The Good with the Bad

Sometimes, the darkest of tragedies has the brightest reawakening. We often think that our lives are defined by our tragedies. In a sense, they are. But with every dark day comes a day filled with light. That is inherent in two particular scenes from Allison Case’s novel Nelly Dean.

In Chapter 12 of the novel, we see the unfortunate death of Nelly and Hindley’s baby after Nelly’s mother gives her a purgative from Elspeth. In a harrowing scene, Nelly gives birth to a dead child that is only the size of her palm. Stricken by grief with the secret and the death, Nelly takes the child out to the garden and buries it.

“I crawled a little distance away, wrapped the cloak tightly around me, lay down in the heather, and sobbed. Even through my pain and grief, I felt sleep hovering near. I knew I should get up and go to the house…but I was past caring. I closed my eyes and let sleep take me.”

With this passage and scene, Case explains Nelly’s virtual stoicism in Wuthering Heights – including why she keeps her distance and why she does not do anything more than what a servant’s job is supposed to do. Her grief prevented her from moving forward and from accepting love from anyone else. This is a common response to tragedy; we shut people out in order to keep ourselves intact. The moment someone comes in to tell us how to feel, it becomes a case of what you’re doing instead of how you are feeling. Unlike the parent book, Wuthering Heights, this places Nelly Dean right in a modern context with modern responses to tragic events. In addition to the response to tragedy, Allison Case gives us a modern sensibility to another major event: the birth of Hareton, the son of Hindley and Frances.

Hindley eventually moved on by returning from his trip with Frances in tow. With a rift between him and Nelly, Hindley eventually slept with Frances and the two conceived a child. After Frances is diagnosed with consumption (tuberculosis), Nelly is asked to be the child’s nurse. In a slightly humorous scene, Nelly describes her experiences being Hareton’s nurse, saying:

“I don’t know how I can describe to you what that first week or two was like. He was with me both day and night, and I never had more than a couple of hours when he did not need my care, so of course I slept but little.”

A little later, she visits Elspeth, the “witch,” and brings Hareton with her. As she changes him, Nelly describes her words to him:

“I chattered and crooned to him an ever-lengthening string of pet names: my bonnie nurseling, my wee little laddie, my beautiful boy…Hareton, my little hare, my leveret, my love.”

Doesn’t this sound familiar?

The irony is that Nelly would have taken care of a child like this anyway and that in another world, he too would have also been called Hareton. The blessing for her is that she is virtually Hareton’s mother, and it’s touching to see that Nelly’s love and affection did not die with the loss of her child. For the readers, Nelly Dean reaches all the way into the modern age to show us that there is light at the end of every dark tunnel. Nelly lost a child and lost her love for Hindley, but ultimately gained it back in the form of his second son. Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad and take the light with the darkness.

 

High Strung

High Strung

Why would Nelly Dean torture herself to stay at Wuthering Heights?

Of the characters in Nelly Dean beyond those in Bronte’s novel, I believe Nelly’s mother is most influential. The nature of the other characters’ interactions with Nelly is better displayed in this context. Where Bronte’s narrator ventures across the gothic evils of the characters and their contrivances, Case takes a higher road to the same effect.

Case’s novel has humor well placed to lighten the otherwise darker picture formerly painted in Wuthering Heights. After the sobering truth Hindley spoke about his drinking problem, Nelly was saddened. Then, Hindley chases her down. “ ‘Hey, Nelly,’ he cried, ‘remember this?’ Then he stretched his face into a solemn scowl and began sawing at an imaginary fiddle while his legs danced wildly beneath him, as he had done on that long-ago night. I laughed and clapped.” (p. 442) The effect creates a realistic longing any half-hearted human should have to bring joy to those around an individual despite his/her own problems. It is a reminder to remember the good times we have with friends and loved ones after they have passed.

Then, there is the tension, the largest difference in the two novels. As Nelly seemed like the rock that forded the storms in Bronte’s story, she was battered and shipwrecked against her own fortitude in Case’s version.

