Death in Love: Wuthering Heights and The Ballad of Reading Gaol

Between these two texts, there is the notion that to love something is to necessitate a killing of that something. And in both cases, I cannot help but wonder if the love causing death is because the love is always unattainable. Heathcliff is not the direct cause of his love’s death, but he does take part in it, and in especial attention to his lament whence he finds her dead, it seems his love originates, and the death of his love, allows him to turn Catherine into his ideal. He can now say (since she is dead and voiceless) that she was his cure, and he will never be adequately contradicted on this notion. Likewise, the subject of Wilde’s poem kills his wife, whom Wilde repeatedly stated he loved, in what to me seems the interest of preservation. Love is a labor, and Wilde notes this, and it is far easier to kill a love, to keep it safe and idealized, than to recognize that whole and wholly yielding love is but a fantasy. This interpretation for Wilde’s poem is reaffirmed by the continual reference to Christian imagery, and with that reference, Wilde is juxtaposing human love (which is weak and flawed) with God’s love or the love of God (which is full and perfect). However, I do not read this as Wilde supporting Christianity, but rather using that Christian conceptualization of love as a cultural touchpoint for the grander message he is attempting to convey.

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