We see how these star-crossed lovers (Heathcliff and late Catherine)have marked their love history and how it seems to repeat now with the Young Catherine (heir to the late Catherine) and Linton (heir to Heathcliff). We can connect this back to how I started to notice the affection Hareton and Cathy had at first but then, after all, the negative and unjust behavior Cathy receives from Linton, she apparently is “in love” with Linton within Chapter 29. This reminds me of the love triangle that Heathcliff, Catherine, and Edgar had going on. IF you think about it, although they all weren’t blood-related, they were all brothers and sisters. Edgar being Catherine’s brother because Cathy was raised for a time by the LIntons and Catherine being Heathcliff’s sister because Heathcliff was adopted into the family when he was a young boy. Then we have the new love triangle that consists of actual cousins, Cathy, Hareton, and Linton. Not only do we see the inheritance of love here but we also seem to see the inheritance of revenge as young Catherine spites Heathcliff by playing him at his own game. That and Linton who has been raised by Heathcliff now is conforming his personality to be that of his father’s.
The article “Infanticide and Sadism in ‘Wuthering Heights'”, by Wade Thompson, claims that the love that Catherine feels for Heathcliff is not the normal storybook romance. She loved him as a child, but it does not equate to the love she may feel as an adult. The main argument in the article states that, due to Catherine’s childlike nature and possible blood relation to Heathcliff, her love for him breaks norms; Catherine can love both Heathcliff and Linton at the same time since it is two different kinds of love. She considers Heathcliff as her “childhood lover” and Linton as her “adult lover”, and because of this, the reader understands that the story is not a typical romance. Thompson goes as far as to claim that there is a sense of incest between Catherine and Heathcliff because he may be her half brother and they laid in bed together as children. Even though she is married, the article highlights that the nature of her marriage is an escape from a healthy relationship, stating, “Marriage to Linton, a weak, respectable, undemanding person, is essentially an escape from the demands of adult sexuality, and she sees no betrayal of Heathcliff in the escape.” (72). The argument here shows that in all aspects of her life, Catherine has avoided a true romance in a modern sense in favor of a childlike fantasy with Heathcliff, and this is why the novel cannot be considered a romance.
A theme that is explored by Victorian author, Emily Bronte, is the cyclical nature of abusive relationships. From the moment Heathcliff is first brought to Wuthering Heights, he is mistreated by his older brother, Hindley Earnshaw. Hindley Earnshaw physically and verbally abuses Heathcliff out of pure jealousy. Their father, Mr. Earnhaw, puts Heathcliff on a pedestal much higher than his siblings, a precipitant to Hindley’s jealousy. Since Hindley grows up in a hyper-masculine society, he is compelled to push Heathcliff off the pedestal on which he proudly stands. The rowdy interactions between the brothers were more than a push and shove. Throughout their childhood, Hindley harasses Heathcliff based on a perceived status as an outcast to the family. A memorable quote of Hindley is “And I pray that he may break your neck…only afterwards show him what you are, imp of Satan.” This would explain why Nelly summarizes the young Heathcliff as “a sullen, patient child: hardened, perhaps, to ill-treatment.” Heathcliff’s childhood certainly had an impact on the way he later contributes to the cycle of an oppressive society.
The harassment that Heathcliff receives is damaging to his self-esteem and relationships with others. This trauma becomes a tool in which Heathcliff torments Hareton Earnshaw, Hindley’s son. Hindley’s mother dies when he is very young and his father succumbs to the evils of alcoholism. Hareton’s life becomes dictated by the brute force of Heathcliff’s intolerance towards him. Flashforward to the next generation of the estates’ inhabitants and Nelly provides an account of the brutality faced by Hareton. Heathcliff claims that his parenting of Hareton far exceeds the ability of the drunkard Hindley. To be fair, Hareton gains more attention from Heathcliff as a father, even if it is not tender loving care. However, the ugly side of an oppressed individual (Heathcliff) is demonstrated in his attitudes. Heathcliff boldly claims, “I’ve taught him to scorn everything extra-animal as silly and weak. Don’t you think Hindley would be proud of his son, if he could see him?” Clearly, Heathcliff feels that revenge must be enacted upon Hindley. The best way to do so is to take advantage of his son and validate it as “helping” him. In reality, Hareton is just stuck in a vicious cycle to which he has no control over. Nelly is distraught by these claims and gives the reader her own two cents. She states, “I began to dislike, more than to compassionate Linton, and to excuse his father, in some measure, for holding him cheap.” She is blaming the cycle of a dysfunctional and oppressive family for the life it provided Hareton. Many of the characters are victims of this cycle, but each one has a slightly different story.
I think one of the most underrated characters in Wuthering Heights is Isabella. In these chapters, we see her leave Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights with her child on her own. Although we never really know what happens in her time away, since she took the initiative to move off and be independent, she broke such strict gender roles. Likewise, Harriet Martineau wrote and advocated for women and their freedom. Specifically, this quote stood out to me in relation to Wuthering Heights: “That woman has power to represent her own interests, no one can deny till she has been tried. The modes need not be discussed here: they must vary with circumstances.” I feel this relates to Isabella and her specific situation, because in this instant, she really took her own interests as her priority. She did not embrace the traditional housewife role, she was brought up to be. Rather, she put herself and her child first, and took a leap of faith that nobody could deny her of.
