Wuthering Heights Essay, Research Paper
Selfishness Emily Bronte accompanies her siblings, Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell, in a seriesof romantic writings. Emily stayed at various boarding schools but lived most of her life inher family s secluded home in Yorkshire, England. Biographers indicate that she enjoyed asolitary lifestyle in the natural beauty of the moors when not in her home. Emily Brontedevoted her life to her father because her mother s tragic death left him helpless. She andher sisters were not introduced to the idea of marriage but instead were taught that theymust be fully attentive to their father s needs. As she did not leave her house, Emily wrotepoetry and short stories to fill her time. She became passionate about her writings and sentthem to a publisher to be published. In trying to publish her book, a friendship andcorrespondence developed between Emily and an editor. Emily s infatuation with theeditor grew, but their relationship was platonic as he was a married man. She remained hismutual correspond till her early death at the age of thirty. Emily Bronte s passionate style of writing has bewildered many biographers,because they cannot imagine such writing coming from such a reserved person. EmilyBronte incorporated into her works of Victorian writings … the horror and mystery of agothic novel, the remote setting and passionate characters of a romantic novel, and thesocial criticism of a Victorian novel… (Cerrito 107) She transformed her stories ofVictorian times, to ones of marvel by incorporating elements of all times. Bronte s onlynovel, Wuthering Heights, is considered one of the most powerful and original work ofVictorian literature. In Wuthering Heights, Bronte …demonstrated the conflict betweenelemental passions and civilized society… (Cerrito 107) Wuthering Heights is acompelling work that shows the direct effect of selfishness on happiness. Selfishnessdirectly effects happiness in that an increase in selfishness leads to torment, while adecrease in it leads to happiness and peace. Fulfilling your desires at the cost of others leads to torment and a lack ofhappiness. Catherine s selfishness leads to her torment and that lack of happiness.Catherine s selfish character is depicted when she desires both Edgar and Heathcliff at thesame time. She wants Edgar for his life and Heathcliff for his soul. Catherine s seemingaltruistic motives do not lead to the happiness she seeks. Instead, she tortures herself bythe results of her own actions. Catherine s devotion to her husband clashes with her lovefor Heathcliff. Catherine s nature rests in Heathcliff, while her superficial love rests inEdgar. Her devotion to Edgar comes from the status she acquires in marrying him. Sheclaims that she married Edgar to help her true love, Heathcliff. …despite her nobleassertions to the contrary, she is a creature of this world after all. She will marry Edgarbecause he is rich and handsome.. not because she loves him. (Shapiro 153). Though sheclaims to love Heathcliff, actions speak louder than words and her marriage to Edgar hurtsHeathcliff and disturbs the two houses dramatically. Catherine does the most selfish thinga lover can do by marrying another person other than her true love for mere individualstability. …by marrying Edgar, Catherine betrays herself as well as Heathcliff, creating anemotional unrest which prevents her from finding contentment… (Cerrito 107). Inmarrying Edgar, Catherine kids herself in thinking she can be happy. Likewise, shecontinues seeing Heathcliff, thinking she can control her happiness. Her retaining contactwith Heathcliff hurts Edgar since he views Catherine s love for Heathcliff as betraying hislove for Catherine. Because selfishness has consumed her soul, Catherine reacts toEdgar s understandable jealousy by attempting to afflict pain on him. She will hurt herselfas much as possible, so that she can hurt Edgar. Catherine locks herself in her room, andstarves, knowing that Edgar s love for her will lead him to return to her despite heractions towards Heathcliff. In her solitude, Catherine truly falls ill and she torments herselfby the realization of the lack of happiness she seeks. She feels extremely distressed as aresult of the realization that she has made the wrong decision. Catherine desires to remainin preferable position with her marriage to Edgar, yet she longs for Heathcliff and attemptsto keep both men in her life. She does not want to choose between the two, and thereforenever does. Thus she causes pain and hurts both men. She disregards the feelings of Edgarand keeps in contact with the hated lover. Selfishness eventually deteriorates Cathy, andshe falls terminally ill. In her last