Wuthering Heights

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King Lear - Shakespeare
King Lear It was written almost 300 years before Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights., covers much of the same ground discussed above. ShakespeareR­17;­s famous play named King Lear has several interesting elements that can be recognized in Wuthering Heights. For example, the idea of a villain hero, a figure who has pledged to avenge the disgrace inflicted upon him because of his social standing, is introduced by Shakespeare in Lear with the character of Edmund.(Though in Lear, this character is a part of a subplot and has…

1.) The clash between love and society’s expectations

It is always difficult to analyze a given piece of literature without imposing ones own values upon the content. In a way, analyzing literature is similar to the way any of us perceive a painted image, a sculpture or a piece of music.

Like a painter, the author has a message, a meaning which is incorporated in the content that he or she wishes to convey. The message is delivered by means of conjuring certain feelings within the reader forcing the subject to contemplate about the content, and ultimately to come to a conclusion or a revelation of some sort.

Because we are different individuals, the feelings we experience, and the conclusions we draw, differ from person to person. As a consequence, numerous approaches to interpretation of literature exist varying, for instance, from Freudian to Feminist criticism. Therefore, one could argue that there can be no right or wrong approach to interpret literature.

So what follows, can only be seen as my own attempt to characterize the clash between love and society’s expectations in Emily Brontes Wuthering Heights.

If we take a closer look at Brontes Wuthering Heights, we can clearly recognize several important factors which relate to the mentioned theme.

Throughout the novel, love is represented as a destructive and all -devouring phenomenon. The book centers around two characters Heathcliff and Catherine. It is apparent that they both feel strongly about each other - the bond between them was created in early childhood and catalyzed by an isolated life on a desolate estate, under constant harassment by Catherine’s older brother Hindley.

With time this connection developed into a very strong, virtually unbreakable and magnetic, bond of love and interdependence.

However, it can be argued that Catherine’s choice of disregarding this universal linkage and concentrating on the more pragmatic motives for marrying the young master Linton, from the neighboring estate, resulted in a vortex of jealousy, hate and rivalry that consumed and ultimately destroyed the whole community.

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It is apparent that the “class factor” influenced, and in fact misled, Catherine into believing that a marriage with Linton would result in a better life for both Heathcliff and herself. Linton was an aristocratic and respected figure - one that was bound to inherit his father’s estate and wealth, while Heathcliff, although an integrated part of Catherine’s being, possessed none of these qualities and had no prospect of having a comfortable and wealthy existence.

The dialog between Nelly the housekeeper and Catherine, shortly before her decision to marry Linton, exemplifies the challenges Catherine had to face. During the conversation Catherine exclaimed: I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it.

It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our 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.[1]

Catherine, upon her death, showed signs of remorse for this tragic turn of events. Faced with Heathcliff’s accusations she uttered:

“Let me alone. Let me alone. If I’ve done wrong, I’m dying for it. It is enough. You left me too; (Referring to Heathcliff’s 3 year absence following her marriage with Linton.) But I won’t upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive me!”[2]

The character of Heathcliff in Bronte’s novel has by many been considered as a fairly negative, almost diabolic figure. However, the development of his vile character can be seen as a consequence of his break with his life long companion.

In a way, Heathcliff behaves more naturally then Catherine, who chose to hide and suppress her affection, eventually resulting in madness and the loss of her life. Heathcliff reacts to the changes like an infected organism that tries to cope with the growing disease by adjusting itself and implementing defense mechanisms.

His harshness, hatefulness end jealousy, which ultimately destroyed both Earnshaw and Linton families, were products of Hindley’s year long harassment, and more importantly Catherine’s choice to marry Linton. The devilishness was Heathcliff’s way to cope with the degradation of his character, and the loss of his beloved one.

By pledging himself to avenge the disgrace inflicted upon him, to inflict maximum amount of pain and suffering upon Hindley and the Lintons - villains responsible for Catherine choosing as she did - he could hope to gain some tranquility and deal with the fact that he has lost the only person he ever loved.

There can be no discussion as to the fact that Heathcliff truly loved Catherine. (Banging his head into a tree, for hours at a time, upon hearing the news of Catherine’s death, can hardly be seen as a sign of indifference).

This technique was so successful that he ultimately survived Hindley’s pestering and degradation of his character, the shock of Catherine’s marriage with Linton and the shock of her death – outliving all of his “advisories”. The savage and powerful manner in which Heathcliff loved Catherine is best depicted with one of his most dramatic remarks: “If he (Edgar Linton) loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day.” [3]

Ultimately, the most important point of the Wuthering Heights is the one of sacredness of love. We must not break our bonds of affection because off insignificant factors such as class hierarchy, vanity or vindictiveness. The vile character of Heathcliff (much like the harsh nature, the savage climate and desolateness of the estate) reflects the fact of native, savage and magnetic love “gone bad”.

[1] Bronte Emily: Wuthering Heights, Third edition, (New York- London: 1990, W.W: Norton & Company), Pg. 62.

[2] Ibid. Pg. 123.

[3] Ibid. Pg. 116.

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