I find fault in Case’s novel at the start when Nelly’s mother speaks with Mr. Earnshaw in his office while Nelly listened. Her mother’s stammer at the word of Heathcliff to be treated as a blood relative gave me the immediate inclination that she had an affair with Earnshaw, with Nelly as the result. Which, in the end is true, and the reason for Nelly’s abuse at the hand of her ‘father.’ This seemed neatly packaged for Nelly’s mother being blood relations in a distant past relative.

I cannot say that I saw the end coming, though. In both books, the troubles begin with the arrival of Heathcliff. And, both have a happy ending for the main character that the narrator follows; in Bronte’s novel, Hareton marries Cathy, and in Case’s novel, Nelly is finally married and happy. The award for the largest twist and out of left field ending is certainly to Case’s Nelly Dean.

Nelly was strung along through the whole story, thinking she was a servant housekeeper, undeserving of Hindley. She threw herself into caring for the children that came along and finally collapsed in the end. Bodkin calling her illness the lifting of the weight of the world from her shoulders, like Atlas holds. That was certainly another light moment, but I felt it slightly contrived for her to go off on vacation, certainly well deserved goes without saying.

All told, I certainly enjoyed this novel and the more modern language compared to Wuthering Heights.

A Desire Disguised

The strange narrative of Nelly Dean poses an interesting question, “What comprises a duty?” Who and what determines its parameters? Is it subjective to the one upon whom it is placed?  Most would say no. Yet, the justification for all of Nelly’s undertakings bank upon duty’s subjectivity to the one upon whom it is placed.

From a young age, Nelly’s mother instills in her a devotion to duty and a caution towards pursuing desire when duty crosses it. As the novel continues, Nelly, fearful of the farmer’s tale that forewarns the danger of desire, extends the framework of her duty as servant of Wuthering Heights to encompass her deepest wishes and, in doing so, quiets her conscience.

Nelly’s understanding of her duty can be summarized as such: to save the Earnshaws from themselves. This responsibility, and her adoption of it, issues originally from Mr. Earnshaw’s sincere remark in his belief that she  was “born to be the salvation of [the] house” (105). Nelly, in turn, banks her life upon this statement. Henceforth, she endeavored to save them, and from that salvation to attain her heart’s yearnings: the love of Hindley. Upon discovering that he is returning with a wife, Nelly walks the moors to clear her head and choose a course of action. Resolving to stay her post, Nelly “tells herself “that [her] prior good influence with [Hindley] and [Heathcliffe] made it [her] duty to stay and bring about peace between them” (237). She later discerns that “in truth it was compounded in equal parts of selfish interest and pride” (237).

As time goes on, contemplations and conversations continue to reveal the latent desires that drive Nelly’s understanding of her duty to Wuthering Heights. When Mr. Earnshaw was dying, Nelly admits her dream of delivering him, through her committed care, from his illness in order to win his approval and thus earn the right to Hindley’s hand in marriage. Later, she likewise acknowledges her initial supposition that, if Hareton embraced her as his mother, Hindley would follow suit and embrace her as his wife.

Several characters challenge her notion of duty, beginning with Heathcliffe, who, as a child, furious at Nelly’s nursing of Heathcliffe, asserted, “it’s all very well to say you were only doing your duty, Nelly,… but you half killed yourself to save him” (110). Likewise, Bodkin urges her to remember that she is not “obliged to keep working” at Wuthering Heights, to which she simply responds of her affection for the residents and their need of her (117).

Nelly’s undertaking to bind Hareton to herself through Elspeth’s means prove telling portent of her muddling of duty for desire. Though her endeavor to sustain his life is honorable, her duty as a servant did not necessarily warrant her actions at Pennington Crag. Instead, they were driven by her deepest wishes, which in turn imbued her view of her role in at Wuthering Heights.

In the end, Nelly concedes what drove her all those years, for what she had wanted “more than anything, was to be one of the Earnshaw’s to be truly a member of their family (447).

Forget Everything You Think You Know

The 2016 Marvel Studios movie Doctor Strange has a scene where Baron Mordo tells Dr. Strange to “forget everything you think you know.” In his case, he means the world, but in Allison Case’s case, this quote is much more applicable. In Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean functions as the servant who tells the story, becoming little more than a plot device in Bronte’s narrative. Here, Nelly is far more involved…in more ways than one. From the opening lines, we see that there is a new connection that she shares with Mr. Hindley Earnshaw. Take this passage for example:

            “And I’ll not say he didn’t love her. But sometimes, if I was by, and her back to me, in the midst of his fussing he would send me a long, keen look, as if all this show was for my benefit.”

