Wuthering HeightsWhen Wuthering Heights was published it was blasted it’s contemporaries asobscene. They railed that Catherine and Heathcliff were the most immoral and ingeneral worst people they had ever had the misfortune of reading about.
AlthoughWuthering Heights has taken it’s rightful place as masterwork of 19th centuryliterature and Emily Bront? has receive credit for her work, it is stillpossible to see where the early attacks are based. Heathcliff especially behavesin a very obtuse manner. The basis for this behavior is Heathcliff’s bizarrelove/hate relationship with Catherine. His frustrated desire to be with hercauses him deep personal pain, which he transfers to other characters in asadistic attempt to force them to feel that pain as well. Heathcliff andCatherine’s relationship is neither stable nor in any way normal. Instead it isfull of violent emotions which are either soaring high or dashingly low, withvery little between the two.
Catherine declares that she and Heathcliff”Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same”(73). Heathcliff desires nothing more than to be with Catherine, but theirrelationship is undermined by the revelation that Catherine feels that “itwould degrade me to marry Heathcliff . . . “(73).
Heathcliff was unsuitableto Catherine because he is poor with no family. However, Edgar Linton has bothand for those shallow reasons Catherine marries Edgar betraying Heathcliff’sfeelings for her and her own feeling as well. Catherine had hoped to marry Edgarbut also to keep on loving Heathcliff as well, to “have her cake and eat ittoo”. The violence, hatred, love, and passion of Catherine andHeathcliff’s relationship is encapsulated in their “conversation” onCatherine’s deathbed: He could hardly bear, for downright agony, tolook into her face.
. . . She was fated, sure to die. ?Oh, Cathy! Oh, my life!How can I bear it?' . .
. . . . .
. . . . . ?I shall not pity you, not I.
You have killed me? and thriven onit, I think. . . How may years do you mean to live on after I am gone? . . .
. . . . .
. . . .
I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for yoursufferings. Why shouldn’t you suffer? I do!’ . . . .
. . . . .
. . . ?You know you lie to say I have killed you: . .
. I could as soonforget you as my own existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernalselfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?. . . . .
. . . . .
. . How cruel you’ve been?cruel and false. .
. . . .
. . . . . .
. I have not broken your heart?you have broken it; and in breaking ithave broken mine. . . .
What kind of living will it be when ? oh, God! Wouldyou like to live with your soul in the grave?'(147-48) Love and hate are soclosely entwined that they are both expressed in a single sentence. No one willcall that exchange ?normal’ but it contains the essence of theirrelationship. Despite the barbs of blame for the situation being thrown there isno doubt that Catherine’s death pains Heathcliff to the very soul. Heathcliffbecomes determined to share the pain caused by Catherine’s betrayal and herdeath. The victims of his deranged vengeance are Isabella Linton, Edgar Linton,Linton Heathcliff, and Catherine Linton II. “The more the worms writhe, themore I yearn to crush out their entails!”(140).
Clearly a sadistic attitudeand one that makes it absolutely clear that Heathcliff’s marriage to Isabella isa revenge on both Catherine and Edgar. The marriage of Heathcliff to hersister-in-law is emotionally damaging to an already frail Catherine. Edgar, whodespises Heathcliff throughout the novel, is shock and very nearly disowns hissister for marrying a ruffian like Heathcliff. So Heathcliff gets vengeance onEdgar as well. Poor Isabella is caught with a man who does not, in fact never,loved her.
She writes Nelly, “”. There is another motivation for themarriage: money. Though his marriage with Isabella Heathcliff has placed himselfin line for not just money, but Edgar Linton’s money. With Catherine andIsabella’s deaths and the birth of Catherine II and Linton Heathcliff,Heathcliff continues his manipulations into another generation. The forcedmarriage between first cousins Catherine II and Linton, with all is aaccompanying duplicity, is a the final act of revenge. The subsequent deaths ofEdgar Linton and Linton Heathcliff leave Wuthering Heights and the Grange inHeathcliff’s possession.
The vengeance is complete: Heathcliff has everythingdear to Edgar, his property and his daughter; the younger Catherine, because hecould not control her mother and he may feels that shre should have been his andCatherine’s daughter; and Hinley’s son is turning out to be another Heathcliff. Complete victory for Heathcliff, but then a strange thing happens: Heathcliffstarts to mellow. He seems to realize that however complete his vengeance itgets him no closer to Catherine, her shade still wonders the moors. Heathcliffprofesses to Nelly, “she has disturbed me, night and day, through eighteenyears” (264). It is when Heathcliff prepares to spent eternity withCatherine that he final finds peace, with her and himself. Catherine’s coffin,buried for eighteen years, is dug up and a panel removed so Heathcliff’sremains can mingle with her’s.
With Heathcliff’s death there is at lastpeace at Wuthering Heights. He and Catherine are together for all time. Theproperty, both Wuthering Height and the Grange have been returned to theirrightful owners Hareton Earshaw and Catherine II. Heathcliff had schemed toleave her destitute, but she will end up with both properties after her marriageto Hareton. A full circle has been completed and everything is as it should be,finally.