Characterization and Doubling in Wuthering Essay
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. . I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!' (139). Perhaps the scene of Heathcliff digging up her grave eighteen years after her death is the most compelling because it represents the force of their love and how time or distance could not separate them. Cathy serves as a constant reminder with her eyes and Nelly even notices this similarity and how it upset Heathcliff. We read he "walked to the hearth in evident agitation" (254). Heathcliff is stricken with her loss noting even the floor captures her features. He says,, "In every cloud, in every tree -- filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day, I am surrounded with her image!" (255). The two are clearly obsessed with each other but their obsession is unhealthy. We often want to think of the star-crossed lovers that have the happy ending but so many times this simply does not happen. Bronte, in remaining true to her era, [places these lovers in a world in which they simply cannot be together because of the outside forces nagging at them.
Bronte develops Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship by including the hate that emerges from years of hurt. A story of their love without including the negative feelings resulting from what they do to each other would not fulfill the Romantic and gothic tradition. As we have already discussed, these two individuals share an obsession with each other. It does not help that they are also inclined to bouts of anger. Their anger, of course, is fueled by love and passion but this does not make their arguments any easier. It takes not time for tension to emerge when Catherine returns from Thrushcross Grange. Things are different because things look and feel different to Catherine. Things have not changed so much for Heathcliff but Catherine has tasted the sweet life and wants more. She sees through different eyes and one of the first things she says to Heathcliff after being separated from him for so long is how he looks "very cross and black" (51). He is taken aback and hurt and does not take her hand. He refuses to take being laughed at and leaves the room angrily. These feelings are the beginning of something Heathcliff will not easily be able to reign in. he still cares for Catherine and those feelings make him hate and envy Edgar. He also swears to repay Hindley. From this moment on, Heathcliff is a changed man and his emotions direct his every move. His impetus and need for revenge drive much of the plot for the remainder of the novel. His desire for revenge is a mask for his live, which was discarded and never recovered. This hate and his subsequent circumstance bring Bronte's focus on the gothic.
Bronte successfully employs the use of doubles in the novel to emphasize the Romantic and gothic. Catherine and Heathcliff are the most obvious doubles with their selfishness. Our fist indication of how Bronte begins to use this aspect in the novel is when Heathcliff returns a different man. He is "intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation" (84). Interestingly, Catherine is attracted to him. She dotes over him and even goes so far as accuse Edgar of whining when they fight. She is so fed up with his behavior she "got up and left him" (86) and confesses to Nelly she has "endured very, very bitter misery" (87). Heathcliff may be back but he is certainly different in the worst kind of way. He is nothing short of a monster. Mary Ward also writes the novel involves a "Romantic tendency to invent and delight in monsters . . . which has been said to be the secret of the whole Romantic revolt against classical models and restraints" (Ward). There is no doubt Heathcliff becomes the monster here and to illustrate his true nature he marries Isabella. Furthermore, he tells Catherine, "If you think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot; and if you fancy I'll suffer unrevenged, I'll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while!" (Bronte 97). He also indicates evil when he says, "The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him, they crush those beneath them. You are welcome to torture me to death for your own amusement, only allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style" (97).
His treatment of Isabella reinforces our worst fears -- he is a monster. There can be no denying this. Of course, we know why he has chosen this lifestyle and we know that he and Catherine still love each other but these facts do not remove any doubt regarding Heathcliff's rotten nature. In addition, while he is a monster, we can understand why Catherine still feels attracted to him on some level because of their past. Not many people encounter people with whom they feel a special connection and for these two to realize it means they are "special" in a way. They know this about themselves but what they never realize is how they lucky they are to have experienced it.
Bronte also structures the novel with opposing worlds. Wuthering Heights and certainly different from Thrushcross Grange and Bronte does her best to reveal these differences in many ways. Most significantly, she does it through the people that live in these places. The Earnshaws and the Lintons are doubles as the Earnshaws symbolize a simple life while the Lintons are more well-mannered. The Earnshaws are dark and complicated creatures with dark eyes and the Lintons have fair complexions with light eyes. Location also sets these two worlds apart as Wuthering Heights is north and Thrushcross Grange is to the south. Thrushcross Grange has a chapel and churchyard. The worlds are separated by moors and a brook, all feeding into gothic aspects. The people from these worlds seem to reflect the worlds in which they live. They are inclusive for this story to take place and they contain all the human elements we need, including love and hate. Different families create the tension in this novel and the differences we see in the Lintons, Earnshaws, and Heathcliffs are different enough to explain the past with Catherine and Heathcliff and the future with Cathy and Hareton. Bronte provides different perspectives to engage readers with Lockwood and Nelly. In this novel, an "outsider" is necessary to gain perspective on many of the events that occur. It helps us that Lockwood and Nelly are different personalities with different attitudes. Certainly, each of them will perceive things in different but reliable ways. Nelly is a servant while Lockwood is an educated diarist. These two strikingly different opinions help us formulate our own. Bronte also gives the story some sort of resolution with the next generation. Cathy and Hareton emphasize the connection between Catherine and Heathcliff, which is a double to Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship. Ironically, Cathy and Hareton fall in love in way Catherine and Heathcliff did. Their love proves to be a strong aspect of their alliance against Heathcliff. He prevents them form experiencing love in its fullest and they do not know what this means until he passes. Here we see how the bitterness of love and its memories last far longer than we expect and it reaches more than we might expect. Heathcliff's life is nothing but bitterness and he refuses to allow anyone to experience the happiness he missed out upon. The loss is greater than what a single man can know because he spreads his misery to all that know him.
Wuthering Heights is a novel of love gone wrong. Many times, we see this novel as something extraordinary in that the characters possessed a powerful love for each other. We look at Heathcliff and Catherine with a tear in our eye because they had the perfect love, and they simply could not get over themselves to enjoy it. They are both bent on self-destruction when we see the decisions they make. We like powerful love stories but we certainly like them when they have happier endings. In true Romantic and gothic form, Bronte takes this story down a perilous path, leading to heartbreak. We learn from these characters exactly what not to do when in a relationship. These lovers are set in the Romantic gothic era with gloom and doom nipping at the heels of their love. Bronte introduces elements that force the characters apart because they are too selfish to move toward each other. They assume they will have an opportunity later in life to make amends but this is not the case and they teach us the pain of love when it is not fully realized. The strong characterization and the use of doubles allow Bronte to present us with a story that is compelling and passionate. These characters are realistic to us; they feel real emotions and they…
Sources Used in Documents:
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York W.W. Norton and Company. 1972.
Brantlinger, Patrick. A Companion to the Victorian Novel. Oxford Blackwell Publishers. 2002.
Knoepflmacher, U.C. "Wuthering Heights: A Tragicomic Romance." In Laughter and Despair: 1971. Gale Resource Database. Site Accessed April 20, 2010. <http://www.galegroup.com>
Rogers, Katharine. Reference Guide to English Literature. Chicago: St. James Press. 1991.
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