Happily Ever After, Or Maybe Not?

Happily Ever After or Maybe Not?


Is Heathcliff’s ending happy or sad?


At face value the ending of Wuthering Heights seems to be happy. Catherine and Heathcliff are reunited in death and Cathy and Hareton are going to be united in marriage. However, that does not mean that all is at seems, especially for Heathcliff.. The first instance we get of this is when Nelly is speaking to Heathcliff before his death. Nelly tells Heathcliff that, “’You are aware, Mr. Heathcliff,’ I said, ‘that from the time you were thirteen years old you have lived a selfish, unchristian life; and probably hardly had a Bible in your hands during all that period. …Could it be hurtful to send for some one–some minister of any denomination, it does not matter which–to explain it, and show you how very far you have erred from its precepts; and how unfit you will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place before you die?” Heathcliff responds a while later with “No minister need come; nor need anything be said over me.–I tell you I have nearly attained  my  heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me.”

In this particular conversation Nelly is forwardly telling Heathcliff that for most of his life he has been an ungrateful heathen whose every actions have been for the wrong reason. She goes on to tell him because of that he is going to Hell. Despite this Heathcliff doesn’t seem to mind because he has already attained his heaven. So what does this mean? This questions opens a lot of potential possibilities none of which are fully addressed in the novel. So does Heathcliff end up in heaven or hell? Is it his own personal heaven where he is reunited with his long lost lover? To answer that one would have to questions if Heathcliff was in a right state of mind at all. He spent most of his life seeking vengeance against all who wronged him and punishing those with no part in it. To make a 360 at the end of ones life and claim that he has, “lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing,” seems miraculous. If Heathcliff says he has achieved his own personal heaven perhaps we, as the reader, should believe him; but at the same time, at the end of his life he has lost his purpose and will to live. Can achieving a goal of destruction really be celebrated or should pity be taken upon a character who lost so much?

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