To root or not to root for Heathcliiff

Is Heathcliff a relatable character? Much like Lockwood, my opinion of Heathcliff vacillates; and even when the passionate protagonist acts like evil personified I have trouble disliking him. Even though Heathcliff “was not altogether guiltless” in Lockwood’s sickness, Lockwood found it impossible to resist “a man charitable enough to sit at” his “bedside a good hour, and talk of some other subject than pills, and draughts, and blisters and leeches” (98).

It is this same quality of humanity that renders Heathcliff a relatable character to readers, as well. Heathcliff’s humble beginnings as an orphaned and later tortured “gipsy” boy establish him as the story’s clear underdog (39). It is difficult not to root for the underdog; in this case, even when the underdog commits such grievous acts as marrying for revenge and swindling his neighbors. The fact that Heathcliff was an orphan, alone, readies any reader who has previous experience with gothic literature to accept him as the story’s beloved protagonist. As Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens exemplified in their literature, orphaned characters are written to capture our empathy.

The most compelling reason that keeps me rooting for Heathcliff despite his often violent and cruel antics that are utterly contrary to my personal code of ethics, is his intense love for Catherine. Heathcliff’s love is so extreme that it transcends merely love, and renders Heathcliff and Cathy as something like twin-souls, mirror images of one another despite their vast differences. Heathcliff claims, “if Edgar loved her with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love her in eighty years as much as I could in one day” (162). It is difficult not to side with him and believe that his entire life is colored by his ostensibly fated obsession with Catherine.

Why are there so many narrators?

The question of narration, and the narrator’s reliability, has been a technique used by authors for centuries. A good author knows that a story is only as good as the way it is told.  Knowing this, the personalities and perspectives shown through multiple layers of recounts adds a rather complicated characteristic to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

First, it is imperative to understand the position Lockwood places himself within the narrative, understanding he is only exposed to one account of the story, Nelly’s.  Lockwood is an outsider, giving him the capacity to consume this story outside of the normal channels it flows through. His perspective serves the story the same way that the setting does; just as the moors are so far removed from the cultured world, being depicted as wild and untamed, Lockwood brings in a civilized perspective to analyze the story.  However, this also causes trouble with the narrative, as he is an impostor to the world in which these accounts take place. His civilized being contrasts with the natural, unassuming nature of the moors and its people.

Then, we get Nelly’s narrative which is both helpful and hurtful to the reader, like Lockwood’s. As she is importantly intertwined in the lives of all those involved, she has a much broader view of the world the story lives in. Her reliance upon these several other narrators – Isabella, Dr. Kenneth, gossipy villagers, etc. – emphasizes that she is much more useful to the tale than Lockwood.  However, she is way too biased to give a credible account of the tale, making the reader question her sources as these too have been filtered through her biases.  She overly identifies with the Lintons, as she comes from that household and aligns with that family much more.  When Nelly begins narrating to Lockwood, this is only another representation of the “truth.”

The difference between these two characters makes their collaboration even more questionable.  The style of writing and dialogue used by Lockwood emphasizes his intellect, education, and higher status to that of Nelly, who is of a lower status than those whom she speaks of as well.  Although her education does not meet the level of Lockwood’s, Nelly’s position as a lower status of her peers gives her the intel of a far greater range of perspectives, as she is connected with everyone of the houses.  On the other hand, this could also play into gender relations and limitations, as Lockwood, who has authority and weight in most public and private dealings as a man, is filtering his understanding of the story through Nelly Dean, a woman with a lot less social flexibility as a man. What other differences create a distance between their accounts or understanding of the world around them? Or do these differences bridge the gap between their limitations as bystanders?

This brings up the problem of representation and authorship.  As these two people are far removed from the immediate actions and events of the story, what is their purpose as the primary and secondary narrators? Why are the important characters set aside to be tertiary accounts?

Brontë’s Circle

I have never read Wuthering Heights before, and I’ve only had the opportunity to read Jane Eyre once. My knowledge of the two is limited, especially in the case of Wuthering Heights as I have not finished the novel. Despite that I can see a bit of similarities between the two, and can understand how the critics of Jane Eyre believed that author penned Wuthering Heights as well. The moors are similar, the setting and story are similar (although I highly doubt there will be a love interest between Heathcliff and Lockwood, I doubt the Brontë’s are willing to go against society that much), and especially the characters of Rochester and Heathcliff. The two are shrouded in mystery about their past lives and have an unredeemable personalities (Rochester somewhat redeems himself, if we believe his story that he tried to save his crazy wife). Heathcliff is a cruder version of Rochester, but that is not what intrigues me about him.

