Do you feel that 'Wuthering Heights' celebrates the perfect love between Catherine and Heathcliff or do you see their love as deeply flawed?

Essay by Rochelle22 August 2007

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‘Wuthering Heights’ was the only novel Emily Brontë had written. It was written in 1846 but published in 1847, under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, because people didn’t acknowledge that a woman could have written a novel like ‘Wuthering Heights’. Lord Byron and Mary Shelley influenced Emily Brontë in writing ‘Wuthering Heights’, as the novel exposes themes from both writers. Both Lord Byron and Mary Shelley used Gothic and Romantic language and themes, which were shown throughout ‘Wuthering Heights’ as well.

In this essay I will be exploring the love between Heathcliff and Catherine, and how Heathcliff’s love for Catherine differs from Catherine’s love for Heathcliff. Also, how Brontë uses language and structure to present their relationship and what we learn about the characters.

In chapter 6, Brontë presents Heathcliff as caring about Catherine. ’”When would you catch me wishing to have what Catherine wanted?”’ Heathcliff compares his relationship with Catherine to Edgar’s relationship with Isabella.

He wants to keep Catherine cheerful and content.

Brontë describes Heathcliff in such a way that the reader has both pity and hatred for him. ‘“Miss Earnshaw scouring the country with a gipsy!”’Heathcliff was bullied and degraded as a child because of his appearance and for him being an orphan, which could cause the reader to have sympathy for him.

The language which Brontë uses, enables us to learn that Heathcliff has a soft side to him as well as a hard side, which Brontë has presented throughout the first few chapters of ‘Wuthering Heights’. ‘“I got a stone and thrust it between his jaws, and tried with all my might to cram it down his throat.”’ Heathcliff risks his own health to try and save Catherine from the dog and would not leave her side, until Mr Linton forced him away, which shows he cares deeply about her.

Brontë depicted Heathcliff, as a child, as a boy who barely spoke and never cried when Hindley harmed him, so we are surprised at the language Heathcliff uses and the depth he goes into about his feelings for Catherine. ‘“She is immeasurably superior to them - to everyone on earth, is she not, Nelly?”’The way Brontë presents their relationship gives the reader the speculation that they have a committed emotional relationship rather than physical. The effect, their relationship so far, creates is that they are genuinely close and the evidence that Brontë has given us suggest this is a ‘perfect love’, as they think so highly of each other. ‘“A dim reflection from her own enchanting face.”’ Heathcliff is captivated by Catherine’s beauty.

Within Nelly’s narration, the events that took place at Thrushcross Grange are told from Heathcliff’s point of view. He immediately dislikes the Linton’s and what they represent, plus they now have what he cherishes most, namely Catherine. Therefore, the narrative becomes slightly questionable. The events may have happened as Heathcliff recalls or he may have painted a somewhat skewed picture. Nevertheless, this is still a good narrative device because Nelly gets the full story, of ‘Wuthering Heights’, from everyone’s point of view and the reader gets to discover how this occurs.

In chapter 9, Brontë presents Catherine as passionate about Heathcliff. ‘“My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath.”’ Catherine describes her feelings in such a way, that her depth of love for Heathcliff is now obvious. She shows that her love for him is solid and will never end. Whereas her love for Edgar will come and go. ‘“Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees.”’When Heathcliff ran away, Catherine was extremely troubled by his absence. ‘“Meanwhile, Catherine paced up and down the floor, exclaiming: “I wonder where he is?”’ Catherine starts to think that the reason why Heathcliff ran away is because he overheard her saying ‘“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now.”’However, Catherine is also presented as selfish and self-centred. ‘“And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood.”’ Catherine reveals her reasons why she is marrying Edgar, not for love but for money and status.

Catherine’s actions are driven in parts by her social ambitions, which initially are awakened during her first stay at the Linton’s, and we eventually compel her to marry Edgar. However, she is also motivated by impulse that prompts her to violate social conventions – to love Heathcliff, throw temper tantrums, and run around on the moors. ‘“I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven.”’ On the other hand, Catherine loves Heathcliff so intensely that she claims they are the same person. ‘“Nelly, I am Heathcliff.”’ Nevertheless, her desire for social advancement motivates her to marry Edgar instead.

Catherine, although selfish, appears to be a likeable character as she sacrifices herself for Heathcliff. ‘“Whereas, if I marry Linton I can aid Heathcliff to rise.”’ Catherine wants to use Edgar’s money and power to help Heathcliff became a man of high status. Brontë allows us to somewhat understand Catherine’s feelings, as she is stuck between love, money and status.

We learn that Catherine and Heathcliff still have a strong emotional bond, as she considers herself and Heathcliff as one being. ‘“He is more myself than I am.”’ However, problems begin to surface as Edgar becomes more involved. ‘“I love all his looks, and all his actions, and him entirely.”’ Catherine has now revealed her feelings for Edgar but doesn’t go into depth like she does when talking about Heathcliff.

Catherine’s feelings don’t differ from Heathcliff’s because they both seem to love each other to the same extent; they would do anything for each other. ‘“Who is to separate us, pray? I shouldn’t be Mrs Linton were such a price demanded!”’ Catherine would forgo her relationship with Edgar if it ever caused herself and Heathcliff to separate.

After Catherine accepts to marry Edgar, she becomes doubtful and her feelings become confused. ‘“I accepted him, Nelly; be quick, and say whether I was wrong!”’ Catherine wants Nelly to reassure her and say she did the right thing. However, Nelly objects and questions Catherine about her love for both men; this is how her true feelings are exposed. The language Brontë uses shows the intensity of Catherine’s feelings for Heathcliff.

In chapter 11, Heathcliff is presented as sadistic to those beneath him, as he reveals to Catherine how she has ill-treated him and how he plans his vengeance on Edgar. ‘“You are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only, allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style.”’ Heathcliff plans to obtain Thrushcross Grange by encouraging Isabella’s infatuation with him and intending to marry her, even though he has no actual feelings for her.

Catherine is shown as arrogant and jealous of Heathcliff. ‘“Well, I won’t repeat my offer of a wife - It is as bad as offering Satan a lost soul.”’ Catherine shows her jealousy by being stubborn and belittling Heathcliff.

During the novel so far, Heathcliff and Catherine have been revealed as over-emotional characters, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when they over react at something so pointless.

The language that Brontë uses, suggests to us that even though Catherine and Heathcliff think highly of each other, they are not blinded by love and can see the flaws in each other clearly. ‘“I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally---infernally!”’Throughout my study of the three chapters, I have discovered that Catherine and Heathcliff have neither a ‘perfect love’ nor a ‘deeply flawed love’. I have come to this conclusion because I have realised that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect love’. There will always be some issues in relationships but some are more visible than others, like in Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s relationship.

It is obvious that wealth justifies social class, and Catherine strives to achieve high status. The struggle between social classes mostly resembles a real life conflict during this time. This is a love story which deals with social classes and the suppression of true feelings. Even though society is different today, people’s mentality still remains the same.

Bibliography: 'Wuthering Heights' the novel.