Essential Relationships

As I was reading Darwin’s On the Origins of Species, I noticed a similarity between Darwin’s lines about the red clover and Catherine’s lines about Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights; both have to do with codependency and the idea of an essential relationship.

Darwin brings up the red clover in an attempt to further detail how plants and animals are “bound together by a web of complex relations” (5). He states that, because the red clover is solely pollinated by the humble bee, “if the whole genus of humble-bees became extinct or very rare in England, the…red clover would become very rare, or wholly disappear” (5). Here, Darwin depicts an essential relationship: the red clover needs the humble bee in order to continue to survive as a species. This reminded me a lot of what Catherine I told Nelly when she was explaining her decision to marry Linton instead of Heathcliff. When describing her love for Heathcliff, Catherine states: “If all else perished, and (Heathcliff) remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger” (Chapter 9, para. 89) Catherine describes her relationship with Heathcliff like how Darwin describes the red clover’s relationship to the humble bee: necessary. If everything disappeared but Heathcliff remained, then Catherine would continue living; if Heathcliff disappeared, then, regardless of what is left, Catherine would not exist. Catherine is similar to the red clover that would disappear without the humble bee. Catherine herself also labels her love for Heathcliff as something essential for her, stating: “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary” (Chapter 9, para. 89).

I’ve always thought of the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff to be a bit unusual because of their devotion (“Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”). We also discussed a bit in class about how their relationship may be unhealthy. Yet, if we consider Darwin’s passage, then we can see how their relationship resembles codependent relationships shown in nature. Is this another reference to nature/the natural from Bronte? Are there implications that, because it resembles something found in nature, Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship isn’t unnatural and unhealthy?

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