I have repeatedly referenced my 19th century British Novels class, and will do so again. I was introduced to Jane Eyre and other popular novels in that class. One of my favorites was a novel called The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. Reading through Withering Heights, I couldn’t help notice the similarities between Heathcliff and the Edward Osmond. A quick summary of the novel, an orphaned american girl moves to England to live with her uncle, after his death she inherits a large sum of money, meets an Italian man with a gambling problem who woos her and marries her for her fortune. He makes her life miserable as he takes control of her money. This man is Edward Osmond, like Heathcliff he marries with an objective in mind, and it is not to love the woman taking the vow with him. I bring up The Portrait of a Lady to develop the idea of influence.

Catherine says in her biographical note that the girls are uneducated but contradicts it by stating her knowledge of how critics will take a woman writer authoring the novels she and he sisters have written. So knowing that, was their influence for their novels solely theirs? Did they start a new literary circle? I cannot see how they could deb in the same one that Byron, Wordsworth, Hemans, or the Brownings are in. Were they the solitary genius that began a new literary circle which would include novelist like Henry James? Henry James wrote his novel later in the 19th century so he was not their influence but it may have been the other way around. So where do the Brontë sisters fit in British literary circles?

“I wish to hear from herself”

Despite its male protagonist, Wuthering Heights does a remarkable job of giving a woman’s point of view. The majority of the story thus far has been told by Nelly Dean, a housekeeper in Heathcliff’s employ. She frequently interrupts her train of thought to make remarks on how she personally views the characters. Accordingly, her perspective is the lens through which the reader examines other characters. Isabella also gets a brief voice befitting her relatively minor role in the novel. One character whose voice seems rather silent is the boisterous Catherine Linton (formerly Linton). Whenever she does get a voice, it is dramatically different than what her portrayal by other character would lead you to believe.

The initial depiction of Catherine’s character is negative. Most view young Catherine as a wild child. As she grows older, she grows out of it somewhat, but her occasional escapades with the good-for-nothing Heathcliff are noted. Nelly thinks she’s “an unfeeling child” (84), incapable of putting someone else’s considerations on par with her own. However, insight into Catherine’s inner life reveals she was very conflicted about her feelings. Scrawled in the wood on her windowsill are names of her suitors as though choosing one was abandoning a very real part of her (50). Her supposed lack of empathy could be attributed to not wishing to any choice at all.

Catherine’s voice once again changes the narrative on her deathbed. After spiraling into madness, it seems evident that she will die. Linton blames Heathcliff. Nelly says Catherine brought it upon herself. Heathcliff claims, “She thinks you are all spies for her husband. Oh, I’ve no doubt she’s in hell among you!” (164) Thus, he attributes her ailments to Edgar Linton’s mistreatment of him. Notably, Heathcliff expresses interest in discovering the source of her ailment when he says, “I only wish to hear from herself how she is, and why she has been ill” (163). Catherine, finally given a chance to talk, places blame fully upon Heathcliff for breaking her heart. Soon afterwards, her voice is silenced forever (RIP Catherine).

Catherine always defied expectations as a child; she wasn’t consumed by propriety. Thus, it shouldn’t be surprising that her voice defies all other voices in the story.

So who do we blame then, Catherine?

Catherine is a woman who knows exactly how much power she has over everyone. Birth put her into a good family, genetics gave her beauty and charm, and the cruelty of others gave her Heathcliff. Upon Mr. Edgar’s revelation of the relationship between Heathcliff and his wife, he insists that he will no longer tolerate their constant meetings. Heathcliff, ever the troublemaker, refuses to leave until the husband gathers other men. It is at this point that Catherine ironically remarks: “You are aware that I am in no way to blame in this matter” (133)?

There is little to be debated about whether Catherine is cognizant of the power she wields over her husband, friends, and employees. Just a page ago she excitedly remarks to Heathcliff, “‘Oh Heavens! In old days this would win you knighthood'” (132). What I am curious about is why Catherine refuses to both find herself and be held responsible for the results of her actions. It is unlikely that her husband would do much of anything to punish her, nor would Nelly, a servant, do much other than chastise the woman. Heathcliff is also equally unlikely to do much since we have seen his return after Catherine’s insensitive speech earlier in the novel. It is my belief that Catherine needs to maintain a moral high ground in order to feel like she both worthy of her husband and better than the others in her life.

