Self Loyalty Demonstrated In Bronte
’s “Wuthering Heights” Essay, Research Paper
Self Loyalty as demonstrated in Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”
Emily Bronte?s Wuthering Heights is a complex novel that ties together the deep, passionate characters and intricate themes that she is known for creating. One such theme touches on the results of honesty: self-integrity and unashamed self-honesty lead to a fulfilled lifestyle, though it may not necessarily be consistent with the socially defined term ?full.? The analysis and comparison of three characters in Wuthering Heights?Hareton Earnshaw, Catherine Earnshaw-Linton, and Heathcliff, respectively?will further prove and reinforce this idea.
Hareton Earnshaw is a relatively underestimated character, one whose potential was not really explored until the end of the novel. His self-honesty was most vulnerably expressed through his hiding books in order to learn to read from them; this being self-honest in that it was the pursuit of a desire that would provide no immediate benefit outside of personal improvement. In addition to this, it was an act that, when found out, was mocked and belittled.
Likewise, many other examples of Hareton?s self-knowledge and self-honesty were acts done in private and afterwards punished in some form. At one point, in a response made to his cousin Cathy concerning the accusation that he hated her, Hareton asked, ?why have I made [Heathcliff] angry, by taking your part then, a hundred times? And that, when you sneered at, and despised me . . .? (297).
This potential Hareton possessed for true, deep feeling even reached towards the person who had left him destitute early in life and who continuously treated him harshly, that person being Heathcliff. After Heathcliff?s death, Bronte uses the narrator to express Hareton?s sentiments:
?He sat by the corpse all night, weeping in bitter earnest. He pressed its hand, and kissed the sarcastic, savage face that everyone else shrank from contemplating, and bemoaned him with that strong grief which springs naturally from a generous heart . . . .? (318)
These moments, though they may have seemed to be detrimental to Hareton, ultimately provided him with a reputation and a means of expressing himself that he otherwise would not have been able to cultivate. His perseverance with learning and his unrelenting pursuit of Cathy?both acts resultant of his driven self-honesty?won him the girl of his desire in addition to a greater amount of confidence and self-respect.
The second character who demonstrates this same self-integrity is Catherine Earnshaw-Linton. Though she died midway through the story, Catherine?s personality was well developed, true to Bronte?s form. In her early childhood, Catherine was considered a manipulator and a spoiled child; those opinions matured as she matured: as an adult she was considered a manipulator and a spoiled wife. Though these traits are generally regarded as negative, they were Catherine?s honest traits, and she neither regretted them nor apologized for them.
The first example of Catherine?s self-loyalty was illuminated by the narrator in the beginning of the story. She was described as ?a wild, wicked slip . . . but she had the bonniest eye, and sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish . . .? (45). Her adulthood was not much different; she continued to display such mutually exclusive characteristics, especially when attempting to get something that she wanted. A good example of this manipulative behavior was displayed multiple times by her feigning sickness in order to gain an edge of sympathy. In one instance, she stated blatantly,
?Nelly, say to Edgar, if you see him again tonight, that I?m in danger of being seriously ill. I wish it may prove true. He has startled and distressed me shockingly! I want to frighten him.? (116)
Another aspect of this self-honesty that Catherine possessed was displayed through her perpetual loyalty to her love for Heathcliff. She never relinquished her love for him; her marriage to Edgar Linton was a step towards securing Heathcliff as a gentleman. Even in Edgar?s presence, though she knew he cared little for him, Catherine scarcely attempted to disguise her show of affection. Edgar once remarked, in reference to Catherine?s behavior preceding a visit from Heathcliff, ?Catherine, try to be glad, without being absurd!? (96).
Though she loved Heathcliff deeply, Catherine remained true to herself, even when that truth separated itself from her love. Once, after a spat between Edgar and Heathcliff, Catherine became legitimately ill and the latter came to visit her. She showed him no lenience, however, and said to him, ?You and Edgar have broken my heart, Heathcliff! And you both come to bewail the deed to me, as if you were the people to be pitied! I shall not pity you, not I. You have killed me . . .? (155).
Despite the negative characteristics for which Catherine was known, she possessed those characteristics of self-integrity and self-honesty that allowed her to live freely and guiltlessly within herself. She had long been fulfilled in love by the time her death came; those two qualities were ones that enabled her to find the passionate love that she had found. She might have lived longer, had she not been true to herself, but it most likely would have been a long sad life that she did live, one without the deep feeling she consistently portrayed.
Another character who displayed these traits?the third and final one to be analyzed?is the one who possessed them completely and unashamedly. Not once in Bronte?s novel did Heathcliff apologize for his behavior?everything was legitimate to him within his own realm of thought. Heathcliff was so self-integrated that no moral right or wrong existed for him, and he acted upon whatever urge he happened to possess. As a character, he is best summed up by his own statement concerning his burial: ?No minister need come, nor need anything be said over me?I tell you, I have nearly attained my heaven, and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me!? (316).
When presented with the fact that Isabella had feelings for him, Heathcliff displayed calm indifference. Shortly thereafter, when Catherine remarked on Isabella?s fingernails, Heathcliff stated matter-of-factly, ?I?d wrench them off her fingers, if they ever menaced me,? (106). After Isabella continued to pursue him, he went so far as to hang her dog in front of her (128), presenting her with no false image of himself.
One of the most remarkable and steadfast manifestations of Heathcliff?s loyalty was that of his dedication to Catherine throughout the novel. In one particular instance, Catherine jested about Heathcliff not thinking of her during a three-year absence. His solemn reply was, ?I?ve fought through a bitter life since I last heard your voice, and you must forgive me, for I struggled only for you!? (97).
His love for her was so deep that he could not forgive her for doing herself injustice, since, by doing so, she was doing injustice to the woman he loved. When she asked him to forgive her for coming between them, he replied, ?I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer?but yours! How can I?? (158).
Even after her death Heathcliff was loyal to Catherine; her memory haunted him like a ghost, and he consequently perceived it as such. When a guest in Wuthering Heights told Heathcliff of a dream they had of Catherine?s ghost trying to enter in through the window, Heathcliff lay on her bed and cried, ?Come in! Come in! Cathy, do come. Oh do?once more! Oh! My heart?s darling! Hear me this time, Catherine, at last!? (33).
Heathcliff is usually seen as the most controversial character in Wuthering Heights, simply because he is the most unorthodox and the most symbolically dark. While these characteristics represent Heathcliff accurately, they were not able to keep him from embracing himself as a whole, and thus attaining a very-near-fulfilled life. He harbored a deep passion for a woman that felt the same, he was able to get revenge both directly and indirectly on those that had wronged him, and it is intimated that he was ultimately able to find peace by being reunited with Catherine in the spirit world (319).
Though these characters? associations with fulfillment and honesty may seem far-fetched and fabricated, they fall under the definition of fulfillment as ?self-fulfillment? and ?independent.? Bronte does a beautiful job, throughout her novel, of developing these characters and their traits, however subtly. If a generalization could be made as a final statement to Wuthering Heights, one could say that self-loyalty should always come before loyalty to anyone else, if one wishes to be truly self-fulfilled.