 It’s no secret that Allison Case is pushing Hindley and Nelly together romantically. The question is tied to the reason why.

We could always assume that this book was intended for a modern audience, particularly a modern audience that may have never read Wuthering Heights. They would not have had that connection to the original story and would have found themselves saying, “So what?” if Case had just went with the original narrative. Practically, it seems like a smart move for Case. But I think it’s more than just a smart move – I think it’s the reason Nelly chose to stay.

In the context of Nelly Dean, a storm forces Hindley and Nelly to go to a cave to seek shelter. In a tender scene, Nelly and Hindley spend the night together in the same cave that they visited as children. The narrative comes full circle where Nelly’s childhood innocence from her earlier playtime in the cave is replaced by her path to adulthood from her night with Hindley – and the same goes for Hindley as well. In the end, she confesses all of this to Lockwood reading her letter:

“Do I need to tell you what happened next? Remember that we were frightened and cold and far from home. And I loved him. Yes, there on our heathery bed in that little earthen chamber, roofed with stone and curtained by falling rain, I loved him with all my heart.”

 Love is a powerful motivator in keeping someone tied to a certain place. It is a metaphor for the inability of a person to move on from someone or something. We see in the opening chapters that eventually the teenage romance breaks down, despite their seeming love for each other. Because of that, Nelly Dean positions itself as an interesting exploration of what happens when you find love in circumstance and not in truth. Nelly and Hindley were raised together, played together, and did not leave Wuthering Heights for most of their childhood. It was only a matter of time before they fell in love. But I don’t think that Case would say that this is a particularly good thing. In fact, it seems that now Nelly is much more in line with the other family members who chose to stay at Wuthering Heights in Bronte’s novel. Instead of just being “the servant,” Nelly is painted as a jilted lover who is sworn by duty to serve the family because of their kindness towards her and her love for Hindley. In this, Nelly is very much a tortured soul just like the rest of them.

 

A Seeming Dichotomy: Duty and Desire

While most characters in Wutheirng Heights operate out of their passion and emotion, Nelly Dean highlights a new type of character, one driven by duty over desire. The divergence between duty and desire proves consequential, according to Mary Dean, who stresses the necessity of the former in all she does. She advises Nelly to “not get in the habit of imagining [her]self entitled to more than [she] have earned by [her] own labours” and to “leave off making idle wishes” (67). She tells to remember her place and live accordingly, reminding her in a letter to “do [her] duty” (82). Likewise, Mary urges Mrs. Earnshaw, who would rather treat Heathcliffe according to her distaste of him, that her “duty is now to this child” (29) and that it is her “duty to bring him up to be a credit to the family” (28). Page 82 provides perhaps the most telling passage regarding Mary’s dedication to duty over desire. When Mrs. Earnshaw laments her departure to Brassing, Mary responds with, “You wouldn’t have me neglect my duty to Tom, would you?” (82). This seems an interesting response. What drives her to Yorkshire is not an overwhelming love for her husband and sadness at the thought of being separated from him, but an allegiance to her duty as a wife.

Was this sober, unemotional fidelity to duty the common stance of woman at this time? Not necessarily. Rather, women were stereotyped as being driven by their emotions.

However, this stereotype seems to contradict the picture of women illustrated in Mary’s story, “The Heart’s Wish”, which she conveys as a well-known local tale. The wife in this story seems, like Mary, more devoted to duty than desire.

She asserts her duty to speak against what might destroy her family, while her husband, the farmer, follows his own hankering to his downfall. Perhaps her portrayal of the heroine as one driven by responsibility and reason rather than emotion indicates that Mary tweaked the story in order to provide an memorable illustration for her daughter of what happens when desire overpowers duty.