Before Catherine comes to the Linton house, she is openly mean and rude to everyone. She tends to spend her time scheming with Heathcliff about the troubles they can cause. After her injury and five weeks with the Lintons, she is seemingly transformed into a proper lady who both looks and acts appropriately. We are able to see how superficial this change is when she pinches Nelly in front of Edgar. It is in this scene that it becomes evident that Catherine does not care about actually becoming a better person, but instead, cares that Edgar and Isabella see her as their equal. Catherine longs to be loved and after experiencing the care at the hands of the Lintons she is eager to escape Wuthering Heights and those who knew her as a child. Catherine is false because she craves the love of the Linton siblings, a love she never experienced at Wuthering Heights.

Do Catherine and Heathcliff really love each other?

Wuthering Heights has been extolled as one of the greatest love stories of all time, yet the passionate need Heathcliff and Catherine share for each other is nothing I would wish upon any happy couple.

Catherine’s love is almost wholly selfish, as evident in her treatment of Edgar. She willingly passes up Heathcliff for a marriage in which she will be well provided for with higher social prospects. Once in the Linton home, she manipulates the Linton family to cater to her every wish and whim. Catherine loves Edgar, as well as the rest of the family, to the degree that they dote on her. Her affection to them is like a pet – she invests in and cares for those she loves as long as they can contribute to her own happiness.

However, she cannot have one she loves happier than herself. She tells Heathcliff, “I care nothing for your sufferings. Why shouldn’t you suffer? I do! Will you forget me – will you be happy when I am in the earth?” (168). Is this the expression of the world’s greatest love story? This is a jealous love that consumes even the other person’s well-being for one owns self.

Their love is so consuming that they even identify each other as their own soul and self. Catherine claims that “I am Heathcliff – he’s always, always in my mind – not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself – but as my own being” (103).The very essence of each is wrapped up in the other. But not in the lovey-dovey way in which they strive for the other’s happiness, and the happiness of the other is thus a source for their own joy. It is a consuming love that destroys the self in the wake of the other.

Does Catherine Factor into Heathcliff’s Pursuit of Revenge on Hindley?

After three years away from Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff returns with plans of revenge for not only the Linton family, but Hindley as well.  Hindley seems to be his first and most important victim because of the actions Hindley took against Heathcliff when the two were younger.  But, is Heathcliff avenging his feelings of unworthiness of Catherine’s love? Or, is Heathcliff avenging his poor childhood, in which Hindley subjected him to different forms of torture, in general?

Heathcliff could be using the tortured memories of Hindley to fuel his aggressive pursuit of revenge.  After all, Hindley came back to Wuthering Heights after college and sent Heathcliff to be a servant.  Heathcliff returns after running away for three years with the intention to return the favor.  We know that Heathcliff encourages Hindley in his gambling habits, leading to Hindley falling into debt, though the man remains ignorant.  So far, we have been given nothing to suggest that Heathcliff is exacting revenge, because Hindley deemed him unworthy of Catherine.

However, when speaking with Nelly about Catherine, Heathcliff says, “She spends a thousand [thoughts] on me!  At a most miserable period of my life, I had a notion of the kind; it haunted me on my return to the neighborhood last summer, but only her own assurance could make me admit the horrible idea again.  And then Linton would be nothing, nor Hindley, nor all the dreams that ever I dreamt” (160).  Heathcliff’s pursuit of revenge boils down to Catherine.  If Catherine had only ended up with Heathcliff, despite his savagery, then revenge against Hindley wouldn’t mean a thing.  Hindley wouldn’t have had that large an influence in tearing down Heathcliff’s character if Catherine and he ended up together.

If we look at the novel as a love story, then we can justify Catherine being a part of Heathcliff’s pursuit of revenge.  After all with that mindset, everything else Heathcliff does, he does with Catherine in mind.  However, if we look at the larger significance of Heathcliff targeting Hindley specifically, we can understand why Heathcliff would loathe Hindley with all his being.  Hindley was awful to him in his youth.  In a way, we can almost blame Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff as the reason Heathcliff embraced his savage ways the older he became.

