Bronte When Catherine States, "It Will Degrade Book Report

Excerpt from Book Report :


When Catherine states, "It will degrade me to marry Heathcliff," she exposes her prejudices and concerns about social status. She has yet to develop a mature level of self-awareness. Moreover, Catherine indicates a predisposition toward melodrama when she continues, "so he shall never know how I love him." Bronte achieves something clever with this passage, in that she withholds from Catherine her own self-awareness while indicating to the reader that the character is as shallow as anyone else in her milieu. Not being aware of her own shallowness becomes an ironic means by which Catherine can grow. Moreover, it is ironic that the reader is permitted to overhear Catherine's entire conversation on this matter but Heathcliff only hears the first sentence. He does not hear the part about "he shall never know how I love him," and Bronte deliberately structures the conversation in this way, so that the reader hears Catherine's side before learning that Heathcliffe had left the room. Continuing her melodramatic speech, Catherine does go on to say, "he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."

Clearly Catherine has misgivings about marrying Heathcliff, because of the enormous pressure that social norms would have presented to a woman in her position. Yet her emotions are strong; not only that, Bronte also foreshadows the inevitable despair that is to follow. By scorning Heathcliff because of his social status, Catherine only hurts herself. When she says that their souls are one, Catherine has no idea how true the statement is, for once Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, Catherine never regains her health or happiness. She dies without having ever been able to consummate her love for Heathcliff, and must live with the decision that only she made. Bronte here encapsulates a central conflict of the story: between the pressures of social conventions and the inner pressure of truth.

2. This passage is taken from a longer, heated conversation between Catherine and Heathcliff. Catherine exudes arrogance typical of her character, and even goes so far as to deny that she treated Heathcliff "infernally," as they put it. Here, Bronte is sure to use diction that parallels the emotional state of her characters. The term "infernal" conjures imagery of hell and the fiery depths of human emotion. Both Catherine and Heathcliff use the same language to argue with one another, too, echoing what Catherine had alluded to earlier with regards to her and Heathcliff sharing the same soul. In this case, they both refer to "revenge," which consumes each of them in its own way. Resentment against the other stems from hatred of the self, him for not fighting harder to win her over, and Catherine for pushing away the one true chance she had for true love. Finally, Heathcliff calms down and claims "I seek no revenge on you," in a "less vehement" manner.

Bronte uses repetition well in this passage, to underscore the characters' mental state. The term revenge surfaces several times in their conversation because each perceives the other as being responsible for their not being together; yet each subconsciously does know that they are culpable together. It is Catherine's greater responsibility for the breakdown of communication because she is the one who had put up the barriers between them due to her classist attitudes and behaviors. When Heathcliff states, "The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him; they crush those beneath them," he also uses a poignant analogy. He compares Catherine to a "tyrant," inadvertently or not. Bronte surely does this deliberately, to show the reader that it is indeed Catherine that is to blame, and that she has always viewed herself as a person of great status and power. She also abuses that power, which is why Heathcliff chooses to use this particularly grim image.

3. Nelly notes that solitude is the natural state of human beings; and that we "must be for ourselves in the long run." She also implies that people need to do what is best for them, because it is the natural state of affairs. It is in human nature to do so; people who do not do what is best for themselves are more likely to suffer and become slaves or trampled upon by those in positions of power. In fact, Nelly notices that even those who seem to be selfless are often doing charitable work for their own benefits. This seems to be a cynical thought, but it is rooted in realism and in what Nelly has seen during her time at Wuthering Heights.

After all, Nelly has by this time witnessed the emotional dishonesty that has consumed Catherine. She wishes Catherine only happiness, and Catherine stands in the way of her own self-fulfillment by doing what she thinks is expected of her. Catherine embodies selfishness, too. When she becomes ill, it is as if she does so only to draw attention to herself. When she confronts Heathcliff's eventual marriage to Isabella, Catherine instantly presumes that Heathcliff has only done it to spite her. She has a complete lack of awareness that she has done the same thing to herself, because she acted only out of what she believed was best for her.

Nelly is making the common sense observation that it is a rude awakening when one realizes that people we trust can betray. It has dismayed Nelly that Catherine was not able to recognize true love for what it was, and as a reader, I wonder if there will be any redemption at Wuthering Heights. This passage also comes only moments before Heathcliff returns, which adds a healthy dose of irony. Heathcliff's return is like an omen in that it shows he still does love…

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