Killing The Things We Love

Throughout the course of the semester, we have read numerous novels that depict love as something that is both fleeting and dangerous. We see this in Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Tennyson’s In Memoriam, and Dickens’ Great Expectations, and here I find myself stumbling across it again in Oscar Wilde’s poem, “The Ballad of Reading Goal.” Primarily because of the stanzas:  “Yet each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword! …. Some love too little, some love too long” (1.37-1.42, 1.49). 
After reading this stanza, I immediately thought of Catherine Earnshaw because at various points in the novel, Catherine seeks to murder the thing she loves most in the world, Heathcliff.  It’s also interesting to note that time after time, Heathcliff refers to Catherine as his murderer, and the idea of killing “with a kiss” is apparent in their reunion in Chapter 15. Specifically when Nelly contends that Catherine “had kissed him first, and I plainly saw that he could hardly bear, for downright agony, to look into her face!  The same conviction had stricken him as me, from the instant he beheld her, that there was no prospect of ultimate recovery there—she was fated, sure to die” (CHPXV). Catherine’s death inevitably leads to Heathcliff’s demise, to which he asks her: “‘Kiss me again; and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer—but yours!  How can I?’ (CHP XV). Heathcliff’s plea to be kissed and to hide from her gaze speaks to the lines in Wildes’ poem: “Some do it with a bitter look/ The coward does with a kiss.” 
I also found Wilde’s line: “Some love too little, some love too long” reminiscent of the romantic obsession between Heathcliff and Catherine, in which Catherine escapes the grasps of Heathcliff’s love through death, and Heathcliff is still left pining over his murderer 18 years after her death. 

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