Which should we favor: light or darkness?

As a reader, I usually look for the good qualities in characters and praise them when I feel like they act nobly or uprightly. Having some flaws is a necessary component as well, but overall, for a character to be a decent protagonist, their good qualities have to outweigh their bad.

 

This is completely turned around in Wuthering Heights. Our two main characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, are the ones who are most full of darkness. Cathy even says that “heaven did not seem to be [her] home; and [she] broke [her] heart with weeping to come back to earth, and the angels were so angry that they flung [her] out” (101-102). Her soul is literally so antagonistic to light that she is miserable in heaven, and happier in her dark, wild moors. She connects

 

Characters like Edgar Linton, on the other hand, who have more obviously redeeming qualities than Cathy or Heathcliff, somehow pale in comparison to the power of their darker, more complex characters. Cathy herself describes Linton’s character as different from hers and Heathcliff’s as “a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire” (102). The words “moonbeam” and “frost,” while certainly more innocent and sweet than “lightning” and “fire,” are also much less powerful forces. The power, therefore, lies completely with the main characters, who are equated with the more destructive forces.

 

All of the more seemingly pure characters, in this way, are cast aside as weaker and almost irrelevant bystanders to the larger plot of Cathy and Heathcliff’s unattainable love. Linton, even though he is described as “handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich,” seems to be almost looked down upon by Cathy for these qualities. Her love for him is like “foliage”—fleeting and not even really worth mentioning in the face of her love for Heathcliff, which is like “eternal rocks” (103). While she refuses to take Linton seriously because of his “good” qualities, she has a deep respect for Heathcliff for containing the same dark qualities that she does.

 

Isabella Linton, as well, who is “charming…possessed of keen wit, keen feelings…,” is completely tossed aside by Heathcliff (119). Although he marries her, he clearly does not take her seriously at all, and, in fact, projects his anger for Edgar Linton out on her. This reaffirms that characters who contain “good” qualities are ultimately irrelevant when faced with the darker characters, and are even distasteful to the more powerful characters.

 

So, how should we think of lightness and darkness in regards to the novel? Although the darkness is clearly more powerful, is that a good thing?

 

I could think of two possible ways to answer these questions. One is that the novel is commenting on this kind of dark, all-consuming love, and saying that ultimately it is not good because it is so utterly destructive.

 

However, Heathcliff and Cathy’s love, while clearly crazy and destructive, is also somewhat sympathetic. I, at least, found sympathy in their relationship, and even though I was frustrated with them often, I still rooted for them. In this way, I found myself favoring the darkness.

Who is Cathy’s murderer?

Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort – you deserve this. You have killed yourself… I love my murderer–but yours! How can I?”

In this passionate scene from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Heathcliff visits Catherine on her deathbed in secret while Edgar is gone from the house. Heathcliff makes some very contradictory statements as they finally discuss their love for each other and their anger because they cannot be together.

First Heathcliff blames Cathy for her illness, as he believes it is just retribution for marrying Edgar out of a desire to advance societally, and therefore she has really killed herself. They could have been together if not for her marriage, “You loved me — then what right had you to leave me? What right — answer me – for the poor fancy you felt for Linton?”

He also seems to say that because of Cathy’s decision to marry Edgar, she has murdered him. The only reason Heathcliff had to live was for the hope of being with her, but she has destroyed that.

However, the statement that he loves his murderer, but can not love hers is very confusing to the reader, and makes him or her pause for a moment to figure out who the murderers are. At first, it seems that Cathy is both murderers (based on the above), but if this is true then Heathcliff both loves and does not love her at the same time. I think this in itself has merit, but the confusion leads the reader to question other options.

Heathcliff could also mean that he forgives Cathy, but blames Edgar for wanting to marry and marrying her when he should have known of the love between Cathy and Heathcliff. He must hate the man that came between them, and this foreshadows the drawn-out revenge that dominates the remainder of the novel.

I think this confusing statement is very intentional, and intended to mean multiple possibilities to the reader. It layers even more tension on top of a scene that is already very intense with passions, and alludes to the larger scheme at play.

Does Heathcliff really care about Catherine’s soul?

Though Heathcliff claims he’s head-over-heels in love with Catherine, his reaction to her death caused me to question how deep his love for her truly is/was, since he didn’t seem to care very much about her soul. Can Heathcliff really love Catherine as much as he claims if he expresses zero concern for her soul in the afterlife?

