Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wuthering Heights: Part 1

First off, I am in love with this book. I knew I would like it but I had no idea how much I would connect with it.
What stood out to me the most were the main themes of love and revenge. The fact that the two were separated by so thin a line did not surprise me either. Perhaps if I had not read the book while thinking about love and revenge I might not fully understand why the two are so similar...BUT...since I did, it now seems that the two are one in the same.
Not only are they one in the same, but it seems like they are a direct result of one another. Born out of eachother, if you will.
The first example of this would be in Heathcliff and Hindley Earnshaw. Though we don't understand his reasoning (yet?) Mr. Earnshaw sees something in young Heathcliff that he instantly falls in love with. So much so that he brings him home and treats him as his most loved son for the remainder of his years. Out of this love for Heathcliff from Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley begins to grow a deep hatred for Heathcliff that will last throughout the remainder of his years: "So, from the very beginning, he bred bad feeling in the house; and at Mrs. Earnshaw's death, which happened in less than two years after, the young master had learned to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend, and Heathcliff as a usurper of his parent's affections and his privileges; and he grew bitter with brooding over these injuries." In the beginning, one can feel sort of bad for Hindley. Being usurped as favorite son IS something that would leave a lasting resentment but as the novel goes on, we begin to see that Hindley's dislike for Heathcliff is much more intense than that. It is this treatment of Heathcliff that makes the reader feel for him (Heathcliff). Out of Hindley's hatred for Heathcliff springs a lifelong need for revenge. This hatred starts the cycle of revenge for the entire novel.
Heathcliff also has a need for revenge: "I'm trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last. I hope he will not die before I do!"
We also notice that in childhood, Heathcliff and Catherine work on their revenge together: "... they forgot everything the minute they were together again: at least the minute they had contrived some naughty plan of revenge." Perhaps this begins their twisted love affair. Because they were once allied revenge-seekers they cannot truly seek revenge on eachother later in life. This could be why Isabella bears the brunt of Heathcliff's revenge tactics...We know that Heathcliff is very intelligent; if he wanted to he COULD find a way to direct his cruelness at Cathy but he doesn't wish to cause her direct pain.
Even more blatantly obvious than this revenge relationship is that of Catherine and Heathcliff. It begins when Catherine marries Edgar and has not stopped by the end of our assigned reading. Obviously, Heathcliff and Catherine have an extremely intense love: "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..." "If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it" says Catherine.
Heathcliff plans and carries out his revenge on Catherine for the rest of the novel. Also, Cathy knows that Heathcliff is trying to exact his revenge on her for marrying another. This fact is forgiven, just as Catherine's betrayal to Heathcliff is, because their's is a love that cannot be denied or altered.
It is obvious that Heathcliff's form of revenge is cruel, especially to the poor, innocent Isabella. But at the same time, we can't help but to commiserate with him because this revenge is born out of the extreme, undeniable love between Heathcliff and Cathy. Even though his methods are hateful, I couldn't help but root for him a bit.

1 comment:

  1. Your post caused me to consider many things I had not had reason to think of before. In your last few paragraphs you mention how “Heathcliff plans and carries out his revenge on Catherine for the rest of the novel. Also, Cathy knows that Heathcliff is trying to exact his revenge on her for marrying another. This fact is forgiven, just as Catherine’s betrayal to Heathcliff is, because their’s is a love that cannot be denied or altered.” Nicely said! Admittedly their relationship is easily one of the most complicated I considered, fiction or otherwise. It seems as if Heathcliff and Catherine are two diametrically opposed forces, that like two positive charged magnets simply push each other away. But for the life of me I cannot figure out why. Is it for the plan and simple fact that, as Catherine says, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same”? It would appear that as they are so similar they are destined to not be able to coexist for long. Maybe that is why for every extended section of the book they share, there seems to be an argument at the end of each scene. Or maybe that is just how it appears to me!
    In your last paragraph you state “Even though his methods are hateful, I couldn’t help but root for him a bit.” I think that as you are reading this book, one of the things you continually hope to discover on the next page, is that Catherine and Heathcliff somehow find a way to coexist and that their unquestionable love somehow finds a way to mend each of their souls. This tragedy seems to be one of the more important foundations for Wuthering Heights.
    Great post! Your ideas really caused me to reevaluate some of my ideas about Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s relationship.