing a savage smile. Hareton mourned deeply for him. The doctor wondered what could have killed him, although Ellen knew that it was Heathcliff’s depression. He was buried alongside Catherine’s remains, as he had asked. People claim that his ghost roams the moors with Catherine. Ellen once came across a little boy crying because he believed he had seen Heathcliff’s phantom with a woman and dared not pass them.
Cathy and Hareton are engaged, and they plan to move to the Grange, leaving Wuthering Heights to Joseph and the ghosts. Lockwood notices on his walk home that the church was falling apart from neglect, and he found the three headstones––Catherine's, Edgar's, and Heathcliff's––covered by varying degrees of heather. He "wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for sleepers in that quiet earth" (337).
An essential question for thinking about this novel is: does it end happily or not, and why? Is the novel on the side of the Grange and civilization, since Catherine and Hareton move there after Heathcliff dies? Or should we miss the passionate intensity of Wuthering Heights? Who wins? It seems at first that the Grange wins, and yet we should remember that Heathcliff achieves his version of heaven as well. Several film versions of Wuthering Heights prefer to delete the whole second half of the novel, ending dramatically with Catherine's death––they find that the restabilizing second half detracts from the romance and power of the first part. Is this the case? Did Brontë add the second half because society would not have accepted the first half alone?
When considering these questions, it is important to keep in mind the novel’s carefully designed, symmetrical structure. This might lead to the conclusion that civilization really does win, since the marriage of Cathy and Hareton is the final and necessary conclusion to two generations of unrest, and all traces of Heathcliff disappear. In another sense, however, Cathy and Hareton resemble the earlier Catherine and Heathcliff, purified of their wilder and more antisocial elements. Their marriage could be an echo of the marriage that never took place between Catherine and Heathcliff. This is supported by the fact that the story begins and ends with a Catherine Earnshaw, and that the name Hareton is very similar to Heathcliff.
In another reading, one might remember that Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff belonged above all to the natural and immaterial world, whereas the Lintons belonged to a material society. The reunion in death of the two lovers constitutes their achievement of complete freedom––as far as they are concerned, it hardly matters what happens on earth. Heathcliff’s realization at the end of the novel that he no longer cares about getting revenge on Hindley and Edgar, both long dead, supports this interpretation.
One might also conclude that Emily Brontë was really more drawn to her wild characters––Catherine and Heathcliff––but realized that their extreme personalities posed a great threat to the existence of peaceful life on earth. Perhaps she eliminated them because she was unwilling to sacrifice the rest of the world for such a wild ideal, whatever its appeal. In this case the ambiguous conclusion of the novel may represent an inner conflict in the author herself.