Consent and Heathcliff and Isabella’s Relationship

In Chapter 17 of Wuthering Heights, Isabella finally manages to flee from Heathcliff, but not before getting into a violent altercation with him where he flies into a “murderous rage”. After Isabella runs from Wuthering Heights to Thrushcross Grange, badly beaten and fatigued from the journey, she recounts the brawl to Ellie. The tyrannical relationship between Heathcliff and Isabella can be seen as a microcosm of Harriet Martineau’s argument concerning the lack of consent of the governed (women) by the government (men). Heathcliff, an embodiment of a patriarchal figure head, completely rules over Isabella’s life, her decisions and what she’s allowed to do. His malevolent nature emphasizes the power men had over women at the time and the perils that can accompany such toxic masculinity. Despite having no romantic inclination towards Isabella, he makes her remain at Wuthering Heights merely out of spite and a sense  of entitlement in being her husband and seeing her as his property. While Isabella consented to the marriage all her attempts at learning were quickly put to an end and she had no autonomy whatsoever. Her escape from him is symbolic of her gaining her freedom not just from Heathcliff but her brother as well. Her decision to move away with her son is a powerful one that allows her to regain consent of the happenings of her life.

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