DARK SIDE OF LOVE IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS
by – V. Vasanth Kokilam, published in Vol.II, Issue.XX, September 2016
Introduction to the Author:
Vasantha Kokilam has been working as an assistant professor of English Literature in PUCC since 2008. Vasantha is pursuing Ph. D in literature at present.
“Love” the term has its own unique charm and purity in itself. ‘Love’ the word; believe it lost its original colour and its meaning. Love it means a sort of emotional feeling. It is like hatred, hungry etc., in no way, it is agreeable that the term love should be interpreted only in terms of love and affair between a hero and a heroine. Literature in general, basically structured on the base of love. If we take any literature love and hatred and its consequences are the major theme of any story. It is not only about the love and separation of hero and heroine. It also dealt with the other consequences of it. Love is a universal feeling that keeps human life vibrant. It is said if you love someone why do you conceal it? Concealment of love and expression of love has been a favourite topic with writers. Sexuality has been a great driving force in human life.
The objective of the present work is to explore the treatment of love and sex in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The main concern is the expression of these feelings in the above said work. Romantic love takes many forms in Wuthering Heights: the grand passion of Heathcliff and Catherine, the insipid sentimental languishing of Lockwood, the coupleism of Hindley and Frances, the tame indulgence of Edgar, the romantic infatuation of Isabella, the puppy love of Cathy and Linton, and the flirtatious sexual attraction of Cathy and Hareton. These lovers, with the possible exception of Hareton and Cathy, are ultimately self-centred and ignore the needs, feelings, and claims of others; what matters is the lovers’ own feelings and needs. Heathcliff and Catherine share one of the most romantic love stories of all time, yet they do not ever get married and rarely show physical affection one towards another.
The novel opens in 1801, a date Q.D. Leavis believes Bronte chose in order “to fix its happenings at a time when the old rough farming culture, based on a naturally patriarchal family life, was to be challenged, tamed and routed by social and cultural changes; these changes produced Victorian class consciousness and ‘unnatural’ ideal of gentility.” In 1801 the Industrial Revolution was at the peak in England; when Emily Bronte was writing in 1847, it was a dominant force in English economy and society, and the traditional relationship of social classes was being disrupted by growing-new fortunes and an aspiring middle class. A new standard for defining a gentleman was money. Money challenges the traditional criteria of breeding and family and the more recent criterion of character. This social-economic reality provides the context for socio-economic readings of this novel. This is one criteria which makes the love of Catherine and Heathcliff a dark one.
Ellen Dean narrates a tale of love, passion, jealousy, and betrayal. Wuthering Heights is the story of a passionate, yet twisted and doomed love affair between Heathcliff and Catherine. Heathcliff and Catherine’s story reveals the darker side of love and obsession and how love can become a destructive force. Catherine and Heathcliff destroyed each other and those around them with their love. Initially, the estate known as Wuthering Heights was owned by a family known as the Earnshaws, who were considered middle class. Before departing on a trip to London, Master Earnshaw asks his two children Catherine and Hindley what presents do they want to him bring to them. When Earnshaw returns home, he does not have any presents. Instead, he returns with a filthy, young boy he has named Heathcliff. Needless to say, Catherine and Hindley are furious and demand their father get rid of the boy. Earnshaw insists that the boy stays. His love towards Heathcliff is a mystery throughout the story. Why he brought Heathcliff to Thrushgross Grange? What connection he had with Heathcliff? These questions have no answers.
Uncaring or unsympathizing parents are shown throughout this story to be an element of destructive relationships. Because Heathcliff gained all the attention from Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley became disassociated from his father. This separation continued until after Mr. Earnshaw had died. Another example is between Hindley and Hareton. Hindley became such a drunk and a gambler that he could not properly care for young Haerton. This led to a separation between Haerton and his father as well. One primary example of an uncaring parent is shown between Heathcliff and his son Linton. Heathcliff did not even want his son for anything except enacting a part of his revenge. This is shown by Linton’s fear of Heathcliff and Heathcliff’s enmity toward his son. Linton even says,
“But my father threatened me,’ gasped the boy, clasping his attenuated fingers, ‘and I dread him—I dread him! I dare not tell!’ (Chapter XXII, pg, 225)
to express his feelings about Heathcliff about Heathcliff. The hostility and separation between the father and son in this novel shows that uncaring parents can cause serious damage in relationships with their children.