Though resolute in her duty as a wife and in Nelly’s place as a servant, Mary proves less adamant in her stereotypical role as a woman. She adheres to class boundaries while pushing gender boundaries. For example, when addressing Mr. Earnshaw after Nelly has been expelled from the Heights, Mary presses him “with directness that rather startle[s] [Nelly]” (20). Furthermore, she questions Earnshaw with confidence, challenging his decision to bring Heathcliffe home and interrogating him on his business trip to Liverpool. As a woman and a servant, Mary would have no right to speak this way to her master. This implies, then, that either Mary takes quite a progressive stance regarding gender or that there is a history between Mary and Earnshaw that solicits her treatment of him. Her behavior resembles that of the wife in “The Heart’s Wish”. Perhaps then, their relationship at one time extended beyond servant and master.

 

Wuthering Heights: A Return to Eros

Wuthering Heights, for all of it’s strange and twisted machinations, is often labeled as a love story. To a degree, this is true, a significant portion of the plot does center around a romance between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw-Linton. However, the book bears little resemblance to contemporary romance fiction. It would be better and more accurate to group it closer to the greek understanding of love, Eros.
Now, a little context. The greeks had four distinct words for describing love: storge, philia, agape, and eros. Each of these four described a distinct type of love. Eros described what we would call romantic love or attraction. The other three described platonic versions of love, such as love of family or friends. To be clear, the greeks did not view Eros as being a very positive or beneficial state of being. It was viewed as a form of theia mania, in english ‘madness given by the gods’. The affiliated greek god, also conveniently named Eros, spread this type of love by shooting people with special arrows given by his mother, Aphrodite. Eros (the feeling, not the god) came upon a man as a direct attack by the gods onto his psyche, driving him mad with obsession. That’s pretty intense. It was also common that relationships borne from these conditions met with tragic ends, often because of the white-hot intensity of emotions involved.
It’s not hard to see how Wuthering Heights fits in with this narrative (especially that last bit). It is easy to argue how love drives some characters to act in ways that they would not otherwise. We see this from the very beginning of the novel, before we fully understand what Heathcliff’s relationship to Catherine had developed. He begs Catherine, long dead at this point, to come in and haunt him and his house, calling her “[his] heart’s darling” (Chapter 3). Such strong professions from a man who spent much of the novel trying to take vengeance upon Catherine and her kin. Their relationship, horribly corrupt and filled with toxic and manipulative behavior, is most definitely passionate enough to fall under the label of mania. No matter how far one strays from the other, a string between them seems to pull them back towards one another. Theirs is not the only one in the story, not by a long shot. Most of the relationships in the novel are on some level dysfunctional. Even sweet Edgar Linton, easily the best character from a moral standpoint, has a rather possessive relationship with Catherine. After being struck by Catherine, Nelly describes him as “[possessing] the power to depart as much as a cat possesses the power to leave a mouse half killed, or a bird half eaten”(Chapter 8). Take note of the predatory aspect of Bronte’s language here. This predator-prey dynamic leaves the reader with an ominous foreshadowing to an unhealthy co-dependendant relationship, just as a cat is dependent on mouse and bird for sustenance.
If I am being honest, to see Wuthering Heights labeled as a romance is a bit disconcerting. The relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine, though passionate, is as far from the modern concept of romance as Lolita is from proper parenting techniques. Viewed through the lens of greek understanding, however, and the intense and manic behaviors appear to almost be inevitable.

Are Catherine and Heathcliff cut from the same cloth?

