Tag Archives: Heathcliff

Miss Havisham and Heathcliff

Now that we know a little bit more about Miss Havisham and her motives, I’m noticing how similar she is to Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights in terms of motives, which for both of them is revenge.

They are both caught in the past. Miss Havisham stopped all her clocks, still has her wedding dress and cake, and hasn’t left Satis House since she was left by her fiance. Heathcliff is still in the past because he’s so caught up in what could have been with Catherine. He doesn’t move on from her, he never really makes any friends and is pretty much alone at Wuthering Heights as a result similarly to Miss Havisham.

The two of them also both use children as a means to get their revenge. Miss Havisham adopts Estella to seek revenge on men as Pip is informed in Chapter 22. We see this through how she treats Pip when he comes to play by her asking if he finds Estella pretty and whispering to Estella to “Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!”. Meanwhile Heathcliff treats Hareton the way that Hindley treated him- uneducated and as a servant. He also then brings his son, Linton, to Wuthering Heights as a way to inherit Edgar Linton’s estate through his marriage to Cathy.

I’m interested in seeing how Miss Havisham’s plot line ends in comparison to Heathcliff’s.

Throughlines in Wuthering Heights

As the second half of the novel came to a close, I found it interesting how much of the second half mirrored the first. Similar themes such as marriage, complicated relationships, and familial lines all play a role in both the first and second half. Each generation within Wuthering Heights is almost like a mirror of the other, facing similar problems with similar characters (most glaring, of course, would be the two Catherines). Yet, the stories are not exactly alike. However, one through-line between both generations connects the two together, Heathcliff.

Of the initial conflict: Edgar, Catherine, and Heathcliff, Heathcliff lives the longest. As the plot continues, he becomes more sinister and more and more engulfed in his personal revenge, which creates the antagonist needed for the second Catherine. One of the most significant portions of the final chapters and Wuthering Heights as a whole is how he is buried, next to Catherine and Edgar, representing the eternity of this conflict.

Heathcliff is the single thread that persists through the entire novel, and his tale of revenge through both generations seems to be both the driving force of action behind everything that happens. Yet is reveals the changes between the two generations. His influence on those around him, from a position of no power to great power. The stark differences in the Catherines, their personalities and goals. How they react and respond to Heathcliff, as well as the rest of the cast of characters.

Along with Heathcliff comes his themes. The persistence of revenge and hatred, the ghosts of the past (sometimes literal). Fighting against him is love over pragmatism (often surrounding the Catherines), or civility to counteract has savagery.

Heathcliff pins the second part of Wuthering Heights together with the first, revealing the many ways it has persisted, but also showing the areas where it has changed.

Heathcliff’s Obsession with Catherine

This was the first time I read Wuthering Heights and so I went in not really having an idea of what it was about. Now that I have finished it, if I could summarize it in three words I would say ”abuse and obsession” which is what Heathcliff’s character demonstrates throughout Emily Bronte’s novel. Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is so strong throughout the novel that I would call it an obsession. However, Catherine never fully commits to Heathcliff as she eventually marries Edgar to fulfill societal expectations. As the story continues, Heathcliff becomes so engrossed in getting revenge for the way in which he was separated from Catherine that he plots his whole life around it against the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Some of his actions include putting Hindley into debt so he can inherit Wuthering Heights, his marriage to Isabella to anger Edgar and devising a plan to have Linton and Cathy marry so he can take over Edgar’s property once he passes away. We further see Heathcliff’s obsession with Catherine when he tells Nelly that at Edgar’s burial he asked them to cut the lid off of Catherine’s coffin so that when he is buried they can both be facing each other.

Heathcliff’s obsession over Catherine reminded me of what John Stuart Mill says in his Autobiography. Mill says, “My course of study had led me to believe, that all mental and moral feelings and qualities, whether of a good or of a bad kind, were the results of association; that we love one thing, and hate another, take pleasure in one sort of action or contemplation, and pain in another sort, through the clinging of pleasurable or painful ideas to those things, from the effect of education or of experience”. Here Mill is explaining why humans are so opposed to change. We are accustomed to what we know that it is hard to accept change. Heathcliff was so used to having a free-spirited Catherine by his side growing up that when they were older, he was unable to accept that she has changed in order to fit society’s expectations for women.