 

When Ellen reported to Heathcliff that Catherine had “Gone to Heaven…where we may, everyone, join her…may she wake as kindly in the other world!” (174-175), Heathcliff’s reaction was gruff and spiteful. He gave no concern to her well-being in the afterlife, and cried, “May she wake in Torment!” and insists she is not in Heaven (175). In fact, he basically curses her—NOT an ideal form of endearment, in my opinion—and hopes she can never rest for as long as he’s alive. I don’t believe we ever learn about Heathcliff’s religious views, but presuming he is a Christian, this seems like a pretty significant insult. Rather than expressing concern for Catherine’s soul in the afterlife, Heathcliff turns the conversation to his own welfare, which to me seems quite self-centered for someone who just lost the love of his life. He begs her to haunt him so that he will not be left “in this abyss” without her (175), which, again, would not necessarily benefit her eternal soul, but rather satisfy his own longing.

Despite expressing zero interest in the welfare of Catherine’s soul after death, Heathcliff ironically refers to Catherine as his soul. He cries, “I cannot live without my soul!”(175). Perhaps then his seemingly selfish comments about his own well-being were an obtuse way of expressing concern for Catherine’s soul, since she was “his soul.” Either way, I think Heathcliff ought to consider that loving someone should—at least to some extent—involve concern for that other person’s soul. While I don’t doubt that Heathcliff loved her and continues to love her, I continue to wonder just how deep this love is.

 

Heathcliff: Puppet Master or Puppet?

In her novel, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë has the character of Mr. Heathcliff marry Isabella Liston. With the story we have been given so far this is very confusing. We know that Heathcliff loves Cathy and she is the one he wants to marry. So why does he agree to marry Isabella? When Cathy first brings it to Heathcliff’s attention he helps Cathy mock Isabella’s feelings, yet we do see that he does find pleasure in the idea as the novel mentions he smiles when Caty is absent. Could this be a rouse to make Cathy jealous or could it be a result of surprise about his change of appearance has made him apparently visually pleasing?

When Isabella first mentions her love to Cathy, Cathy goes berserk and claims that Isabella is foolish. Cathy does not see how Isabella could possibly love Heathcliff any more than she does and in the end Cathy chose to marry Mr. Liston. This argument could be reworded to state you do not love him as much as I do so stay away.  This leads to a lot of the conflict within the Liston household as we later see that Cathy does get jealous upon discovering that Heathcliff has indeed spent some extra time with Isabella, but did Heathcliff expect this reaction? He seemed to have a plan the entire time with his smugness as if he held all of the strings. Cathy was content with Edgar and since Heathcliff came back her world was complete; however, once Heathcliff appeared to be interested in Isabella, Cathy realized that she might be losing her grip on Heathcliff’s adoration. In order to keep his love in her grasp she draws farther away from Edgar and grows more open to Heathcliff. The entire time I cannot help but see Heathcliff smiling as he pulls all of the right strings to get what he wants.

Before he runs away he is described as a ruffian and dirty boy. He was not used to getting favorable attention. So when Isabella originally shows interest, does Heathcliff react too quickly? He went from a ruffian to boyfriend material and now maybe he has a chance to be loved, even Cathy could not fully love him before he ran away. We see evidence of a rash decision in the fact that he does not actually return the love that Isabella grants him. In fact, even once Isabella runs away he does not go after her and reclaim his wife, even though he eventually discovers her location.

While Heathcliff certainly has a sad past he definitely is not innocent. Here we see him either making a rash decision or breaking a young girl’s heart or we see him as a diabolical puppet master manipulating his peers to do his will. He drives Cathy and Edgar apart, he convinces Earnshaw to mortgage the land to him, and he deceives Isabella into marrying him. Is he a victim or is he the villain?

Why are all marriages doomed in Wuthering Heights?

We have read over half of Wuthering Heights, and I have yet to come across any romance that was not entirely tragic and void of any hope of reconciliation. As readers, can we make any conclusions about Emily’s thoughts on marriage for her day?

To refresh our memories, let us remember how these relationships panned out: Frances Earnshaw, Hindley’s wife, treats young Heathcliff cruelly and dies. Heathcliff and Cathy love each other but their social status and Cathy’s pride keep them from marrying and Cathy dies because she is lovesick for him. Cathy’s marriage with Linton is based on her desire to marry someone handsome, young and rich above all other qualities (100). All of these relationships are constantly tense and end in sorrow.

Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, arguably the strongest love and passion that exists in the novel, never bears any fruit. Soon before Cathy’s death, Heathcliff laments to Cathy, “Why shouldn’t you suffer? I do!” and further complains that he will “writhe in the torments of Hell” upon her absence (168). Their love-hate relationship typifies the love that can never be. Surely, these two stubborn, prideful characters are partly to blame for their fate. Yet, I wonder if Bronte is also criticizing British societal expectations for marrying within your own social class.

The most puzzling part of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship to me is its constant fluctuation. They provoke each other, go through phases of hating each other, seeking revenge (Heathcliff marries Cathy’s sister-in-law to spite her), but still have an insatiable love for each other. To me, it seems completely unrealistic. I wonder why Bronte would make such unrealistic relationships for the sake of her credibility as an author.

In hopes of reconciling this tension the reading of the novel poses for me, I looked to Charlotte’s editor’s preface. She explains that Emily was a generally kind person but never sought intercourse with others and seldom experienced it (342). As far as we know, Emily did not ever experience romantic love. Therefore, creating a novel that revolved around multiple marriages proved an unfamiliar task. Also, Charlotte notes that what Emily’s mind concluded about the people around her “was too exclusively confined to those tragic and terrible traits of which, in listening to the secret annals of every rude vicinage, the memory is sometimes compelled to receive the impress” (342). Charlotte seems to think the negative images of marriage Emily processed stuck with her and tainted her perception of romance and marriage. If Emily had not been such a withdrawn and lonely soul, I cannot help but wonder if Heathcliff and Cathy—or any other marriage in the novel, for that matter—would have succeeded.

Is this a budding love story or a horror?

As we delve into the beginning of Wuthering Heights, I find myself both apprehensive of what’s to come and attentive to the frame-narration of the story. It seems to be a frame story within a frame story: the diary (frame 1) of Lockwood is the oral narration (frame 2) of Nelly Dean’s experience at Wuthering Heights. This is paralleled by Lockwood’s own retelling of his personal experiences, like visiting Heathcliff for the first time.

We are introduced to the landlord in a flurry of events; Heathcliff is less than kind to Lockwood, and there seems to be an underlying mystery or haunting among the house. As a blizzard moves in, Lockwood is told to stay in, as the four mile walk home could end in devastation. He is led to a room far off in the depths of the house, one that isn’t to be entered by anyone. Scribbles of Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Linton, and Catherine Heathcliff are etched repeatedly all over the wood of a windowsill by the bed. Our narrator then falls to sleep, where he has waves of terrible dreams, one of which introduces him to a ghost who keeps saying Catherine Linton’s name. She reaches through the window and grabs Lockwood’s hand, who responds by shoving her wrist into the sharp broken window, spilling blood all over the sheets. Lockwood flees the room, saying that it is haunted, but Heathcliff runs toward the window begging the ghost to come back.

Upon Lockwood’s return home the next day, he speaks to his servant, Nelley, who begins to explain the history of the estate. I began to question the relationship between young Heathcliff and Catherine. Heathcliff seems to be a quiet boy, in my mind a brooding guy much like Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s novels; Catherine seems a bit airheaded but genuinely sweet and loving towards her best friend.

The events of Mr. Earnshaw’s death and Catherine’s injury from the Linton’s dog really throw a kink into what would’ve been a seamless love story. The estate is passed to Hindley, who, out of his lifelong jealousy, treats Heathcliff like a low-class field worker instead of an adopted brother. Catherine is meanwhile transformed during her stay at the Linton’s, becoming quite a respectable young lady in comparison to the tomboyish and slightly outdoorsy girl that Heathcliff grew to love. Her sights turn to the Linton son, Edgar, and she becomes infatuated with everything concerning him.

Heathcliff is then a total outcast, his only friend in the house turned into someone he no longer knows, someone who traded fun and trouble for proper dress and manners. In chapter 9, Catherine admits her engagement to the maid while Heathcliff listens in the dark, yet also admits her love for Heathcliff: “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”

I begin to wonder if this will be a Shakespearean, forbidden love. We have yet to know the mystery behind Catherine’s death, which forces a gloomy shadow over whatever the situation may be. Therefore, though I hope the two will end together, I am not so sure if this is a beautiful love story or a horrific murder.