Heathcliff is destructive to the established order because he has no social or domestic status. He disturbs the establishment because he has no legitimate place within its system.
At first, Catherine despised Heathcliff. In time, though, they become quite fond of each other. Hindley, however, hated Heathcliff and never accepted him into the family. Earnshaw is very fond of Heathcliff and makes sure to treat the boy with kindness. When it becomes evident that Hindley and Heathcliff will never get along, Earnshaw sends Hindley away to school. During his lifetime, Earnshaw treated Heathcliff as if he were his own son and a member of the family. Upon Earnshaw’s death, however, things changed. Hindley returns to Wuthering Heights with his new wife and proceeds to make Heathcliff’s life miserable. He mistreats Heathcliff and reduces him to a servant. Angrily, Heathcliff vows to seek revenge one day.
Things became worse after Hindley’s wife died after giving birth to a son, Hareton Earnshaw. Hindley neglected his newborn son and plunged into alcoholism. With his reckless behaviour, he brought disgrace to the Earnshaw family. No one, with the exception of the Linton family, would have anything to do with the Earnshaws. Edgar Linton proposed to Catherine and she accepted, despite the fact that she doesn’t really love Edgar. She loves Heathcliff instead, but sees no chance for a secure future with him. Catherine was too proud to marry Heathcliff; she felt she could not marry Heathcliff because of his low station. Catherine says,
‘It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.’ (Chapter IX, pg 68)
Catherine’s dual nature reveals itself most fully in this chapter. In one breath she is able to declare her love for Heathcliff while simultaneously stating she cannot marry him. She agrees to marry Edgar yet naively thinks this marriage will not affect her relationship with Heathcliff. Catherine, like most of Victorian society, views marriage as a social contract and not the ultimate commitment between lovers. In her eyes, she and Heathcliff are one; therefore, her marriage to Edgar could not possibly affect the spiritual connection she has with Heathcliff.
In addition to their spiritual connection, a symbolic connection between Catherine and Heathcliff also exists. When Catherine arrives at Thrushcross Grange, she is as much an outsider there as Heathcliff was when he arrived at Wuthering Heights. Upon their arrivals, both wreak havoc and turmoil on the inhabitants. Although Catherine chooses to marry and live with Edgar, she is out of her element.
Catherine wanted Heathcliff to be something that he was not. She could love Heathcliff if he were more respectable. She agreed to marry Edgar Linton because of what he could offer her. Catherine stated that her feelings for Edgar would never really change. She did not love Edgar, but he offered security, something Heathcliff could not give. After hearing that Catherine was going to marry Edgar Linton, Heathcliff left Wuthering Heights. “Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy?” (Chapter XV, pg, 136) When Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights, he returns as a vastly wealthy man. Heathcliff believed that Catherine had betrayed him by marrying Edgar Linton. Poisoned by betrayal and bitterness, Heathcliff lashes out at Catherine and the residents of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
What Catherine says and does not say reveals telling and compelling information about her character. She tells Heathcliff, “You and Edgar have broken my heart,” placing the blame at their feet. But while she is being open and honest with Heathcliff, not once does she say she regrets marrying Edgar. Her comments about not being at peace and about Heathcliff’s happiness when she is buried, her ghost walking the world for eighteen years, haunting Heathcliff.
After rambling for a while, Catherine begs forgiveness, but Heathcliff cannot or will not give it. Perhaps this lack of forgiveness is what haunts him: The memory that he did not fully forgive her on her deathbed may be the worst of all the terrible things he has done in his life. Catherine herself alludes to this possibility when she says, “if you nurse anger, that will be worse to remember than my harsh words!” Perhaps only in her last moments of life does Catherine come to a true understanding of love.
