, Research Paper
Heathcliff and Cathy of Wuthering Heights
The setting and descriptions of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange that Emily Bront? uses throughout her novel, Wuthering Heights, helps to set the mood for describing Heathcliff and Cathy. The cold, muddy, and barren moors separate the two households. Each house stands alone, in the midst of the dreary land, but the atmospheres of the two estates are quite different. This difference helps explain the personalities and bond of Cathy and Heathcliff.
Wuthering Heights, which represents Hell, is always in a state of storminess. The Heights and its surroundings depict the coldness, darkness, and evil associated with Hell. This parallels Heathcliff. He symbolizes the cold, dark, and dismal house. The author uses parallel personifications to depict specific parts of the house as analogues to Heathcliff’s face. Bront? describes the windows of the Heights as deeply set in the wall. Similarly, Heathcliff has deep-set dark eyes. Alongside with this association, Bront?’s title of her book holds definite meaning. The very definition of “wuthering” is “to dry up, shrivel, or wilt as from decay” (“Wuthering,” WordSmyth Collaboration). The inhabitants, especially Heathcliff and Cathy, cause the decay of themselves and bring “storminess” to the house.
On the other hand, the Grange; with all its richness; depicts wonderful Heaven. Thrushcross Grange, in contrast to the bleak exposed farmhouse, stands in the valley and has none of the grim features of the Earnshaw’s home. Light and warmth fills the Grange; it is the appropriate home of the children of the calm. Wuthering Heights, however, is always full of activity, sometimes to the point of chaos. Brave Cathy, a child of the storm, tries to tie these two worlds of storm and calm together. Despite the fact that she occupies a position midway between the two worlds, Catherine is a product of the moors. She belongs in a sense to both worlds and is torn between Heathcliff and Linton. Catherine does not “like” Heathcliff, yet loves him with all of the strength of her being. For he, like her, is a child of the storm; this makes a bond between them, and interweaves itself with the very nature of their existence. In a sublime passage, she tells Nelly that she loves Heathcliff:
…not because he’s handsome Nelly, but because he’s more myself then I am. Whatever or 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…. My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he’s always, always in my mind; not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.” (Bront? 86, 87.)
Despite the fact that she loves only Heathcliff, she marries Edgar Linton to try to place Heathcliff “out of [his] brother’s power” (Bront? 87). Cathy’s “duty” toward Heathcliff forms in their bond when they grew up together. Their bond ties them to each other, and to the shared love of nature; the rocks, stones, trees, the heavy skies and eclipsed sun, which encompasses them. This “binding” makes Heathcliff inseparable from Cathy. This is shown when he runs off after hearing Cathy’s degrading comments about why she will not marry him. Heathcliff symbolizes the raging storm he disappears into. Catherine, upon hearing that Heathcliff heard her comments, goes out to the road in search of him “where…the growling thunder, and the great drops that began to splash around her, she remained calling, at intervals, and then listening, and then crying outright” (Bront? 89). This symbolism proves that the relationship and the internal bond that Cathy and Heathcliff have ties in closely with nature.
The contrast of these two houses adds much to the meaning of the novel, and without it, the story would not be the interesting, complex novel that it is without the contrast between the two estates. The contrast between them is more than physical, rather these two houses represent opposing forces that embody the inhabitants. This contrast is what brings about the presentation of this story altogether, and is what draws itself to a human being by the richness of the surrounding landscape.
Bront?, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Ed. Linda H. Peterson. Boston: Bedford Books, 1992.
Peterson, Linda H. Introduction. Wuthering Heights. By Emily Bront?. Boston: Bedford Books, 1992. 3-13.
“Wuthering.” WordSymth: The Educational Dictionary-Thesaurus. WordSymth Collaboration,
1999. 21 March 2000. *http://wordsymth.net