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Wuthering Heights Absolute Love

Wuthering Heights is a novel typical of the Romantic period, which implies characters’ strong emotions such as horror and awe and a strong connection to Nature, passion that is isolated from the constraints of society in the novel. Romanticism plays a large role in Heathcliff and Cathy’s love for themselves, each other, and the moors. Their love is so absolute and non-conformist that it exceeds the convention of society that most adhere to. Cathy and Heathcliff’s absolute love exceeds Edgar and Cathy’s traditional marriage; the class divisions that affect both of them, and even the inevitable fate fought by every person since the beginning of time: death. Through their whole lives, they loved each other, and their love became immortal, compared to the inconsequential affection shared by Cathy and Edgar that lasted only a few years before she died. Edgar loved Cathy, but more deeply than she could ever love him. Though Cathy chooses to marry Edgar instead of Heathcliff for his class and money, her absolute love for Heathcliff is enduring, remaining even in death. Wuthering Heights defines absolute love through the intense passion shared by Heathcliff and Cathy, in comparison to the trivial, mundane, and finite relationship that Cathy and Edgar share.

Cathy grew from wild-haired incivility to her newly-found “lady-like” qualities which were put to use in Edgar’s courting of her. She developed a “double character without exactly intending to deceive anyone” (67) by making fun of Edgar with Heathcliff in Edgar’s absence and pointing out Heathcliff’s flaws and insufficiencies in conversation with Edgar. When Edgar proposed, Cathy expressed her true feelings towards both of them to Nelly, claiming the only problem with her impending marriage was that “‘in [her]...heart, [she’s]...convinced [she]...is wrong’” (80) to marry Edgar. She tells Nelly about a dream she had, where she was in Heaven and incredibly unhappy:

Heaven didn’t seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to
come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out, into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That will do to explain my secret...I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there [Hindley] had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. 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 souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightening, or frost from fire. 81

The Romanticism of the novel shows through Cathy’s discomfort in Heaven and happiness in Wuthering Heights, with Heathcliff. Cathy admits to Nelly that she knows she does not belong with Linton, just as she does not belong in Heaven, yet she was willing to marry him for his class and money.

She justifies the seemingly selfish choice with an unselfish reason: “‘if I marry Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother’s power” (82). She wants to use Edgar to help Heathcliff, which shows not only her thirst for class-climbing, but also her readiness to truly self-sacrifice for love. She uses yet another natural and Romantic metaphor for her two loves, explaining, “‘My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as the winter changes the trees-my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight, but necessary’” (82). She loves Linton, but not in the immortal way she loves Heathcliff - she cannot live without him.

Heathcliff, degraded by Hindley and scorned by Cathy in her love speech which he overheard, left her for three years. Nelly observed the weather on the night of his desertion with surprise: “It was a very dark evening for summer: the clouds appeared inclined to thunder” (84). Cathy wandered up and down, worried for Heathcliff, and “there was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building” (85). Cathy was as violently panicked as the weather: “She wandered to and fro, from the gate to the door, in a sate of agitation white permitted no repose...she remained, calling at intervals, and then listening, and then crying outright” (85). Her extreme hysteria demonstrates the concurrence of emotion and nature intertwined throughout the novel.

Cathy and Edgar’s marriage was pleasant for the first years after Heathcliff has left Wuthering Heights. Nelly was surprised at Cathy’s behavior towards Edgar and remarks, “She seemed almost over fond of Mr. Linton and even to his sister, she showed plenty of affection. They were both very attentive to her comfort, certainly” (92). Edgar and Isabella, his sister, tiptoed around her, fearing her ferocious temper: “it was not the thorn [Cathy] bending to the honeysuckles [the Lintons], but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn” (92). Nelly’s metaphor related to Nature shows her perception of Cathy and the Lintons’ true nature, but also their complicated relationship. Cathy would never “bend” to Edgar because of her spoiled and hot-tempered nature. He loved Cathy, but he was so terrified of her that he showed no passion, only obedience.

