Heathcliff and Catherine’s complex relationship in Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff and Catherine's complex relationship in Wuthering HeightsWhatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

I was in class on the 10th when I first heard about Wuthering Heights. I remember scrolling through Google and reading about characters, events, and analysis unknown to me at that time. Unable to understand the hype, I decided to give it a try, and mind you, it didn’t disappoint.

Wuthering Heights is an 1847 novel written by Emily Bronte. It follows the journey of Heathcliff and his obsession with his foster parents’ daughter, Catherine Earnshaw (later Catherine Linton). Dark, mysterious, and engaging, one has to read this book several times to understand the dynamics of the characters in it.

The first half of the book concerns itself with the blooming of Heathcliff and Catherine’s romance, Catherine’s dilemma, marriage, and childbirth, while the second half revolves around Heathcliff’s revenge and obscuration of the current and next generations (from here, Heathcliff’s character turns from hero-antihero to villain, but as of now, we will not concern ourselves with that).

“I love the ground beneath his feet, the air above his head, everything he touches, and every word he says. I love all of his looks, all of his actions, and him completely and completely. There now! “

One of the central themes of the novel is Catherine and Heathcliff’s forbidden romance. One can draw parallels between Beauty and the Beast and Wuthering Heights, where Heathcliff is the Beast and Catherine is Beauty. The former storey goes as such: the Beast is powerful, dangerous, and aggressive, and needs to be tamed and civilized. It is the one who has character. The beauty is smart and opinionated and someone who does that work.
Similarly, in the novel, Heathcliff tries to fit into Catherine’s world, in which he succeeds to some extent (first part), though later on he is overcome by hatred and jealousy. Catherine, though she loves him the most, decides to wed Edgar Linton, who is in sharp contrast to Heathcliff in terms of manners and temperament and seems to have no real character. Even though the story starts off with a similar romance archetype (Beauty and the Beast is an example of perfecting this archetype), it does not remain so. Catherine, our supposed Beauty, does not end with Heathcliff, our supposed Beast, the hero of the novel. This seems to obscure the conventional romance storyline used at that time.
An alternate ending to “The Beauty and The Beast”

“Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy?”

Catherine loves Heathcliff but realises that she cannot have a stable and high status with him and therefore chooses Edgar, who has the same social ranking as her. Heathcliff, heartbroken and bitter, decides to leave Yorkshire and return after he attains a similar monetary status. He deceives Isabella Linton (Edgar Linton’s sister) and marries her to make Catherine jealous and take revenge on Edgar.

“I assure you, a tiger or a venomous serpent could not rouse terror in me equal to that which he wakens. “

Perhaps one can perceive this as an alternate ending to Beauty and the Beast, where Beauty (Catherine) leaves the Beast (Heathcliff) and marries Gaston (Edgar), the latter having a higher social status than the former, who is an outcast. Gaston is the persona of a powerful male archetype but is someone who cannot stand up for others (in the original, the beauty is smart enough to understand that).
Here, the beauty is unsuccessful in taming the beast, and the beast, in vengeance, destroys everything around him, including his succeeding generation. Catherine’s death during childbirth is a turning point in the novel. Heathcliff, the hero-antihero until now, completely transforms into the villain, and his hatred and bitterness exacerbate into cruelty (we talked about this earlier).
The brunt of this cruelty is suffered by Catherine’s daughter, nephew, and Heathcliff’s own son.

“Nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us.” You, of your own will, did that. “

The events of the relationship completely defy the Law of Nature in the Western psyche. Here, instead of a female, the male is the representation of Chaos. He obscures every social structure and narrative in order to be with his lover. The female follows the social code of conduct and makes the pragmatic decision to live in the same social status, preventing any intersection in the ordered society between two different social statuses.
One can also argue that the feminine here, instead of taming the masculine, exacerbates his aggression, which subsequently leads to chaos and disorder.

The dark and complex nature of Catherine and Heathcliff’s romance is still very much part of the intense debate in the literary world. Overall, the novelist Emily Bronte tried to show that love is pain and is not enough to live a healthy life. If not controlled, they can destroy the lives of everyone around them.

“In the long run, we must be for ourselves. The mild and generous are only more selfish than the domineering. “

All the quotes are taken from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.


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