At the end of the chapter, when Catherine collapses into Heathcliff’s arms and Nelly thinks Catherine has died, Nelly remarks,
‘She’s fainted, or dead,’ I thought: ‘so much the better. Farbetter that she should be dead, then lingering a burden and amisery-maker to all about her.’ Far better that she should be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to all about her.” (ChapterXV, pg, 138)
These cold and callous comments reveal the truth about Nelly and her feelings, just as Heathcliff giving Catherine’s body to Edgar, placing Catherine’s needs ahead of his own, reveal the truth about the depths of his love. For Nelly, Catherine’s death will be a blessing, a lessening of a burden; for Heathcliff, Catherine’s death is the beginning of his own personal hell.
Heathcliff’s return to Wuthering Heights marks the beginning of Heathcliff’s twisted plan of revenge. He finds out that Hindley is deeply in debt and manages to gain control of Hindley’s property and assets. Heathcliff is now the master of Wuthering Heights, and he does not forget his mistreatment at the hands of Hindley. Hindley and his son Hareton are treated as, if not worse, than servants. Heathcliff and Catherine fall back into a pattern of emotionally torturing each other. Heathcliff, in an attempt to hurt Catherine, courts and marries Edgar Linton’s sister Isabella.
This element of destructive behaviour may stem from an unhappy marriage in which the husbands or wives don’t know each other. This had happened between Heathcliff and Isabella. Isabella did not really know Heathcliff when she married him, but after she had married him she saw that Heathcliff was not a gentleman at all. To declare her feelings, she wrote,
“The second question I have great interest in; it is this—Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil? Isha’n’t tell my reasons for making this inquiry; but I beseech you to explain, if you can, what I have married” (ChapterXIII, pg, 116)
While Edgar is nursing Catherine, readers get a view of Heathcliff from Isabella’s perspective. Her letter to Nelly narrates the events that have transpired from the time she eloped. Isabella questions if Heathcliff is really a man and suggests that he may be incarnate evil. She realizes marrying him was a mistake but also realizes she cannot atone for her error. Isabella reveals that Heathcliff blames Edgar for Catherine’s suffering, and he will take this out on Isabella, too. Heathcliff may or may not be the devil, but he is making Isabella’s life a living hell.
Another example of this is when Catherine married Edgar Linton. Although she had been happy at the beginning of the marriage, she thought having parties all the time was going to be fun. Yet, after a while she became bored. She also realized that she loved Heathcliff more than Edgar and would always love Heathcliff. This enlightenment created separation between Edgar and Catherine during the final hours of Cathy’s life. An additional marriage which was made that was doomed was the one between Catherine and Linton. Because this was a forced marriage, Cathy had not yet learned all she could about Linton. Because she did not know until after the marriage that Linton was selfish and inconsiderate, she became distressed and grew isolated in the house. These three failed marriages described in this novel show that knowing the person you will marry is very important.
Shortly after Heathcliff’s marriage to Isabella, Catherine goes into labour and dies giving birth to a girl. Edgar pays tribute to his wife by naming their daughter Catherine. After Catherine’s death, Heathcliff begins to physically and emotionally abuse Isabella, nearly destroying her. Isabella manages to escape from Heathcliff. After several years, Isabella contacts her brother Edgar and reveals that she and Heathcliff have a son named Linton. She was pregnant when she escaped, and Heathcliff has no knowledge that he has a son. Isabella extracts a promise from Edgar that Heathcliff will never find about their son and that Edgar will watch over Linton after she dies. After Isabella’s death, Linton comes to Thrushcross Grange to live with Edgar and the young Catherine. Despite Edgar’s best efforts, Heathcliff finds out that Linton is his son and insists that the boy reside with him at Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff has not ceased in his quest for revenge, and he discovers that if Linton were to marry Catherine, then Heathcliff would gain control of Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff forces Catherine’s father, Edgar, to agree to the marriage. Overcome with grief over his daughter’s fate, Edgar dies shortly after the marriage. Heathcliff’s son Linton does not enjoy the best of health and it is apparent that he will not live long. Catherine endures a miserable life at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff hates her because she reminds him so much of her mother. Linton dies soon after their marriage, leaving Heathcliff in control of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff treats Catherine a little better than a servant, but that remains her station at Wuthering Heights. History almost seems to repeat itself as Catherine and Hindley’s forgotten son Hareton go from hating each other, to tolerating each other, to becoming friends, then falling in love. Heathcliff continues to lose his tenuous grip on sanity, finally becoming completely mad, searching for Catherine.