Overall, Isabella embraces the roles Harriet Martineau writes about. Even though we may never get the full scope of how Isabella’s life went on after she left, the readers do understand that she must have made a way for herself and child. She took herself out of the toxic situation, and put her own interests first.
One of the most interesting, overarching aspects of this novel is the point of view. Firstly, it is told third-hand; Lockwood hears the story from Nelly who watched it herself. This already brings about the idea of an unreliable narrator. Stories change as they’re passed along, and Nelly is certainly biased in the telling of this particular story as she was very involved in it and knew the other characters very well. The unreliability of the narration is something I’d like to get into more, but on another note, I’d like to talk about gender in relation to the narrator of Wuthering Heights.
Emily Bronte wrote this novel under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Many women writers of this time period wrote under a male pseudonym in order to avoid certain critiques and to be taken more seriously, but Bronte does something unique in the way she replicates this within the storyline and point of view of her novel. I found it especially interesting that Bronte chose to make Nelly the real storyteller, but included Lockwood as a vehicle for getting the word out. I found it representative of her own storytelling– she’s the one spinning the story, but she uses the Bell pseudonym to get the word out, for it to be taken seriously. I don’t have any particularly deep insight into this, but it is something that I’ve thought about throughout my reading of the novel. What are her reasons for displaying this? It would definitely interest me to read more about this.
A connection I made was the powerful stance that both Emily Bronte and Harriet Martineau take on. Both women are writing during times when society was male dominated, yet don’t hesitate to voice their opinions and take issues head on. Both of their writings depict strong, passionate women. Catherine a motherless child trying to make the best in a world filled with hate, defying the norms by being free spirited and socially ambitious. Catherine seeks to love whoever she pleases much like Martineau wanted to empower women to do. Martineau writes “I declare that whatever obedience I yield to the laws of the society in which I live is a matter between, not the community and myself, but my judgment and my will.” I think that both women want to represent themselves as individuals and rise above people trying to hold them down, the only difference is that Bronte’s views are depicted through a character, and Martineau’s first hand feelings.
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.
After reading the first half of Wuthering Heights, I came to realize that it was very gloomy and mysterious. The first couples chapters are kind of confusing and there are many different odd characters that the readers have to get to know. It has a somewhat depressing beginning with Mr. Earnshaw and Catherine dying. Usually authors wait until further in the story to kill off characters, but Bronte decides to put them in the first few chapters. Then Bronte adds in the mystery when Lockwood sees the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw. At first, I didn’t get the sense that it was going to be a book on mystery so I was sort of surprised when I read that in Chapter 3. Finally, the first half of the novel ended with doom and despair with Heathcliff’s gradual descent into evil.
Although the first half of Wuthering Heights had a rough start, the second half does seem to turn a corner. Bronte spends most of it supplying chronological information and laying out the differences between the two generations. However, the novel as a whole is starting to end on a note of hope, peace, and joy, with young Catherine’s proposed marriage to Hareton. This aspect of the novel reminds me of Carlyle’s The Everlasting No. In this book, Carlyle states “Man is, properly speaking, based upon Hope, he has no other possession but Hope; this world of his is emphatically the Place of Hope.” Yes, most of the characters seem to have constant conflict in the beginning of the novel and even into the second half, they seem to still be holding onto hope, especially Catherine. After all she has been through, she is still able to stay headstrong, hold onto the possession of hope like Carlyle said, and have a happy ending.
Last class we discussed a quote that Nelly where claimed everyone in the world of Wuthering Heights is selfish whether it be just or not. Our discussion focused on Heathcliff and while I agree that he can defiantly be considered a selfish character I think Linton is getting off easy. In the reading for last class at the beginning of chapter thirteen there is a description of Linton’s care for Catherine that struck me and my group. If read on its own its easy to overlook the selfish undertone, but read though the lens that everyone in this world is out for themselves another layer is revealed,”…flattering his too sanguine hopes with the illusion that her mind would settle back to its right balance, also she would soon be entirely her former self” (134). I read this with a feeling of desperation on the part of Linton to regain Catherine to her former self. Now that’s a nice thing to want but his motivations and actions surrounding this are self serving. It is almost like he is trying to glue pieces of a vase back together. It feels like an obligation and a chore not an act of love. Later in the reading for class Tuesday I found a passage that calls back to Linton’s care, “I noticed on that occasion how much selfishness there is even in a love like Mr Linton’s, when he so regretted Catherine’s blessed release!” (167) Here we see after the fact the true nature of Linton’s care. He wanted Catherine to be better for his sake not hers and if you love someone you do not care about what is good for you only the needs of your partner matter. Trying to glue her pieces back together prolonged her suffering. And to me that is the most selfish act of all.
Chapters 17-25 of Wuthering Heights dive far into the concepts of class and wealth. There are several instances where a character is making decisions based on their desire for wealth and to increase their class ranking. Heathcliff, for example, wants Cathrine to marry Linton so he will get the Grange when his son dies. He doesn’t actually care about Catherine or his son, he simply wants property. He also does this when he refers to his son as “property” when Nelly and Linton show up to the heights. This obsession that Heathcliff has with class and being of a higher class standing than those around him, as well as judging others based on their class standing reminds me of the poem “The Many and the Few” that we read in class. That poem is a lash against people like Heathcliff that do not help those in lower classes, especially the working class, and are extremely materialistic. The poem even goes more into depth by saying that if those in higher classes (the few) disregard “the many”, the many will revolt. I wonder if Linton will revolt against Heathcliff?