“Why do you love him, Miss Cathy?”

This is the question Nelly asks to Cathy Earnshaw in chapter eight from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Nelly Dean, Earnshaw family’s housekeeper, is our major narrator who knows very well about the family. In her question, “him” refers to Edgar Linton, a young rich guy. Cathy replies back in a light hearted way—an answer that a young inexperienced lady could give. She loves him because of his four qualities: handsomeness, richness, state of being young and cheerful, and lastly, the fact that he loves her. She adds onto that by saying, she should be very “proud of having such a husband” (100). However, Nelly’s continuous inquiry gives us a nuance that this is not the answer she wants to hear. She wants to know what is in Cathy’s heart; her true love.

Because Cathy does not open her real thought about her love, Nelly pinches her immature response by saying: “I think, you will escape from a disorderly, comfortless home into a wealthy, respectable one; and you love Edgar, and Edgar loves you. All seems smooth and easy—where is the obstacle?” (100). Then, Cathy bursts out what that “obstacle” is: “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” (102). Wait, what? Did not she just say that she loved Edgar Linton? Well, yes. Thinking logically for her better future, she should say that she loves Linton. However, when we listen to her heart, we assume that she loves Heathcliff.

Now I want to ask Nelly’s question again: “Why do you love him, Miss Cathy?” Here, I want to refer “him” to Heathcliff. Why does she love Heathcliff? Is this love an outcome of a long childhood friendship? Or is it derived from the feeling of pity for him? What is her evidence that she loves him? Does not love require one to give up either of the two best choices? When we peek at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, they have to give up either their family or their true love. Their choices are, of course, their true love. Isn’t this what real love looks like? However, Cathy sounds like her real love is Heathcliff, but her choice is wealthy and comfortable life through Edgar Linton. Then, does she really love Heathcliff? If she does, why not give up the comfortable life and marry Heathcliff? Why does she love him?

When it rains, it pours: the Brontë myth.

The Brontë myth is not one single myth, but a collection lore that intrinsically connects the Brontë family to the literature they produced. Those who cater to the myth take information about the Brontës, whether verifiable or not, and prove how it has been implanted into their works. For example, depictions of dysfunctional families in writing are proof of the Brontës’ own familial woes. Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Therein lies the problem with the myth. Our reading of the novels influences our view of the Brontës, yet our knowledge of the Brontës underpins our understanding of the novels. The myth, which is not peculiar to the Brontës, demands we make claims regarding the relationship between the writer and the text that can’t be entirely proven. Even so, it has some merit and shouldn’t be discarded needlessly. It is easy to see how the landscape that surrounded Emily Brontë inspired much of Wuthering Heights. The mythic status goes beyond just mere inspiration. “The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës” asserts that “Wuthering Heights is a ‘myth’ in the most sublime sense, in which Heathcliff ‘is a manifestation of natural forces’ in a system where characters are governed by ‘the principle of storm’ or ‘the principle of calm’” (Glen 224). This claim can be extended to other characters as well.

This principled myth is embodied in Chapters 8 and 9. In Chapter 8, rain outside the house mirrors the coming turmoil. Cathy is dressed nicely, waiting for Edgar Linton to pay a visit. Even though it’s raining, she wears a silk frock; she is anticipating Edgar’s arrival. In this scene, she more or less tells her longtime friend Heathcliff to get lost so that she can spend time with her new friend. Later, good ol’ nurse Nelly interferes with Cathy’s plans so that Edgar might truly see who/what Cathy is. Unfortunately, Cathy’s willingness to resort to domestic violence only makes the Linton boy more in love with her (thereby pushing Heathcliff further away). The relationships and facades of Cathy are very cloudy at this point. In chapter 9, it storms. Heathcliff hears Cathy say some rather disparaging things about him and his skin color. He leaves, and she realizes it’s her fault. The torrential downpour ensues,  “But the uproar passed away in twenty minutes, leaving us all unharmed, excepting Cathy, who got thoroughly drenched for her obstinacy in refusing to take shelter, and standing bonnetless and shawlless to catch as much water as she could with her hair and clothes” (Brontë 106). According to the myth, Emily Brontë’s intimate knowledge of the area’s weather allows her to feature it prominently, use it as an essential metaphor and even let it be a driving force in the novel.