“May she wake in torment!’ he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion.’ Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there – not in heaven – not perished – where? – I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! (ChapterXVI, pg, 142)
In this passage, Heathcliff explains that his soul is Catherine. This reflects the recurring theme of ghosts and haunting, which will torment Heathcliff for the rest of his life. Twenty years later, Mr. Lockwood will come across Catherine’s ghost, which has driven Heathcliff more into madness. This point is a landmark in the story of Wuthering Heights, because the chronology had come nearly full circle. The readers can now link this to the beginning of the story when Mr. Lockwood stays in the haunted room.
Mrs. Dean speaks to young Catherine, “because they are a great deal higher up than we are,’ replied I; ‘you could not climb them, they are too high and steep. In winter the frost is always there before it comes to us; and deep into summer I have found snow under that black hollow on the north-east side!'”(ChapterXVII, pg 161)
Catherine already desires to explore the moors, just as Heathcliff and Catherine played in them when they were young. The moors represent the dangers of nature and eventually become symbolic of Heathcliff and Catherine’s love for each other. Later, the young Catherine will encounter the young Linton in the moors and learn about Wuthering Heights.
The change in the mind and body of Heathcliff is visible. He says to Mrs. Dean as follows,
” ‘I’ll tell you what I did yesterday! I got the sexton, who was digging Linton’s grave, to remove the earth off her coffin-lid, and I opened it. I thought, once, I would have stayed there, when I saw her face again – it is hers yet-he had hard work to stir me; but he said it would change, if the air blew on it, and so I struck one side of the coffin loose, and covered it up: not Linton’s side, damn him! I wish he’d been soldered in lead – and I bribed the sexton to pull it away, when I’m laid there, and slide mine out too. I’ll have it made so, and then, by the time Linton gets to us, he’ll not know which is which!'” (ChapterXXIX, pg, 242)
Heathcliff realizes that he cannot access Catherine’s true presence by capturing people and objects associated with her. Ever since Catherine’s death, he has obtained power over everything associated with her memory including Thruscross Grange and young Catherine. When he opens the coffin, he says that he “saw her face” not her real being. Cutting out the coffin on the opposite of Linton’s side and combining his coffin with hers will ensure that the two souls can be reunited after death. This action seems to be the last resort to his madness.
Heathcliff, being open and revealing with his feelings, is becoming madder and weak. He observes that for the first time in the family that young Catherine and Hareton are progressing. Catherine treats Hareton nicely, and Hareton learns to read, while they are both becoming fond of each other. But Heathcliff is continually haunted by the past, and young Catherine and Hareton’s resemblance to Catherine is the reason why he despises the two. If Heathcliff is in a shadow at the present, he is suggesting that the haunting will end in the future.
. ‘Nelly, there is a strange change approaching: I’m in its shadow at present, I take so little interest in my daily life, that I hardly remember to eat and drink. Those two, who have left the room. (Chapter XXXIII, pg, 271)
Heathcliff dies and finally joins his beloved Catherine and finds peace, gaining in death the things that were denied to him in life. After Heathcliff’s death, Catherine and Hareton are married and begin their new life at Thrushcross Grange, leaving Wuthering Heights behind.
Edgar suffers two losses in this chapter — the death of his wife and the birth of a non-heir. Because Cathy is not a male, she legally is not Edgar’s heir, and complicated laws end up leaving Thrushcross Grange to Isabella, and then to her son. This is not to suggest that Edgar does not love Cathy; he adores her, and she is his world. He just hates the fact that his rival may end up with his property.
With the shock of Catherine’s death, Heathcliff implores her to haunt him. He is clearly devastated by the death of his one true love, and although Heathcliff has done dastardly deeds throughout the text, most readers tend to sympathize with him and the loss he is feeling. Edgar is devastated too, but by burying Catherine near her beloved moors, Edgar demonstrates both the depth of his love for his wife as well as insight into understanding her character. He wants Catherine to be happy and at peace, and this is one final gesture he can give to show his love.
