The Humor in Chapter Three of Wuthering Heights

No Escape From the Heights


What Will Befall Lockwood as Darkness Falls?

Her Master Had an Odd Notion About the Chamber She Would Put Me in

"Glutton for punishment" could truly describe Lockwood, Heathcliff's tenant, who could be said to live under a black cloud, such are the calamities that befall him each time he has a brush with inhabitants at the Heights or even with the place itself. With each mishap, many readers find themselves chuckling. Like Heathcliff, for many of us, our humor takes that particular turn that we can laugh at another's misfortune if it is portrayed in a humorous fashion as is done by Emily Bronte in Wuthering Heights.

Lockwood's second visit to the Heights has proved disastrous and now, while he wants nothing more than to leave the place, he is forced to spend the night. Zillah, the housekeeper, leads him upstairs to an unused room and instructs him to be discreet because Heathcliff never lets anyone lodge in there. That should have been a warning.

Alas, for the effects of bad tea and bad temper! What else could it be that made me pass such a terrible night? I don’t remember another that I can at all compare with it since I was capable of suffering.


Lockwood discovers a strange sleeping coach, of sorts, fashioned from wood. When he pulls back the panels, he finds a bed inside. The structure has been built around a window on one end. He enters and then closes himself in. This should be a cozy, private sleeping chamber and after the day he has just undergone, being treated coldly, knocked to the ground by the dogs, laughed at--and getting in a lather about the boorish treatment he's received and his nose starting to bleed copiously--and then being splashed with icy water, finally some relief is in site. This room and bed offers Lockwood a quiet spot away from the hostility and the sheer abuse he seems to suffer from the inhabitants at the heights.

He finds some books and reads how Catherine and Heathcliff had to sit through three hours of a sermon by Joseph in the freezing garret, all while Catherine's brother, Hindley, and his wife sat downstairs before a cozy fire. And when Joseph finally had done and finished and the two came downstairs, Hindley, oblivious, said, "What! done already?"

This foreshadows what befalls Lockwood in a strange dream he will have, which is humorous to any who have had to sit through a long-winded and boring sermon and who squirmed and fidgeted the whole time.

Good God! what a sermon; divided into four hundred and ninety parts, each fully equal to an ordinary address from the pulpit, and each discussing a separate sin!... They were of the most curious character: odd transgressions that I never imagined previously.

Armed With Pilgrim's Staves and on the Way to Gimmerton Church


Lockwood's Dream

Lockwood dreams that it is morning and he is on his way home, guided by Joseph, who constantly reproaches him that he has not brought a pilgrim's staff.

Lockwood learns that they aren't, in fact, going to the Grange, rather they are journeying to the chapel to hear the preacher, Jabez Branderham, and someone is to be publicly exposed and excommunicated.

The preacher drones on and on. His sermon is divided into 490 parts and as if that weren't bad enough, each part is the full length of a regular sermon and each part details a separate sin. The sins are of the most peculiar sort, odd transgressions that Lockwood would have never thought of.

Lockwood is forced to stay in his seat, hour after hour, as Jabez never ceases sermonizing.

Oh, how weary I grew. How I writhed, and yawned, and nodded, and revived! How I pinched and pricked myself, and rubbed my eyes, and stood up, and sat down again...

Peace-Loving Christians Get into a Brawl in Church

Finally, after many hours, Jabez appears to be done but... he then reaches "the first of the seventy first" and this proves too much for Lockwood who tells the preacher that seventy times seven times has he grabbed up his hat and prepared to depart, only to be forced back in his seat because the preacher continued on. He feels the four hundred and ninety-first is just too much to bear. And he denounces the preacher as being the one who has committed the sin that no man need pardon.

"Fellow-martyrs, Lockwood says, "have at him! Drag him down, and crush him to atoms, that the place which knows him may know him no more!"

Jabez responds that he's seen Lockwood's face contort and tried to forgive him but that now Lockwood is the sinner of the sin that no man can pardon, and he tells the congregants to execute judgement against Lockwood.

Pilgrim's staves cross, and blows aimed at Lockwood miss the mark. Soon, the entire congregation is fighting, with every man's hand against his neighbor. So much for peaceable Christians as they turn the church upside down with their fighting!

A Ghostly Visitation

This preposterous dream ends with a tree branch tapping at the window, awakening Lockwood. And it keeps tapping. Lockwood tries to undo the latch, which is stuck, and the sound bothers him so much he breaks the glass and reaches out to snap off the branches. Instead, an icy hand closes around his wrist! He encounters the ghost of Catherine at the window, who begs him to let her in. He is terrorized and tries to shake off her hand.

Lockwood's cries alert Heathcliff that someone is in the room and in the sleeping coach. By now both Lockwood's and Heathcliff's nerves are raw and sleep is impossible for both of them. Heathcliff scolds Lockwood for raising an infernal noise and says nothing could excuse it unless Lockwood was having his throat cut.

And who showed you up into this room? Who was it? I’ve a good mind to turn them out of the house this moment. ~ Heathcliff

— Emily Bronte

Catherine's Ghost

Lockwood is in high dudgeon again. He feels Zillah is responsible for inflicting this latest misery on him and that she knew that the room was haunted.

It was your servant Zillah. I should not care if you did, Mr. Heathcliff; she richly deserves it. I suppose that she wanted to get another proof that the place was haunted, at my expense. Well, it is—swarming with ghosts and goblins! You have reason in shutting it up, I assure you. No one will thank you for a doze in such a den! ~ Lockwood

— Emily Bronte

"If the Little Fiend Had Got in at The Window, She Probably Would Have Strangled me."

Lockwood tells Heathcliff that he is not going to endure the persecutions of Heathclirff's "hospitable" ancestors again.

He says he'll walk in the yard till daylight, and then be off, and that Heathcliff need not dread a repetition of Lockwood's intrusion, that Lockwood is quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town.

Lockwood goes downstairs, declines breakfast, and at the first gleam of dawn, escapes. He makes it as far as the bottom of the garden before Heathcliff offers to accompany him on the moors. Everything is obliterated by snow and the landmarks Lockwood had taken note of are now buried in drifts. Heathcliff guides Lockwood as far as the entrance to Thrushcross Park, remarking that his tenant can make no error there.

Lockwood, of course, does make an error. Two, in fact. First he manages to turn two miles into four by getting lost in the trees and then he sinks up to his neck in snow!

He arrives at the Grange benumbed to his very heart and has to pace for half an hour to restore his bodily heat and he feels as weak as a kitten.

Lockwood will not soon forget the calamities that have befallen him. He came for a rest and to de-stress and has blundered into the very opposite and has been beset at every turn.

Chapter Three

What Hits Your Funny Bone in Chapter Three?

  • When Cathy and Heathcliff sit through three hours in the freezing garret enduring Joseph's sermonizing and then Hindley says,
  • Lockwood's nightmare where Jabez' discourse is the length of 490 regular sermons and Lockwood's description of his torment in having to sit through it.
  • When when Lockwood tells the preacher that he has committed the unforgivable sin.
  • When the congregants break out into a brawl in church, every man's hand against his neighbor.
  • When Lockwood says that Zillah wanted to get another proof that the place was haunted.
  • When Lockwood finally escapes the Heights but then sinks up to his neck in snow.
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© 2016 Athlyn Green

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