Emily Bronte's Heathcliff and Catherine: Passions of love and hate.
The classic novel Wuthering Heights is as long-lived as the spirits of its main characters, Catherine and Heathcliff. Emily Bronte has an ability to articulate the story through the skillful and creative use of mystery, her undaunted capability to challenge social boundaries, and her heartfelt use of spirituality. In Emily Bronte's universe, the pain or misfortune related to that found by Aristotle in Greek tragedy is the loss of love.
Wuthering Heights explores two types of imperfect love in childhood, each barring the path to fulfilling love in adulthood. In one family, the implied significance transmitted to the child might be rendered, as "You don't belong here"; in the other, "You're too weak ever to leave." The most devastating consequence of either type of defective love is that the adults emerging from it have difficulty separating the need for love from the fear of leaving. Their need for love is exceeded only by their doubt of it. The doubt of the despised results from the expectation of rejection; that of the Over loved stems from an irresistible dependence that, feeling itself too weak to survive rejection, can belief only a love unable to leave.
Heathcliff, Catherine, and Lockwood, remain more actively at war with love in their adult lives. Some force, as inevitable as the wind sweeping over the moors, seems to have bent their lives into a pattern of aggravation that their own struggle for relief only exacerbates. Their need for love is expressed, not through loving, but through the agony of loneliness. Ironically, though they do not know it, this loneliness is the one condition essential for the fulfillment of their most profound fantasy concerning perfect love: a love, that is, perfectly protected against the threat of abandonment that in childhood these sufferers learned that love entails.
Heathcliff is introduced in Nelly's describing as a seven-year-old Liverpool foundling brought back to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw. His story in the words of Nelly, is "a cuckoo's story," Heathcliff is the usurper. His presence in Wuthering Heights overthrows the existing habits of the Earnshaw family; members of the family soon become involved in turmoil, fighting and family relationships become spiteful and odious.
At no point in the novel can we doubt Heathcliff's eternal devotion to Catherine. His love survives her rejection of him. Moreover, despite her marriage to Edgar, Heathcliff's love for her maintain undaunted. Heathcliff suffers much emotional rejection, but at no point does he waiver in his devotion to her. His genuine concern for Catherine thwart him from exacting direct revenge from Edgar. He says to Catherine When hearing of Catherine's illness, he exclaims-: "Existence after loosing her would be hell" In this statement, we can see the degree of Heathcliff's dedication and loyalty to Catherine and the sense of desolation her death would bring to him.
At times in the novel, Heathcliff is portrayed as a beleaguered spirit. After the death of Catherine, Heathcliff's lust for love is gone. His survival is then focused totally on exacting revenge. As his death approaches, he confesses to Nelly the extent of Catherine's hold over him, though she has now been dead 18 years. The degree in which Heathcliff is besieged by Catherine is reflected by the sense of hopelessness following news of Catherine's death is a good example of Heathcliff's tormented spirit, Nelly says He howled not like a man, but like a savage beast getting motivated to death with knives and spears. Life for Heathcliff after Catherine's death is an unnatural existence. He feels he belongs with her both in body and in spirit and has already set with the Sexton to be buried beside her.
As Heathcliff approaches death and a reunion of Catherine, his resolve for revenge weakens until he no longer has an interest in that former preoccupation. This dousing of the flames of Heathcliff's revenge is a catalyst not just in the novel but also in the histories of the Earnshaw and Linton families. Hareton and Cathy are spared, the sense of evil visited upon them by Heathcliff is removed and there occurs a spiritual revitalization within Wuthering Heights.
Catherine Earnshaw is the dominant female spirit that succeeds the novel. She is a character dominated by fascination and her single greatest obsession is her love for Heathcliff. It is this, which gives food to her soul, which controls her life and gives wisdom of meaning, purpose and direction to her survival. The love that she professes for Heathcliff is not simple romantic love; neither is it based on mere physical attraction, it is identification, a union of souls She contrasted the love that she professes for Heathcliff with that she publicly exclaimed for Edgar. Catherine's association with Heathcliff was established in childhood; Nelly remarks "The greatest punishment we could invent for her, was to keep her separate from him."
In Chapter 9, Cathy declares that:
If all else perished and he remained, I could still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger...My loce for Linton is like the foliage in the woods...My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff...not as a pleasure...but as my own being. " (Insert page number) significant characteristic of Catherine's nature is the influence she continues to have after her death, like Heathcliff, she has a troubled spirit that torments Heathcliff to the point of madness and even to his own death.
Both Heathcliff and Catherine were made to suffer, by opposite means and in different circumstances, turn loneliness into a community of rejection over which they exercise complete control. Heathcliff does this by persecuting those he hates; Catherine, by persecuting those she loves. Yet, by thus avenging the pain of refusal, they concurrently increase it; the more each mistreats others, the more alienated from them each becomes. Hence, cruelty to others ultimately becomes cruelty to themselves. But the meaning of their loneliness is distorted by this antagonism. Instead of suffering as the helpless victim of rejection, each now suffers as its unassailable source. Whereas loneliness formerly derived from mortifying rejection, it now expresses a complacent aloofness: neither needs those he or she hurts; instead, loneliness expresses contempt for company. But at the same that loneliness implies rejection of others, it also reinforces the sense of worthiness to be loved by another -- a confidence that, as rejection in childhood taught them, love unavoidably undermines. Only loneliness can make them feel worthy of love, because only through loneliness can each at the same time avenge rejection and reverse the personal shame resulting from it.
To understand Heathcliff's pain-obsessed relationship with Catherine is to recognize his psychological core and the role played by their upbringing in forming it. His preoccupation with her ghost gives literal expression to the meaning her love came to have for him when she was still living. Indeed, Heathcliff himself draws the connection: "She showed herself, as she often was in life, a devil to me!" (351). For Heathcliff, love has always been associated with the pain of absence, rejection, and disappointment. This pattern was initiated by the insulting regime of Hindley. But Catherine repeated it, when she wounded Heathcliff by deciding to marry Edgar.
However in the course of the novel, Heathcliff's relationship with the dead Catherine can be seen as an effort to overcome all the defects in the relationship with the live one, even as it mirrors them. At the genuine level, the first evidence of this transformation appears in Heathcliff's account of his frantic effort to disinter Catherine's corpse on the night after her burial. The episode is remarkable for its acknowledgment to Catherine of two opposite traits: pity and cruelty. Just as he is about to force open the coffin, Heathcliff suddenly senses her presence above him: "I relinquished my labor of agony, and turned consoled at once, unspeakably consoled" (350). But a few minutes later-and, as we have just seen, for years afterward -- the ghost's pitying presence becomes the instrument of cruelty: "I ought to have sweat blood then, from the anguish of my yearning, from the fervor of my supplications to have but one glimpse! I had not one" (351).
His obsession with the ghost is motivated by the comatose desire of finally turning the tables on love.
The relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine thrives as long as susceptibility to the same domestic source of discord, Hindley, unites them. Entry into adulthood frees them from that environment, yet even greater conflict follows. Each meets the other in mere poignancy. Heathcliff reproaches Catherine for abandoning him: "Catherine... I know you have treated me infernally-infernally!" (138). Catherine is just as convinced that Heathcliff has abandoned her: "You have killed me and thriven on it" (195). Yet in the midst of this embittered opposition, each protests ardently that he or she loves the…
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