Heathcliff’s Obsession with Catherine

This was the first time I read Wuthering Heights and so I went in not really having an idea of what it was about. Now that I have finished it, if I could summarize it in three words I would say ”abuse and obsession” which is what Heathcliff’s character demonstrates throughout Emily Bronte’s novel. Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is so strong throughout the novel that I would call it an obsession. However, Catherine never fully commits to Heathcliff as she eventually marries Edgar to fulfill societal expectations. As the story continues, Heathcliff becomes so engrossed in getting revenge for the way in which he was separated from Catherine that he plots his whole life around it against the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Some of his actions include putting Hindley into debt so he can inherit Wuthering Heights, his marriage to Isabella to anger Edgar and devising a plan to have Linton and Cathy marry so he can take over Edgar’s property once he passes away. We further see Heathcliff’s obsession with Catherine when he tells Nelly that at Edgar’s burial he asked them to cut the lid off of Catherine’s coffin so that when he is buried they can both be facing each other.

Heathcliff’s obsession over Catherine reminded me of what John Stuart Mill says in his Autobiography. Mill says, “My course of study had led me to believe, that all mental and moral feelings and qualities, whether of a good or of a bad kind, were the results of association; that we love one thing, and hate another, take pleasure in one sort of action or contemplation, and pain in another sort, through the clinging of pleasurable or painful ideas to those things, from the effect of education or of experience”. Here Mill is explaining why humans are so opposed to change. We are accustomed to what we know that it is hard to accept change. Heathcliff was so used to having a free-spirited Catherine by his side growing up that when they were older, he was unable to accept that she has changed in order to fit society’s expectations for women.

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