Chapter 12


Narrators: Nelly, and briefly, the servant-girl, Mary. 

Catherine stays in her room and Edgar continues to wait with his books for company. Catherine arranges feathers from her pillow. She is increasingly delirious and eventually, Edgar realizes how ill his wife is. Isabella elopes with Heathcliff and Edgar disowns her.


Catherine’s ramblings link to other parts of the story. Perhaps they are to gain her sympathy from the reader. The hanging of Isabella’s dog probably turns many readers away from Heathcliff.

Continually among his books: books provide escape for Edgar. (See Imagery and symbolism > Books.) Education alone is not enough, Brontë seems to be saying.

I’ve been haunted: as Heathcliff claims to have been by her, presumably.

Pigeon’s feathers: there were several country superstitions about pigeons, including that they prevented the soul from leaving the body.

Elf bolts: flint arrowheads which were supposedly used by elves against people or animals.

The black press: An archaic name for a linen storage cupboard, which used to contain a mechanism for keeping folded material flat – it is clearly associated with the less fashionable furnishings of the Heights, since Nelly can see none at the Grange.

I dread sleeping: my dreams appal me.: Later Heathcliff will experience the same disturbed sleep.

my misery arose from the separation that Hindley had ordered between me and Heathcliff. I was laid alone, for the first time: Catherine recalls the first significant point of physical and psychological dislocation from Heathcliff when she was twelve. Since this event she has felt ‘an exile, and outcast’ – another point of similarity to Heathcliff.

We've braved its ghosts .. and dared .. them to come: Both Catherine and Heathcliff believe in the reality of ghosts, made clear by Heathcliff’s plea that Catherine should haunt him (see Chapter 16).

I'll not lie there by myself: they may bury me twelve feet deep .. but I won't rest till you are with me. I never will!: Catherine prediction helps readers believe in the reality of Lockwood’s apparition (see Chapter 3) and what Heathcliff later experiences (see Chapter 29).

Springer: a type of spaniel.

permanent alienation of intellect: Dr Kenneth confirms Catherine’s potential for mental instability.

I disown her: Edgar’s reaction to difficult situations is to dismiss them and avoid any responsibility.

Investigating Chapter 12

  • Are Edgar’s reactions to Catherine and Isabella evidence of his ‘coldness’, or just the responses of a rational man?
  • List what Catherine says in her delirium and note how each links to any/all of Heathcliff / her childhood / her current identity
  • Nelly dismisses much of what Catherine says, but what important information does Brontë convey to us in this chapter?
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