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Wuthering Heights – The Ending (An Attempt at a Commentary)

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The nature and direction of our interpretation.
    1. The ending of Wuthering Heights: A direction which slightly deviates from the Gothic proper.
    2. Expansion into the Fantastic through the experience of the small boy.
    3. Lockwood's naivete.
    4. The accumulation of Gothic and Fantastic elements.
  3. The simultaneous presence of both narrators.
    1. An uphill task for Nelly's common sense.
    2. Lockwood's evidence.
    3. The cultured way in which Cathy and Hareton resolve their differences.
  4. Interpret the image of Lockwood standing by the three graves at the end.
  5. Conclusion.

The passage, being at the very end of the novel, follows directly Heathcliff's death and stages the final events of Wuthering Heights. Prior to it, Nelly Dean gives her brief account of Heathcliff's death and funeral. Then, we are presented with her conversation with Lockwood who, in turn, puts an end to the story. Starting with Lockwood's narrative, which integrates that of Ellen Dean and extends over the more or less short narratives of five other characters, ?mirroring? its beginning, the story comes to its end. The text of the final paragraphs can be taken as emblematic of the reader's relation to the whole story in the sense that the interpretation of the events depends entirely on the individual discernment of every reader. The ending of the novel poses many a problem for the reader. Unequivocal interpretation of it, and of the whole text for that matter, is not possible.

[...] And if all this means that the movement of the first part of the book is not totally reversed but carries on in a form which cannot be embraced by the reasoned scruitinies of Nelly and Lockwood, then the ending of the novel means at least two (if we ignore the multitude of minor suppositions that come to mind) things at once that Catherine and Heathcliff are at peace because of the union between Cathy and Hareton or because they can only be united in death, or on the other hand, that the ghosts of Cathy and Heathcliff are to forever (if we admit that Cathy and Hareton are not merely reiterations of the same turbulent self). [...]

[...] Thus, we may choose to believe without hesitation that Catherine and Heathcliff are either real ghosts, haunting the region, or something of a ghost-like memory that is to be transmitted for generations, consciously or not, to the members of the closed communities of the Heights and the Grange. They are, therefore, never to rest in peace and this seems much more appealing to the reader than a simple sound dismissal of the supernatural. But above all, Catherine and Heathcliff's ghosts are symbols. [...]

[...] And in this sense, Sigmund Freud seems to have perfectly analysed the effect of the uncanny that is at work in the ending of the novel: [the author] betrays us to a superstition we thought we had ?surmounted?; he tricks us by promising us everyday reality and then goes beyond it By the time we become aware of the trickery, it is too late: the writer has already done what he set out to do, he has shared what cannot be overtly shared.? As it is, every other denouement would seem completely out of place in Emily Brontë's creation for it would change its nature. [...]

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