Chapter 16


Narrator: Nelly (with a short interruption by Lockwood). 

At about midnight, baby Cathy is born, two months early. Two hours later, her mother dies. Heathcliff waits outside all night and has sensed Catherine’s death before Nelly tells him. His grieving involves cursing Catherine for leaving him and howling like a dog. Edgar quietly stays at his wife’s side. When he retires to sleep, Nelly allows Heathcliff a final sight of Catherine. She is buried as she wished in a corner of the churchyard, near the wall.

Yorkshire Moors hamlet, image available through Creative CommonsCommentary

Heathcliff first talks of not wanting to live without Catherine, as the novel moves from the mother to the daughter. 

About twelve o’clock…: Cathy is born at the turn of the date. Does this suggest that she is between two times, not quite belonging in either (as she is caught between the two houses), or does it suggest that she is a sign of a new start?

Securing… sons: the estate was left to Edgar and his male issue, but not any daughters he might have; on Edgar’s death, it will now pass to Isabella and her son(s).

Do you believe…in the other world, sir?: Nelly is made to think about life after death, and Lockwood sees this as an unorthodox question. Brontë seems to be using the ‘normal’ Nelly to open the discussion; Lockwood is a character with whom we seldom agree.

Ousels: moorland birds rather like blackbirds. Heathcliff has blended so completely into the natural surroundings that the birds do not notice him.

may she wake as kindly in the other world!: Nelly anticipates a conventional Heaven for Catherine, associated with peace, light and love.

May she wake in torment!: Heathcliff cannot accept that Catherine might be in heaven, and wants her to remain in torment until they can be together. To be haunted by her is better than no contact at all. This, of course, links with Lockwood’s experiences in Chapter 3. The fragile barrier between life and death is shown when Nelly opens a window to let Heathcliff in to see the body.

I twisted the two, and enclosed them together.: Nelly’s action is symbolic of the way in which her narrative and judgements harmonise the otherwise disparate elements of the novel.

The place of Catherine’s interment…: she is buried as close to the moorland as possible so that she can be in touch with that beloved area even in death.

Investigating Chapter 16

  • There is plenty in this chapter that has symbolic or suggestive meaning. Look at the following, for example, and comment on them.
    • The time of baby Cathy’s birth
    • The description of light in the second paragraph
    • How Heathcliff is compared to animals during his reaction to Catherine’s death
    • Nelly twisting the two locks of hair together
    • The position of Catherine’s grave.
  • Compare Heathcliff’s words after Catherine’s death with Catherine’s dream in Chapter 9.
Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.