Are Catherine and Heathcliff cut from the same cloth? Catherine herself seems to believe so, even confessing, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same…” yet when I initially confronted this question I leaned more towards no. How could two children with such different lots in life turn out the same? As such, I originally interpreted them are irrevocably different people. However, upon further examination I believe Catherine is correct, and it instead became hard to point out a way in which they are different. These similarities are especially evident in the similar paths their lives take, although they follow slightly different timelines. Both characters spend their childhoods together running wild on the moors and experience a period of isolation from their childhood home- Catherine first when her injured ankle leaves her at the mercy of the Lintons for a few weeks and then Heathcliff when he mysteriously vacates Wuthering Heights for a period of 3 years. Both characters are changed by their experiences away from the moors are come back cultured and cruel. This is evident when Catherine strikes the members of her household. First she strikes Nelly not once but twice, leaving her marked with, “…a decided purple witness to refute her…” and again Hareton received the same treatment when “…she seized his shoulders, and shook him till the poor child waxed livid.” Even Edgar received a boxed ear for moving to protect Hareton. This scene speak to the change she underwent in the Linton’s household, the same change that motivates her to cast aside Heathcliff in favor of a more socially acceptable match with Edgar. Heathcliff is similarly changed when he returns from his leave of absence at the manor. He is wealthy, aloof, and sporting a new agenda: revenge on those who have wronged him. Because they were so changed by their experiences away from their childhood home, both Catherine and Heathcliff end up marrying for money and power. These loveless marriages end badly for the women involved as both Catherine and Isabelle die young.
A wild childhood, period of absence, and power hungry marriage. Double personalities and cruel dispositions. After further reflection these characters have too many similarities to count. At first, this made me believe they are indeed meant to be together, but when I took the time to actually sit down and contemplate what their relationship would have looked like, it was obvious to me that they would have made each other miserable. They simply shared a childish infatuation, which, if Catherine were made of stronger stuff, could have faded with time. But, as is the way with Victorian novels, the main love interest wasted away and died young.

Happily Ever After, Or Maybe Not?

Happily Ever After or Maybe Not?

 

Is Heathcliff’s ending happy or sad?

 

At face value the ending of Wuthering Heights seems to be happy. Catherine and Heathcliff are reunited in death and Cathy and Hareton are going to be united in marriage. However, that does not mean that all is at seems, especially for Heathcliff.. The first instance we get of this is when Nelly is speaking to Heathcliff before his death. Nelly tells Heathcliff that, “’You are aware, Mr. Heathcliff,’ I said, ‘that from the time you were thirteen years old you have lived a selfish, unchristian life; and probably hardly had a Bible in your hands during all that period. …Could it be hurtful to send for some one–some minister of any denomination, it does not matter which–to explain it, and show you how very far you have erred from its precepts; and how unfit you will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place before you die?” Heathcliff responds a while later with “No minister need come; nor need anything be said over me.–I tell you I have nearly attained  my  heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me.”

In this particular conversation Nelly is forwardly telling Heathcliff that for most of his life he has been an ungrateful heathen whose every actions have been for the wrong reason. She goes on to tell him because of that he is going to Hell. Despite this Heathcliff doesn’t seem to mind because he has already attained his heaven. So what does this mean? This questions opens a lot of potential possibilities none of which are fully addressed in the novel. So does Heathcliff end up in heaven or hell? Is it his own personal heaven where he is reunited with his long lost lover? To answer that one would have to questions if Heathcliff was in a right state of mind at all. He spent most of his life seeking vengeance against all who wronged him and punishing those with no part in it. To make a 360 at the end of ones life and claim that he has, “lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing,” seems miraculous. If Heathcliff says he has achieved his own personal heaven perhaps we, as the reader, should believe him; but at the same time, at the end of his life he has lost his purpose and will to live. Can achieving a goal of destruction really be celebrated or should pity be taken upon a character who lost so much?

Life After Death

What does grief do for the human journey? Nelly Dean, the longtime servant of Wuthering Heights, gives this statement in Chapter 17:

“I used to draw a comparison between [Edgar Linton] and Hindley [Earnshaw]…and perplex myself to explain why their conduct was so opposite in similar circumstances.”

The difference in conduct despite the similarities in circumstances is a key factor in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. In the story, the deaths of major characters is juxtaposed with the resulting responses from their friends and families. The fallout from death becomes the driving force for most of the pain, the anger, and the anguish for these characters. Certain characters use their grief as a way to degrade their life and the lives of others without remorse. Others use their grief as a way to restore what was already starting to take shape. In all cases, grief is the catalyst for the characters’ change in personalities or situations.

