Catherine, Heathcliff, and Ensemble as Insects on the Bank of Their Own Cultivation

In Darwin’s, On the Origin of Species, I came across a very interesting passage about chance vs. cultivation. Darwin writes about how when looking at different plants and bushes on a bank, we are tempted to attribute their positions to chance. Darwin further claims that this view is false and that when we look at the bank we should rather think of the plant’s struggles and cultivation to get such diversity. He says, “What a struggle must have gone on during long centuries between the several kinds of trees, each annually scattering its seeds by the thousand; what war between insect and insect–between insects, snails, and other animals with birds and beasts of prey–all striving to increase, all feeding on each other…” (6). To say the diversity (and maybe even the beauty) of the plants was just mere chance would be taking away from how these plants cultivated their own destiny and end result. The was much time, a struggle, and effort involved in this process.

This got me to think of the struggles between many of the characters in Wuthering Heights and the question of why Nelly, the narrator, delved so deeply into the actions of the characters when she was telling Lockwood about Heathcliff. To any passerby witnessing the “success” of Heathcliff (i.e. obtaining both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange), it may look like mere chance. People passed away, maybe left Heathcliff the homesteads, yadda yadda. Maybe to Nelly, the story of Catherine and Heathcliff was carefully cultivated by the character’s actions. They were the insects at war in Darwin’s description. It wasn’t just chance that lead to the deaths of Catherine and Heathcliff, it was a struggle. Perhaps Nelly unfolds this narrative so that people (like Lockwood) don’t take a false view on the circumstances and events at Wuthering Heights.

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