The jealousy, neglect and unprepared nature of the many relationships in novel have gone sour. In spite of all these destructive elements one relationship may succeed. This is the one between Cathy and Hearten. Because there is no more jealousy or neglect and they are getting to know each other, their relationship has a good chance of succeeding. All the other failed relationships in this novel containing the elements; jealousy, neglect, and ignorance concerning the nature of your companion; one can conclude that these elements will destroy any relationships.
Heathcliff’s actions clearly illustrate the philosophy that “the ends justify the means.” In doing so, readers tend to root for Cathy to be able to somehow thwart Heathcliff’s growing power. Nelly does not witness the wedding, but Cathy and Linton do indeed get married.
Heathcliff’s arrival is seen as a direct threat to just about everyone, but mostly to Hindley. As Nelly Dean tells it, “from the very beginning, Heathcliff bred bad feeling in the house”. Her choice of words is suggestive since there is so much preoccupation with his racial background. Coming from Liverpool, Heathcliff very likely is of mixed race. Some critics have suggested that he is black or Arabic? This would explain his father’s strange insistence on including him in the household.
Heathcliff can be a real beast, which comes across through his numerous threats, violent acts, and symbolic association with that unruly pack of dogs. In some ways he is the supreme depraved Gothic villain, but his emotional complexity and the depth of his motivations and reactions make him much more than that. Heathcliff often falls back on violence as a means of expression, both of love and hate. Having been beaten on by Hindley for most of his childhood. Heathcliff is the classic victim turned perpetrator. His rage is tied to the revenge he so passionately seeks, but he also undertakes small ‘extracurricular” acts of violence, like hanging Isabella Linton’s dog. Whether he is capable of sympathy for anyone but Catharine is highly questionable. As Nelly recounts,
“He seized, and thrust her from the room; and returned muttering-’I have no pity! I have no pity! The more the wormswrithe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails! It is amoral teething; and I grind with greater energy in proportion to the increase of pain,” (Chapter XIV, pg 129)
That sums up his attitude and he is talking about his wife. He treats his son Linton no better. Linton’s sickly demeanour is a contrast to his father’s strong and healthy physique and Heathcliff has no tolerance for the little bugger. Though Heathcliff expresses and often enacts violence against just about everyone in the two houses, he would never hurt Catherine. However, his love for her is violent in the sense that it is extremely passionate and stirs a brutal defensiveness. Importantly, by the end of the novel Heathcliff admits to Nelly that he no longer has any interest in violence. It’s not so much that he is sated as that he is just over it.As he tells her:
“It is a poor conclusion, is it not . . . An absurd termination to my violent exertions? I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and when everything is ready, and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished! My old enemies have beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it; and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don’t care for striking. I can’t take the trouble to raise my hand!”(ChapterXXXIII, pg 271)
Despite the generally accepted view that Heathcliff and Catherine are deeply in love with one another, the question whether they really love each other has to be addressed. This question raises another; what kind of love or feelings is Bronte depicting? Her sister Charlotte called Heathcliff’s feelings “perverted passion and passionate perversity.” They call themselves as soulmates, their love exists on a higher or spiritual planes; they are soulmates, two people who have affinity for each other which draws them together irresistibly. Heathcliff repeatedly calls Catherine his soul. Such a love is not necessarily fortunate or happy. For C. Day Lewis, Heathcliff and Catherine represent the essential isolation of the soul, the agony of two souls or rather two halves of single soul-forever struggling to unite.
Clifford Collins calls their love a life-force relationship, a principle that is not conditioned by anything but it. It is a principle because the relationship is of an ideal nature; it does not exist in life, though as in many statements of an ideal. This principle has implications of a profound living significance. Catherine’s conventional feelings for Edgar Linton and his superficial appeal contrast with her profound love for Heathcliff, which is an acceptance of identity below the level of consciousness. Their relationship expresses “the impersonal essence of personal existence, “an essence which Collins calls the life-force. This fact explains why Catherine and Heathcliff several times describe their love in impersonal terms. Such feelings cannot be fulfilled in an actual relationship. Bronte provides the relationship of Hearten and Cathy to integrate the principle into everyday life.
