Wuthering Heights and the Endurance of Trait

As I was reading the excerpts from Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, and considering what I already knew about Darwin, my mind kept going back to the second generation featured in Wuthering Heights. Something that initially struck me about young Cathy and Hareton was that they both exemplified the qualities of their parents and/or, in the case of Hareton, those who raised them. However, they were undeniably improved versions of their predecessors. Cathy had the strong will and determination of her mother, but was complemented with the gentleness and refinement of her father. She was not hot-headed and impulsive like Catherine, nor was she weak of will as Edgar sometimes was. This was similarly true for Hareton. Though Heathcliff was not his dad, he was in many ways more of a father to him than Hindley. Hareton exemplified Heathcliff’s strength, and a sort of stoicism that could also sometimes be found in his mentor. And yet, there was also a gentleness to Hareton that could not be found in Heathcliff. Perhaps it came from his mother, or more likely from Nelly, who cared for him while he was still a boy. Both Cathy and Hareton inherited the most favorable traits, and were the best versions of their parents and caregivers. As such, the two succeeded where their forebearers could not. The opposite of Cathy and Hareton, however, would be Linton. Unlike the others, Linton displayed all of the worst qualities of both of his parents. He inherited the unfavorable traits, and therefore, it fits that he was unsuccessful. This does reflect the idea that Darwin discusses: what Herbert Spencer coined “survival of the fittest.” In many ways, Cathy and Hareton were the “fit,” and therefore survived while Linton, on the other hand, was far too weak, and was naturally, to put it harshly, eliminated.

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