days, Cathy realizes her as she views and longs for herold home. Her desires rest in her past savageness and her need to return to her formerstate with Heathcliff. Because she has decided to marry Edgar for social status, she cannotreturn to the love she had for Heathcliff. …Cathy s selfishness and her attempt tocompromise with society s dictates keep her from fulfilling her love for Heathcliff. (Shapiro 153) Both men, Heathcliff and Edgar, disturb her death as they devotethemselves to her. Her lovers devotion conflict as both men detest each other. Catherinemarried Edgar in the selfish hopes of a better life, but in doing so Catherine torturesherself by her selfish need to keep both Edgar and Heathcliff in her life, knowing they bothdespise each other. Beneath Catherine s love for Heathcliff lies a genuine conflict, a clashof different levels of passion which ends by consuming her. (Traversi 131) Her selfishdecision ultimately leads to her death. Catherine disregards Heathcliff s love and makes adecision to fulfill her superficial needs. In turn, her lack of love for Edgar causes Catherineto satisfy her need to see Heathcliff even after she is married. She again disregardsanother feelings, Edgar s, to satisfy her desires. The selfishness that rules Catherine s life,torments her as she cannot balance both of her devoted lovers and as she suffers ahaunting death. Though a person gains profit from fulfilling his desires, fulfilling your will at thecost of others leads to torment. Heathcliff was probably the most selfish person in all ofWuthering Heights. He ruins Catherine s life when he disappeared for three years. He alsoruins Isabella s life by marrying her only for revenge. Heathcliff forces young Cathy tomarry Linton and then later kills the poor sickling boy through neglect. These are only themajor consequences of Heathcliff s selfishness. Heathcliff s seeking revenge in a selfishmanner leads to the misery of his own soul. Heathcliff s constant abuse as a child and hislost love for Catherine leads him to develop into a monstrous being. Heathcliff comes intothe Earnshaw family, and resented for being uncivilized. Earnshaw s son abuses Heatcliff,and Heatchfill again gets hurt by Catherine as she disregards his love and marries Linton.In retaliation to the abuse he has endured, Heathcliff seeks revenge in use to free his soulof the ill-treatment he has experienced. Heathcliff proclaims he does not feel pain whenthinking of the revenge he can take. Thus, he believes he can find happinness in hisrevenge. However, the exact opposite occurs. While he seeks fulfillment through tortureof others, Heathcliff s satisfaction is not fulfilled. Heathcliff shows that revenge has notreleased him stating that he yet burns in hell despite his actions. I have no pity! I know nopity! The worms writhe; the more I yearn to crush out their entrails! It is a moral teething,and I grind with greater energy, in proportion to the increase of pain. (Bronte 152) In
that proclamation Heathcliff affirms that he cannot achieve freedom by the crushing of hisenemies, but that his pain increases as his selfish actions prevail. There is no use ineither destroying or not destroying. Within that situation Heathcliff remains poised,destroying himself in the tension of it, so that breathing or doing any slightest act is forhim like bending back a stiff spring (Miller 188) Heathcliff destroys himself by usingrevenge and by attempting to destroy others. He realizes that his revenge has causednothing but pain and that it has no victory as he observes Cathy and Hareton careness foreach other. Heathcliff, watching the love of Cathy and Hareton grow, comes tounderstand something of the failure of his own revenge. (Kettle 122) As he watches thetwo he realizes that his revenge is of poor conclusion and that it has not cleared his pain.He no longer finds interests in his life, and finds that his revenge has not fulfilled him. Hisrevenge has not accomplished the satisfaction he desired, instead he feels destroyed anddistraught by the results of his selfish conduct. The selfishness a person possesses has direct affects on his contentment. whilefulfilling desires at the cost of others leads to torment, overcoming selfishness leads to truehappiness. Cathy, one of the few unselfish characters in the novel, overcomes her family sselfishness, and by doing so she becomes receptive to other s needs and creates love. Shesimply overcomes her family s selfishness because she has not inherited it. Though Cathyreflects her mother, she does not posses the selfish characteristic Catherine held. Sheparallels her mother in her sunshine and in her imperviousness. But she differs from hermother as her relationship to Linton [and others] indicates, she is open to others, receptiveto their needs… (Shapiro 154) Her mother s selfishness causes the chaos in WutheringHeights and the Grange; In contrast, Cathy s lack of it stops this turmoil. Catherine caredfor Edgar because of his money, but Cathy responds to Linton not because of his money,or status, but because of his trouble. …unlike her mother, she is not simply interested inself-fulfillment, she wants to help someone else… (Shapiro 154) Cathy s lack ofselfishness brings the spirit of love can be symbolized by the garden. The old order ofrevenge, symbolized by Joseph s dark plants, is uprooted by the flowers of Cathy andHareton, symbolizing the new spirit of love. Also a happy life results for Cathy andHareton because of her unselfishness in helping Hareton learn and become educated.Cathy reveals that a new way of life is possible and that being selfish and acquiring yourdesires at the expense of others is not the true route to happiness. Heathcliff first believes that if he can somehow avenge the abuse he has endured hewill attain fulfillment. However, the exact opposite occurs. When Heathcliff gives up hisselfish plan for revenge, he attains happiness, and changes from a monstrous being to acharacter of contentment. Cathy s observations prove his change: … he looked even so different from his usual look that I stopped a moment tostare at him … How? he [Hareton] inquired. Why, almost bright and cheerful- no, almost nothing, very much exited, and wildand glad! (Bronte 326) Nelly describes the strange change as a ..strange joyful glitter in his eyes… , one thatproves Heathcliff has been released from his previous torment. A torment which arosefrom his selfishness, and released from his releasing his revenge. Heatchilff releases hisselfishness after Catherine s death. Her death brings pain that Heatchliff cannot releasewith revenge. He does not find content with revenge and thus releases his plan. With thisrelease Heathcliff has gone from the threshold of hell to the sight of his heaven. Thesight Heathcliff and Catherine walking together after death proves that they have beenreunited in eternal bliss. Heathcliff reachieves human dignity as he gives up revenge and bybeing buried in the churchyard. A sense of peace is brought from is death. It is thisre-achievement of manhood by Heathcliff, an understanding reached with no help from theworld he despises, which together with the developing relationship of Cathy and Haretonand the financial sense of life reborn in spring time, gives positive and unsentimentalhope. (Kettle 122). The disintegration of selfishness gives the lives of Wuthering Heightsa happiness that was not present when selfishness was prevalent. Selfishness directly affects happiness. Fulfilling your desires at the cost of othersleads to torment, while overcoming selfishness leads to true happiness. Selfishness is oneof the many emotions which ruled over Wuthering Heights. For that reason WutheringHeights can be classified as a romantic novel. Today technology rules our world andromanticism no longer prevails. Technology gives the world privileges that have becomenecessities to people. Nature and romantic elements have been minimized by money,power, and technology. Love has been replaced by the need for economic stability andexternal appearance. Has the world succeeded with technology? or do we need to returnto a philosophical age of romanticism where nature and emotions rule? Romanticismplaces higher emphasis on emotions than rationality. In contrast, our world is ruled byrationale. Without it the concept of the noble savage would rule. the noble savage is mangoing back to nature, and valuing himself more than society as a whole. The world couldnot survive if people became purely romantic and if they became savages. Individual needswould make people selfish and society would not survive such a world. Returning to asavage world would be extreme romanticism, but a balance between today s world and theromantic era can prove beneficial. Letting your emotions rule can help you reach serenityin your marriages by making the love that is present more important than superficialfactors such as money and stability. Nature s heeling power and soothing effect, can relaxpeople from their every day stress and computerized world. Romanticism can be affectingand benefiting in our world if we accept some aspects of it and minimize others. UnlikeHeathcliff emotions need not rule your actions, but like Cathy you can use certain aspectsof them to attain love and happiness. A balance between romanticism and the modernworld, will bring greater emotional stability and happiness to our world.
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