The influence of an unequal society on Catherine’s marriage & right to happiness in Wuthering Heights

While reading Wuthering Heights, I kept an eye out for connections between the treatment and actions of women in the book as those elements fall into the time period. In my own interpretation of this feminist lens, I kept in mind the Harriet Martineu’s Society in America which breaks down the lack of respect and fundamental rights given to women during this time period both from a governmental and a personal standpoint. For example, in Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s personal arc and decisions are largely based upon the fact that she cannot fully build her own wealth; she is indebted to the society of men around her. In Society in America, the question is raised of where the government gets the power to decide the level of ownership women maintain in a marriage: some women are forced to give all rights to their property to their husbands while others are allowed to keep only a small portion. Catherine decides to not marry Heathcliff despite her affections for him solely based on a strategic move to ensure that she has a comfortable life–which can be given to her by the well-off Edgar. This demonstrates the personal sacrifices women made in order to create any space for themselves within society. Since she cannot secure her own stability due to the condemnation of law and society, she is forced to further surrender her right of choice.

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