Their love is an attempt to break the boundaries of self and to fuse with another to transcend the inherent separateness of the human condition; fusion with another will by uniting two incomplete individuals create a whole and achieve new sense of identity, a complete unified identity. This need for fusion is motivate Heathcliff’s determination to absorb Catherine’s corpse into his and for them to dissolve into each other so thoroughly that Edgar will not be able to distinguish Catherine form him.
Freud explained this urge as an inherent part of love: “At the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away. Against all the evidence of his senses, a man who is in love declares, ’I’ and ‘You’ are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were an act. Love has become a religion in Wuthering Heights providing a shield against the fear of death and the annihilation of personal identity or consciousness. This use of love would explain the inexorable connection between love and death in the character’s speeches and actions.
Heathcliff and Catherine love each other beyond anything, thy grew up together and become ‘one’ spiritually. They cannot be happy without one another. Their relationship is intimate but not sexual. Catherine cannot love Heathcliff because he is of a lower class than her.
Edgar and Catherine are in a relationship which results in marriage. Catherine loves Edgar but only because he loves her so much. Edgar is infatuated by Catherine and loves her wholly; the love is never wholly reciprocated. “I have such faith in Linton’s love that I believe I might kill him and he wouldn’t wish to retaliate” They marry because they are both isolated and because of class structure at the time.
Heathcliff and Isabella’s love is never mutual. Heathcliff marries Isabella for money and class, he marries her to gain access to Thrushcross Grange. Isabella falls in love with Heathcliff as a teenager, so is obviously blinded by age and a desire to love. Heathcliff always makes sure Isabella is fully aware he is not in love with her, hence his hanging of her dog.
Hindley marries Frances while he is away at boarding school, he keeps the marriage a secret because Frances is from a lower class, and they do have a genuine love. When Hindley is with Frances he is happy and as pleasant as he could possibly be while she existed, her death eventually brought about his demise. They were both immature and cruel, which suited one another.
Linton and Cathy were forced to marry out of Heathcliff’s spite. They never truly love each other and Linton eventually dies. Haerton and Cathy fall in love and is symbolic of the way true love should be executed, as they learn from the previous generation’s mistakes.
Heathcliff’s motives for his union with Isabella were to gain money and power over Thrushcross grange, which therefore gave him power over his oppressors, the Lintons. Catherine’s motives for marrying Edgar were to ‘move up’ in class. Which gave her higher social esteem and more money, with this power she gained she aimed to use to further Heathcliff and take him out of the control of her brother. Linton and Cathy’s marriage was arranged, and they never really had their own personal motives for the marriage. Hindley and Frances married each other for love and their own personal satisfaction. Frances got to escape to a better way of life and Edgar got what he wanted from her.
Victorian England was fascinated by gypsies, and they appear in novels like Jane Austen’s Emma and Charlotte Brontes Jane Eyre among others. Gypsies, who were thought to have come from Egypt, were objects of discrimination, partly because their traveling lifestyle made them people without a nation or land like Heathcliff, and partly because they just looked so different from the typical Anglo Saxon. In nineteenth-century novels, gypsies often steal children. They are never the hero or anti-hero of the novel. So Bronte really mixes up our expectations here. The first thing which reveals a typical Gypsy trait is Heathcliff’s running away. The idea is that if gypsies are basically constantly moving and therefore in a sense homeless since the tem “home” does not only refer to a place that provides shelter but a place that is inherent with a person’s identity, a place someone belongs to. Heathcliff did not consider Wuthering Heights as his home and therefore tried to escape it. This can be seen as an analogy to the nature of Gypsies.
The first time he ran away from the manor was when he and Catherine visited the grounds of Thrushgross Grange, another manor in their neighbourhood. More significant, though is the second occasion when Heathcliff ran away from Wuthering Heights and Catherine in order to eventually return a rich man. This marked the turning point I the story. Heathcliff disappointed by Catherine’s change of mind, decided to stop submitting to Hindley Earnshaw, new master of the house, and ran away. Other occasions strengthening this argument are his sleeping out of doors after his return to Wuthering Heights a rich man and staying outdoors previously to his death.
