Wuthering Heights Catherine And Heathcliff Essay, Research Paper
Wuthering Heights – Catherine and Heathcliff
Essay written by Midnight Toker
A Presentation of the Personalities of Heathcliff and
Murray Kempton once admitted, ‘No great scoundrel is ever uninteresting.’ The human race continually focuses on characters who intentionally harm others and create damaging situations for their own benefit. Despite popular morals, characters who display an utter disregard for the natural order of human life are characters who are often deemed iconic and are thoroughly scrutinized. If only the characters of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights were as simple as that. Set on the mysterious and gloomy Yorkshire moors in the nineteenth century, Wuthering Heights gives the illusion of lonesome isolation as a stranger, Mr. Lockwood, attempts to narrate a tale he is very far removed from. Emily Bronte’s in-depth novel can be considered a Gothic romance or an essay on the human relationship. The reader may regard the novel as a serious study of human problems such as love and hate, or revenge and jealousy. One may even consider the novel Bronte’s personal interpretation of the universe. However, when all is said and done, Heathcliff and Catherine are the story. Their powerful presence permeates throughout the novel, as well as their complex personalities. Their climatic feelings towards each other and often selfish behavior often exaggerates or possibly encapsulates certain universal psychological truths humans are too afraid to express. Heathcliff and Catherine’s stark backgrounds evolve respectively into dark personalities and mistaken life paths, but in the end their actions determine the course of their own relationships and lives. Their misfortunes, recklessness, willpower, and destructive passion are unable to penetrate the eternal love they share.
Heathcliff’s many-faceted existence is marked by wickedness, love, and strength. His dark actions are produced by the distortion of his natural personality. Although Heathcliff was once subjected to vicious racism due to his dark skin color and experienced wearisome orphan years in Liverpool, this distortion had already begun when Mr. Earnshaw brought him into Wuthering Heights, a “dirty, ragged, black-haired child”(45; ch.7). Already he was inured to hardship and uncomplainingly accepted suffering. Heathcliff displays his strength and steadfastness when he had the measles, and when Hindley treated him cruelly if he got what he wanted. From the very beginning he showed great courage, resoluteness, and love. Few have the audacity to be victimized (as Heathcliff was by Hindley after Mr. Earnshaw’s death) and find secret delight in his persecutor sinking into a life of debauchery which will undoubtedly cause his own death. Not only did Heathcliff show his strength through Hindley, but also by following his personal goal of a life with Catherine Earnshaw. Heathcliff vanishes for three years to win Cathy over with his successes. He chose to fight a battle most would never attempt to begin. Heathcliff, being the survivor that he is, proved himself to be quite a gentleman. Nelly offers her impression when narrating, “…he would certainly have struck a stranger as a born and bred gentleman…” (130; ch. 14). Although Heathcliff’s personality is so unusually and intensely strong, he does emit qualities rooted in ourselves. His trials and tribulations only develop and exaggerate the darkness and violence inherited in not only Heathcliff, but everyone. However, Heathcliff’s wickedness is entirely inappropriate and unusual. Without question he is brutal. The primal and universal darkness in Heathcliff must not be excused. The vicious manner n which he helps to destroy Hindley, kidnaps Cathy and Nelly, and brutalizes Isabella and Hareton, suggests that he is not born with the same primal and universal structure as everyday man, but some other disturbed quality. For example, Isabella in a letter to Ellen wrote, “Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? And if so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?” (121; ch. 13). The antisocial menace now induces pain on his undeserving wife. In just a few chapters the reader identifies with Heathcliff’s dark instincts, awes at his inability to feel compassion in certain instances, and becomes intrigued with his passion and undying love for Cathy. Lockwood’s first impressions of this gentleman reflect the complex and contrasting images he presents simultaneously when he quotes, “But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much of a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose.” (3; ch. 1). Even the conflicting ideas his sheer appearance resonates result in a complexity. Heathcliff initially treats others with contempt and behaves antisocially. Lockwood again offers, “…his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling- to manifestations of mutual kindness. He’ll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again” (4; ch. 1). Behind all the hidden agendas, natural attributes, and wounds of external circumstances, the love of two kindred spirits prevails. In the end love conquers even a Heathcliff -after his soul has been cleansed with age and wisdom of the hate and distortion with which he has lived for decades. Perhaps the evil that he once acted upon sprung not entirely from a primal root of evil itself, but from the upset of the natural processes of love. The reader leaves the story with the image of a passionate man whose soulful determination to die is startlingly inspiring. His apparent thoughts are of happier, more pure days returning, while staring out into a storm, searching for Catherine.