Chapter 17 of Wuthering Heights is where I think the idea of change in grief comes to fruition. In the ensuing chapter, Hindley Earnshaw (the patriarch of the family) dies from alcohol abuse – the product of years spent drowning his sorrows in the bottle after the death of his wife. He was virtually mad with anger and drunken rage, troubling those around him. To the readers looking in, we find sympathy with Hindley – a man who is broken and is trying his best to live after a death but cannot find the power to do so. Without his wife, Hindley doesn’t find much to live for. In a way, Hindley was dead before he even passed on. Edgar Linton (the husband of the elder Catherine Linton), on the other hand, finds solace in the Lord and in his beliefs. Instead of shunning his family away like Hindley, Edgar pulls them in closer in the form of his newborn daughter, Cathy. In the last part of the chapter, their servant, Nelly Dean states this:

“Linton, on the contrary, trusted God; and God comforted him. One hoped, and the other despaired: they chose their own lots, and were righteously doomed to endure them.”

Righteously doomed to endure them is an interesting phrase. “Doomed” carries a negative connotation: we think of doomed as a horrible thing. But “righteously” is different: to be righteous means to be so devoted to one’s cause that it becomes a moral grounding rod. If we carry that to Edgar and Hindley, we know that both men were hopelessly doomed to endure the pain of living without their respective wives. As Nelly says: Hindley decided to despair and wallow in that desperation with no hope of getting out, and Edgar decided to devote his life to God and to his child.

The dichotomy in their actions, whether good or bad, seems to be what Bronte wants us to discover. Based on her language, and her equalization of the two men through Nelly’s telling, I don’t think she is saying one response is worse than the other. Rather, she’s giving us a glimpse of the two very human reactions to death and grief – one response that seeks to shut itself out from the world and the other to open oneself up to the world. The idea that trauma will happen and that we are “righteously doomed” to endure it leaves the choice up to us of how we could act. This puts Wuthering Heights in a very real context and helps us see that the characters we read about are far more complex than their surface values.

 

What is the novel saying about wild love?

Most of the reviewers of Wuthering Heights all seem to be unsure exactly what to think of the novel, but they seem to be mostly united in one front: it is dark, savage, and the love between Catherine and Heathcliff is impossible to understand. One reviewer states very reasonably that “what may be the moral which the author wishes the reader to deduce from his work, it is difficult to say; and we refrain from assigning any, because…we have discovered none…” and it is true; it is hard, even after pouring over the book, to understand exactly what we should think about Catherine and Heathcliff’s crazy love (347).

 

When I considered this, I settled on the idea of the individual vs. society. There are two possible ways—that I thought of at least—to look at Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship. The first is that their love, and this kind of love in general, is too wild and dark to exist in the living world, and Catherine and Heathcliff themselves are too destructive as characters to not destroy each other and everything around them. The second is that Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship is not inherently destructive, but is just passionate and different enough to be stamped out by the dull and rule-driven society.

 

There is a lot of evidence to support the first idea, and it would certainly line up with many of the reviewers’ ideas. They are critical of the wildness of the novel, and Heathcliff especially gets torn apart by critics. One describes him as “an incarnation of evil qualities; implacable hate, ingratitude, cruelty, falsehood, selfishness, revenge” (348). Clearly, they believe that Heathcliff’s character is definitely and completely at fault.

 

There is a lot to support this in the novel itself as well. There are almost zero acts of kindness exhibited by Heathcliff, and he has very few redeeming moments. When he forces Cathy—sweet Cathy, whom we are sympathetic with—to marry Linton so that he can own all of Edgar’s property after he dies, it is hard to find anything human or sympathetic in him at all. And one of Catherine’s only redeeming qualities is that she is spirited; although she can be kind, often she is cruel and manipulative. We could say, therefore, that Catherine and Heathcliff’s crazy love was always inherently doomed.

 

However, if this is the case, then the end if perplexing. Why does Emily Bronte allow Heathcliff and Catherine to be together, even if it is only in death? Although it is not necessarily explicitly stated, an old man tells Mr. Lockwood that “he has seen two on ‘em looking out on his chamber window, every night, ever since his death” (311). It is clear from this that Heathcliff and Catherine are finally together.

 

The image of Heathcliff and Catherine finally being able to walk together as ghosts made me think that maybe they were actually “soulmates” and meant to be together, but society, and it’s expectations for Catherine and rejection of Heathcliff, was the thing that destroyed them and made them destroy each other, and that’s why they could only be together in death. Although this may be a sentimental reading of it, perhaps their love was too bright for a dull world, and that’s why Emily Bronte could only reconcile them after they had left it.