Wuthering Heights presents a tale of infatuation, obsession, and betrayal. It is not just a love story; it is a window into the human soul, where one sees the loss, suffering self-discovery, and triumph of the characters in this novel. Catherine and Heathcliff destroy each other and everyone around them with their tortured romance. Another story is often overlooked. Nestled inside a tale of a dark and twisted love is the true love story between two who were caught up in the aftermath and wreckage of the storm known as Heathcliff and Catherine. Hindley Earnshaw’s forgotten son, Hareton, the true heir to Wuthering Heights, and Catherine rectify the mistakes of the past and lays it to rest. In that, Wuthering Heights becomes a tale of redemption and romance.
Frustratingly whether it was meant to bother or purely calm the nerves of Victorian readers. Bronte never cements Heathcliff and Catherine’s physical relationship. Yet the sexual tension and physical effect each character has upon the other is still tantalizingly apparent. Even as children, the reader may choose to observe the hint of sexual reference to Cathy laying her head in his lap. Heathcliff’s ferocious jealousy following Cathy’s integration into the Linton family especially towards Edward spurs a desperate urge to improve his physical appearance. There is also the physical behaviours of each character in response to the other. For instance, Heathcliff’s aggravation of no longer receiving Cathy’s undivided attention arguably makes him more violent. Her death triggers a disturbing outburst of violence upon himself. Cathy chooses instead to internalize her frustration by starving herself.
The emotional bond between Heathcliff and Cathy is irrefutable. Constructed firmly at childhood, the characters carry each other’s emotional burdens and patterns of reactions into adulthood, shaping their own. Both Heathcliff and Cathy feed on one another’s emotions. Heathcliff seems wholly emotionally dependent on Catherine. He relies on her for emotional stability and satisfaction. It is perhaps for this reason that Cathy cannot ever give him enough and he can never fully receive it.
Facing the adversities and oppressions of the real world, Cathy and Heathcliff transfer their relationship into the realms of the spiritual love. Cathy’s famous cry “I’m Heathcliff”, further stimulated by repetitive references to herself and Heathcliff as one entity, a strange echo of the marriage vows, suggests an attempt to validate their bond. Their love however in nature becomes their religion, their indestructible faith. Their belief swells out of control, one simply cannot exist without the other; both characters trust that the only way they can receive what they want from each other is through death and the afterlife.
What makes the speculation of incest in Wuthering Heights so intriguing and difficult to fathom may be due to the realisation that not even the characters, the curious Heathcliff and Cathy, can distinguish their partnership. Throughout the novel both seem confused and angry, do not know how to think or act and struggle with what it is that they actually want from each other. This idea becomes more vivid when Catherine decides to marry Linton, despite her supposed intentions to raise Heathcliff to power. It can also be debated whether what they have is love at all; rather just complete dependence and obsession, even addiction – a control of needs which could be considered by readers and characters alike as love.
In Victorian’s period, the rich are enormously proud of their success and property; the secular sense of hierarchy penetrates into the daily life of common people; money and property are nothing but everything. In literature, the smoky, threatening, miserable factory-towns were often represented in religious terms and compared to hell. The poet William Blake, writing near the turn of the nineteenth century, speaks of England’s “dark Satanic Mills.” Therefore, under the control of this concept, the spirit of human is vehemently suppressed, and the humanity is cruelly twisted and deformed. At this time, Emily who has great rebelling spirit and strong desire of freedom, wrote WUTHERING HEIGHTS, disclosed the evilness of society. The work depicts how humanity was twisted, broken, band destroyed under the hand of violent devastation. But the great death is the steady faith of and yearns for happy life. In the world reined by Heathcliff, the bud of love, coming from Hareton and Cathy, broke through the hard soil of hatred. The betrayal of love brings the twist of humanity but pure love cures the wound, consoles the injured heart, and saves the degenerated soul. Emily shows her positive attitude to the pure love and their destructibility of humanity.
Male anxieties in relation to both physical and mental health in the Victorian era often seem to have concentrated on the supposedly baleful effects of masturbation, which was alleged to cause a wide range of physical and mental disorders, and on venereal diseases, especially syphilis. This brings us neatly into the subject of Victorian sexuality, which has been a continuing topic of debate and fascination.