Heathcliff had returned to the moors of Yorkshire a few months before Cathy’s death as a gentleman. As a child, Heathcliff was forced to work in the fields, degraded by Hindley. Heathcliff’s humiliatingly low class caused Catherine to choose Edgar over him, and to redeem himself in her eyes, he transcended the classes to become a gentleman and aquired money, dress, and manners. A few months after he returned, he got in a fight with Edgar, who punched him in the throat. After Heathcliff left Thrushcross Grange and Edgar shut himself in the library, reading, Cathy locked herself away in her room, crying in suffering and self-pity. Nearing the end of Cathy’s life, she drove herself insane, because she knew it was the only way for her to get the proper revenge on Heathcliff and Edgar. Deep in her insanity, she enquired, “‘Don’t you see that face?’ she gaz[ed]... earnestly at the mirror...I [Nelly] was incapable of making her comprehend it to be her own” (123). She finally gasped in horror: “‘Myself...and the clock is striking twelve! It’s true then; that’s dreadful!’” (123). She did not recognize herself because she knew that her ego, which had been repressed during her marraige to Edgar, loved Heathcliff. She could not understand the new woman in the mirror: Mrs. Linton. Mrs. Linton was not Cathy because Cathy loved Heathcliff, and would never have married Edgar, like Mrs. Linton did. Cathy is Heathcliff, not Mrs. Linton, so she couldn’t recognize herself.

Heathcliff, sensing her impending death and, with Cathy’s permission, walked into her room, “in a stride or two he was at her side, and had her grasped in his arms” (159). After each claiming the other had made them suffer, Cathy wept passionately: “I only wish us never to be parted” (161). Heathcliff’s face was “livid with emotion” (161), so deep was his anguish at the thought of loosing Cathy. He was animalistic in his passion, something otherworldly: “he gnashed at me [Nelly], and foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her [Cathy] to him with greedy jealousy” (162). Heathcliff blames her for her own suffering, declaring, “I have not broken your heart - you have broken it - and in breaking it, you have broken mine” (163). They are so much the same being and have such an absolute love that they have the same heart, which was destroyed the day Catherine died. Heathcliff was so devastated that “he dashed his head against the knotted trunk” (169) in a spectacular show of masochism and extreme agony and cried “‘Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you - haunt me, then!’” (169), desperately hoping that their love with remain immortal.

Cathy always remained in Heathcliff’s mind (she never did leave him), and Heathcliff claimed that he “‘cannot look down to this floor, but her [Cathy’s] features are shaped on the flags! 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!’” (323-324). Their love survived the constraints of a marriage and the laws of the church and of their social classes, which Heathcliff transcended for her approval. Even in Cathy’s death, Heathcliff could not escape her, but he was terrified that he would lose her. He developed a desperate death wish. He knew the only way he would be happy is with Cathy. Nelly described the weather on the night of Heathcliff’s welcome death: “The following evening was very wet, indeed it poured down, till day-dawn” (334). Nature wept one last time at Heathcliff’s death, but grew peaceful when it finally arrived, as he wished. Nelly found Heathcliff the next morning, dead and staring with “that frightful, life-like gaze of exultation” (335) in his joy at seeing Cathy once again.

Wuthering Heights’ definition of absolute love is a love enduring through anything. Edgar and Cathy’s love is pleasant at best, and though Edgar loved Cathy, there was no intense passion, and their marraige only lasted a few years. In comparison, Cathy and Heathcliff’s love, as expressed through the weather and tumult of Wuthering Heights, endures through social, religious and mortal restraints. Whenever it is in jeopardy or one of the lovers expresses extreme emotions, Wuthering Heights is the means of showing their inner turmoil or joy. Through their whole lives, their love endures and even lives on after both are dead, just as Wuthering Heights will: forever.




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