Is the younger generation just like the older generation?

The parallels between the love stories (speaking in loose terms) are quite obvious: Heathcliff is the underdog, disliked and mistreated by his family, Catherine the adventurous tom-boy; Linton is unwanted and abused, Cathy is rebellious and kind-hearted. Both Cathy and Catherine chose their husbands in the absence of true love, though they are both passionate about someone else (though Cathy and Hareton’s love is less dramatic).

However, it’s important to note two things about Catherine and Heathcliff. As Catherine moves and settles into Thrushcross Grange, she doesn’t fit the mold of a housewife. Though she transformed in her extended stay at the Linton’s before her marriage, she isn’t civil in her wishy-washy affections between her husband and Heathcliff. Heathcliff himself maintains grudges for the entirety of his life, refusing to let go of past occurrences and living only to get revenge where he thinks it is due. He even takes his obsessions past the grave, insisting that he be buried with Catherine in the future. In these aspects, the two refuse change and suffer for it.

On the other hand, the new generation shows a lot of growth. At one point, Hareton learns how to read and even overcomes his ill-treatment of Cathy. Cathy’s attitude towards Hareton also morphs from disdain to love. Though the two do not grow up with each other as the earlier generation did, they seem less set in their ways and able to adapt to a change of environment, emotions, and the like. Cathy also evolves in her relationship with Linton; from its early stages to its care-taking stages, her feelings for him fluctuate. Ultimately, Cathy’s feelings are rooted in showing Heathcliff that he was wrong. I would even argue that the ending has a somewhat optimistic tone because of the younger generation’s ability to adapt and learn from themselves and the environment around them, which was created by those before them.

Lockwood – Fan boy, wannabe hero, or what?

Wuthering Heights is the story of the Earnshaw/Linton/Heathcliff families, occasioned by the prying of Mr. Lockwood to the world’s most loose-lipped worker, Nelly Dean. Intrigued by the beauty of Catherine, the promise of a good story, and a general need to be in the know, Lockwood compels Nelly to reveal the long story of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. After the end of Nelly’s narration of the events leading up to Lockwood’s stay in Thrushcross Grange, we are treated to his bumbling encounters with the very people of which he has been hearing.

Mr. Lockwood’s interactions with Catherine, Hareton, and Mr. Heathcliff upon the close of Nelly’s story are best described as how the audience would react to these characters. Mr. Lockwood believes himself an intimate friend to the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, even though Lockwood’s intimacy is one-sided and completely unrecognized by the other party. When interacting with Catherine Heathcliff, Lockwood questions Nelly’s story when the lady is not as grateful to his manners as he believed she ought to be. “‘She does not seem so amiable,’ I thought, ‘as Mrs. Dean would persuade me to believe. She’s a beauty, it is true; but not an angel'” (280). Lockwood has become so entranced by the Catherine that Nelly, Catherine’s closest friend, has painted in her relating of the terrible events that lead up to this point. It is easy to see Mr. Lockwood as Catherine Heathcliff’s biggest fan after he has heard her sad history and the culmination of tragedy that has built up to the current situation. Lockwood admires the portrait of Catherine and finds himself drawn to the “protagonist” of Nelly’s narration. What is truly interesting about his character is that he is not content to simply

What is truly interesting about his character is that he is not content to simply admire Catherine or to be satisfied by simply knowing her story; Mr. Lockwood has a sort of hero complex when it comes to this blonde beauty. Mr. Lockwood believes himself to be Catherine’s best chance of salvation from her current situation and when her actual person does not live up to the standards he had created in his mind he remarks that: “‘What a realization of something more romantic than a fairy tale it would have been for Mrs. Linton Heathcliff had she and I struck up an attachment, as her good nurse desired” (284). Evident in Mr. Lockwood’s referring to Catherine as the sum of her failed marriage by using her married name, our narrator sees himself as the hero that her story needs. In his own eyes, he, Mr. Lockwood, would be so benevolent to deign to consider marrying Catherine and she should be so saddened by the loss of the opportunity.Luckily, this excessive pride and presumption are defeated when he sees the happiness of Catherine and Hareton in their loving bliss.