Catherine Earnshaw’s iron will, immaturity, and quest for high-profile acceptance cause her character to star in the tragedy of a lost generation. She is both loving and violent, gentle and passionate, affectionate and willful. Her turbulent and aggressive personality rivals only that of Heathcliff. Like Heathcliff, certain traumas experienced feed the fire of their passion, self-interest, and youthfulness. For example, she is the spawn of a man who says that because he cannot understand her, he cannot love her. Meanwhile, she finds the inner core and a profound connection with the stranger who enters her own father’s affection and her life so young. While her brother feels dispossessed and threatened by Heathcliff, Cathy sees the ‘dirty, gypsy boy’ a reflection of her own wild nature. Perhaps Catherine and Heatcliff never leave the self- absorption and recklessness of childhood because they are thwarted in their passion just before they become adolescents. Possibly, they prefer to look upon each other as a childlike mirror image, rather than to progress to the stage of adult-like confidantes. They never appear to feel sexual desire for others, and are prevented in discovering it in each other as well. Possibly, they are emotionally trapped in their natural habitat- absorbing the savage beauty of the countryside while escaping adult mind games and romantic rules and procedures. The great tragedy in the book is when Catherine, in all her elegant refinement, attempts to grow up and marry an established man. With the exception of wealth and position, all is lost in this hasty decision. Catherine and Heathcliff’s relations are further thwarted, and upon their long-awaited reunion, fireworks erupt. “With straining eagerness Catherine gazed toward the entrance of her chamber,” (140; ch. 15) Nelly recalled. Heathcliff’s reaction is not surprisingly similar, “…in a stride or two was at her side, and had her grasped in his arms…He…bestowed more kisses than ever he gave in his life before…”(140; ch. 15). It is at this point that Cathy and Heathcliff differ the most. Remarkably, Cathy further displays her lack of maturity by attempting to make her beloved feel guilty that she is suffering, although it is caused by her own recklessness. The dramatic and anguished scene is described as, “ The two, to a cool spectator, made a strange and fearful picture” (141; ch. 15). Cathy’s gift of pain to Heathcliff and Heathcliff’s ability to change her rationale in a brief dialogue suggest he is the most loyal lover. She submitted to the pressures of marrying a man for his position as Heathcliff changed his own life to be that man. However wicked Heathcliff becomes, he never betrays his dream and his own private vision of eternal bliss alongside Cathy, while she seeks a worldly success in the marriage of Edgar Linton for its own sake. Although they each acknowledge that they are unavoidably part of one another, solely Heathcliff is willing to face the consequences. Only at the arrival of her death is she willing to surrender to the truth of her love.
Catherine and Heathcliff’s misfortunes, recklessness, willpower, and destructive passion are unable to penetrate the eternal love they share. However, love is hardly the main theme of the book. It is difficult and possibly wrong to consider Emily Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights, as a worldly book. As Romantic authors tend to look into man’s inner nature, so did Bronte glimpse into the mind of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. What she came up with however, is hardly a social commentary on the human mind. These are two unique characters that must exist only in a certain mysticism not found in Liverpool. The sincerely private relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine make no reference to any social convention or situation. In fact, it is doomed only when Cathy begins to be attracted to the mannerly ways and the social graces of Thrushcross Grange and is led to abandon her true nature. If not social classes, is the privacy of the human experience the theme of the novel? Or is revenge the central and recurring idea? Is Bronte proposing that as humans we have the right to meddle with the cosmic, dark and questioning universe just as Catherine and Heathcliff manipulated with their own lovers and family? Perhaps it is simply a book about characters, each to his own, meandering through puddles, with cloudy morals and mistaken ideals. With a darkness within and beauty without, stumbling back and forth a two-mile stretch of land searching for something they’ve had all along. Maybe it’s a book about reality.