Wuthering Heights: How Childhood Affects Relationships

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Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights:
How Childhood Affects Relationships

AP Literature

December 8, 2012
One of the most cherished memories I have from my childhood is the day I told my best friend Jeremy I was moving. He lived next door to me and we were only three at the time. When I told him I was moving within a month, he wrapped his scrawny little arms around my neck and gave me my very first kiss. I was sure we were in love and were going to get married. Everyone remembers a childhood love they had, whether it was mutual or unrequited. Unfortunately for some, this childlike view of the world carries with them into adulthood and prevents them from having meaningful relationships with others. In Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff and Catherine’s love was doomed from the start because their upbringing led to an inability to truly care for one another. Through Nelly’s voice the audience learns that Catherine has never grown out of her childish ways, and Heathcliff’s upbringing brought him to be the Byronic hero he is throughout the novel.

Catherine Earnshaw exemplifies a young woman of passion. She was not the typical young girl of her time. She liked to be out playing in the moors; she found embroidering and sewing and other interests typical of girls her age to be quite tedious. She was also very intelligent and loved to learn. She grew up with an almost perfect childhood, until her father died. This marked an important turning point in the story. Before Mr. Earnshaw died, he went to London and picked up a wayward soul to take in as his own. This wayward young man was named Heathcliff and turned the Earnshaws’ life upside down. Mr. Earnshaw took Heathcliff in and made sure he had a good home. He treated him very well while showing him the many good things of life. Had he remained alive throughout the novel, “Heathcliff’s sense of self-worth would have been more ingrained in him and he would have never degenerated into a ‘little savage’. He would have realized he deserved just as much consideration as the rest of the family. Also, if Heathcliff hadn’t been treated like a servant, Catherine would never have rebelled with him (Tallman).” This is an interesting concept. It’s true that Mr. Earnshaw kept the peace in the house. However, he also created a lot of contention within the four walls of his own home. “He took to Heathcliff strangely, believing all he said (for that matter, he said precious little, and generally the truth), and petting him up far above Cathy, who was too mischievous and wayward for a favourite (Bronte 4.39).” Not only did Mr. Earnshaw put Heathcliff above his son, but also his own daughter. However, the two children reacted very differently to this, which states a lot about both of their characters. While Hindley continued to hate Heathcliff more vehemently with each passing day, Catherine took the opposite approach and bonded with him. “Miss Cathy and he [Heathcliff] were now very thick; but Hindley hated him: and to say the truth I [Nelly] did the same; and we plagued and went on with him shamefully: for I wasn’t reasonable enough to feel my injustice, and the mistress never put in a word on his behalf when she saw him wronged (Bronte 4.38).” Throughout this passage everyone seemed to hate Heathcliff except for Catherine and Mr. Earnshaw. This is the one scene where having a childish demeanor actually worked in Catherine’s favor. Though she may have been quite immature, she was able to wipe away all preconceived notions and accept him as he was. It may seem that she shows bad judgment in trusting him, except that Nelly states, “I wasn’t reasonable enough to feel my injustice,” meaning Nelly herself couldn’t part the fog of judgment covering her eyes, wishing instead she were more like Catherine. She was biased in her feelings towards Heathcliff because of how the others took to him. This was one of the few times Catherine’s judgment surpassed Nelly’s. As she grew...
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