Lockwood’s attempt to insert himself into the Wuthering Heights family tree (of incest) makes one think about how he viewed himself and how much (or rather how little) respect he had for the people within it.

Are we the Proper Audience to Judge Heathcliff?

Are we supposed to like Heathcliff? Throughout Wuthering Heights Heathcliff is portrayed as an underdog, or is he? To us cultured Americans yes we feel connected to every underdog out there, even though on the global stage we are far from the underdog. When we read a good underdog success story our hearts are filled with joy. So naturally through our customs we sympathize with Heathcliff. From an English point-of-view Heathcliff most likely is seen as a despicable character. England was built on such classism and old important families. There are certain customs to be held in such a society and yes while Heathcliff appears to follow societal norms such as trying to be a hospitable host, underneath the surface lies an unmannered tyrant. Are we as Americans viewing Heathcliff through rose-colored glasses?

Arguably the worst thing Heathcliff has done in the entire story is played out is what seems to be an act of hospitality. Upon finding Linton and Cathy on the hill Heathcliff seems to be trying to keep Linton happy and convinces Mrs. Dean and Cathy to follow him to Wuthering Heights. Once there he pulls all sorts of tricks to convince them inside, but once inside he reveals his true self. He basically kidnaps and them and will not let Cathy return to her dying father. Why did he do this? Well Heathcliff would say it is for his son so that he may be happy before he dies, yet later we find out it is so Heathcliff can obtain the Grange once his son and Cathy’s father have died. The American can maybe, and boy do i mean maybe, romanticize some of this behavior and see Heathcliff taking revenge on those who long ago at this point treated him poorly. To an Englishman who better understands such ideas of hospitality and the complex social standings of the English family unit this behavior is unforgivable. Heathcliff’s behavior goes far of course of what is acceptable tea behavior, as the host normally does not whack his guests upside their heads if they request to leave.

Towards the end of the novel Heathcliff does begin to change. He does not get easily angered and does not abuse those around him as much as he used to. Here we get little windows into his thoughts as he explains to Mrs. Dean what has been going on. Once again I think we see this and inwardly say “oh look he is human. He is still mourning Catherine, how cute!” His obsession with Catherine is rather disgusting and I feel as if it is borderline necrophilia. Even when we see him in this fragile nature, underneath he still is harboring these dark thoughts and intentions.

Is Heathcliff a Murderer?

Although Heathcliff has not directly killed a person at this point in the book, many characters, such as Nelly and Edgar, associate Heathcliff as a murderer.  Is Heathcliff actually a murderer? Well, let’s take a look…

Heathcliff murders Isabella’s dog as they run off together.  That’s pretty dark, but he didn’t actually kill any character at this point (so I guess it’s safe to say he isn’t a murderer…just a puppy killer). Heathcliff is then blamed for Catherine’s death.  Was it really his fault? I’m not entirely sure, but I know his manipulation probably did not help out her situation.  So, Heathcliff can get off for this death with fairly clean hands.

Isabella runs away from her abusive husband, Heathcliff, but she later dies.  Although under law Heathcliff would be found innocent, he was the main cause of her illness and death.  It is clear to pretty much everyone in the novel that Heathcliff is to blame fully for his wife’s death.

Later, Hindley dies, but Nelly states that it was the over consumption of alcohol that killed Hindley.  Heathcliff, again, is not entirely to blame for this death, but his constant abuse and need for revenge may have had something to do with Hindley’s early death.

In the last portion of the novel, Heathcliff gets custody of his son, Linton.  I was hoping that having his actual son would help Heathcliff become more loving, but I was wrong.  Heathcliff emotionally abuses Linton (and possibly physically abuses) and Linton becomes very frail and ill.  “No doctor visited the Heights” when Linton was on the brink of death (248).  Heathcliff does not care if his son dies.  Heathcliff only cares about Linton marrying Catherine before Edgar dies so then Linton will become the heir to Thrushcross Grange and then Linton will die so that he (Heathcliff) can become the heir to Thrushcross Grange.

So, although Heathcliff has not physically killed anyone yet, he successfully killed Isabella and he will soon kill his own son, Linton by neglecting his illness.

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.