According to their own testimonies, many people born in the Victorian age were both factually uninformed and emotionally frigid about sexual matters. Historically, it appeared that the licentious behaviour and attitudes of the Regency period had been replaced by a new order of puritan control and repression – personified by the censorious figure of Mrs Grundy – which was imposed by the newly dominant bourgeoisie, steadily permeated all classes, and lasted well into the 20th century. Then a hypocritical ‘shadow side’ to this public denial was glimpsed, in the ‘secret world’ of Victorian prostitution and pornography, and more openly in the ‘naughty nineties’. These perspectives were contested by the French scholar Michel Foucault, who argued that sex was not censored but subject to obsessive discussion as a central discourse of power, bent on regulation rather than suppression. This helps explain why sexuality looms so large in art and medicine, for example, as well as in studies of the Victorian age.
Lately, evidence has shown that Victorian sex was not polarised between female distaste and extra-marital male indulgence. Instead many couples seem to have enjoyed mutual pleasure in what is now seen as a normal, modern manner. The picture is occluded however by the variety of attitudes that exist at any given time, and by individuals’ undoubted reticence, so that information on actual experience is often inferred from demographic and divorce court records. Certainly, the 1860s were briefly as ‘permissive’ as the same decade in the 20th century, while the 1890s saw an explosion of differing and conflicting positions. Throughout, however, the public discussion of sexual matters was characterised by the absence of plain speaking, with consequent ignorance, embarrassment and fear.
Thus this novel is a representation of both Victorian and Modern eras. Love, Sex and Marriage are the themes in almost all the ages in all over the world. Each and every character in this novel is representing the human emotions in particular. Love the major concept in this novel is the driving force. Love in classical age brings the emotional bond between the lovers. Their love mostly leads to happiness. Love the term is associated with divine emotions. Love cannot bring sufferings. If someone is suffering due to love, then it not suffering. Here in this novel, Emily Bronte brings forth the true love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. Both of them are in love. They are separated because of class system which prevails in their time.
Catherine’s true love towards Heathcliff only made her marry Edgar Linton. She marries her for the sake of gaining status. She wants to make Heathcliff attain the status. Heathcliff’s inferiority complex is one reason for the destructive relationship throughout this novel. Real love has great potential to make one grow to any extent. Love has two sides. One is bright and the other is dark. Bright is visible to all. It is vibrant energy. It spreads across the lovers. Similarly, darkness also spreads. Love between Catherine and Heathcliff is opposed by all. Class consciousness is the major reason for the denial. If at all their love is accepted by all the story could have been in the taste of Jane Austen’s novels.
Catherine is not able to think a life without Heathcliff. But the society in which she lives forces her to marry Edgar. But she was not happy. She accepts the tortures given by Heathcliff with whole heart. By torturing Catherine, Heathcliff tortures himself. Self-destruction is also a theme in this novel. They want to get united by death. They feel that they enjoy only after death. Other characters are suffering in the novel because of their ego. Bronte gives a note that next generation of Catherine and Heathcliff are ready to live ego-free happy life.
To the readers, it may seem to have seen a darker side of love in the novel. But we can get a clear picture of love when we analyse the character of Catherine and Heathcliff. Love should not make others also to suffer. But here we can see the other characters are suffering from the love of Catherine and Heathcliff. Love has the quality of making one numb. Here that happens. The extreme love between Catherine and Heathcliff makes them forget about others. Thus it gives a look that love has a darker side.
Armstrong, Nancy. “Emily Brontë In and Out of Her Time.” Genre 15 (1982): 243-64. Rpt. in Norton edition.
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Barecca, Regina. “The Power of Excommunication: Sex and the Feminine Text in Wuthering Heights.” In Barreca, ed. Sex and Death in Victorian Literature. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1990. Pp. 227-40.
Boone, Joseph Allen. “Wuthering Heights: Uneasy Wedlock and Unquiet Slumbers.” Tradition Counter Tradition: Love and the Form of Fiction. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987. 151-172.
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