English Honors 11
27 March 2010
When True Love Transforms Into Obsession and Lust
“He'll love and hate, equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved and hated again...” (Brontë, 2). This quote describes the actions taken by Heathcliff throughout the novel, while he undergoes a transformation from a true and romantic lover to a cruel and uncaring hater. Although he may appear to be selfless and simply a man deeply in love, his actions involving jealousy, hatred, abuse, and vengeance cause him to breakdown and alter his love for Catherine into a burning and passionate vengeance against all who have got in the way of his love for her. In Emily Brontë's novel, Wuthering Heights, she uses her character Heathcliff to show what occurs when true love is transformed and warped into nothing but obsession and pure lust.
As the novel begins, the reader is confronted with a simple story of a man falling in love with a woman and sees no sign of a transformation at this point. When Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights, adopts young Heathcliff into his family, Heathcliff is rejected by Mr. Earnshaw's biological children, Hindley and Catherine. However, Catherine quickly learns to love Heathcliff while Hindley continues to despise him. As the years go on Heathcliff and Catherine spend almost every second together and take every chance to be alone with one another. During their alone time, their intentions may not be sexual; however, in H.P. Sucksmith's article “The Theme of Wuthering Heights Reconsidered” he says, “But, since Edgington 2
whatever else Wuthering Heights may be it is at least a love-story, it might seem pertinent, one would think, to first inquire what was the Victorian attitude to sex, love, and marriage.” He continues later on by saying, “...throughout much of the nineteenth century a very heavy repression fell on certain specific forms of sexuality among the middle and upper class.” Now although acts of sexuality were discouraged during the Victorian era, it is unfair to say that people never felt these urges or feelings. In Wuthering Heights both Heathcliff and Catherine are young teenagers who in today's society are most certainly not ashamed of their sexual feelings and love for one another. Never mind what both characters were doing while they were alone; for these moments of togetherness come to an abrupt halt when Catherine stays at Thruschcross Grange with the Linton family. During her stay, Catherine takes a deep liking to Edgar Linton and strikes up a secretive relationship with him. And it is here where the transformation of Heathcliff's love begins.
Afters years have passed, Catherine marries Edgar while Heathcliff is left alone and heartbroken; thus begins the twisting and altering of him into an obsessed and vengeful lover. When Catherine arrives back at Wuthering Heights she is confronted by Heathcliff about Edgar visiting her so much. Catherine replies by calling Heathcliff ignorant and dull, which causes him to leave drowning in rage. While Heathcliff is gone, both Catherine and Edgar confess their love for another and agree to marry. Yet, Catherine admits to the reader that her only true love is Heathcliff. In the novel Catherine says, “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome... but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Edgington 3
[Edgar] Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire” (Brontë, 47-48). This quote shows that Catherine doesn't want to marry Heathcliff because it will inevitably ruin her reputation as an upper class citizen. While contemplating his lost love and lonely life, Heathcliff says, “In vapid listlessness I leant my head against the window, and continued spelling over Catherine...