Bronte's Wuthering Heights: Apollonian and Daemonic Influences

Topics: Wuthering Heights, Love, Catherine Earnshaw Pages: 7 (2611 words) Published: June 1, 2006
Most literature tells a story combining the elements of love, hate, and revenge. Everyone can relate to these universal emotions. The way in which characters deal with these emotions varies greatly. Some characters let their head rule their heart, others let their hearts overrule every objection of their head. Scholars classify these two groups as Apollonian and daemonic. Daemonic figures act on their impulses without thinking about the consequences. Controlled by their emotions, Daemonic characters live in disorder and chaos, since emotions have no stability. As Paglia points out that, "Love and hate are both equally daemonic because they are orderless, uncontrollable, and irrational" (1990:1). They cannot control their emotions and act on them causing extreme joy and extreme suffering. "The Apollonian is society's attempt to control these irrational forces, humanity's invention to control nature's chaos" (Paglia, 1990:1). Members of this group rationalize the world by classifying things, using manners, and analyzing behaviors. Clarity, restraint, and harmony characterize the Apollonian. In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights the circular plot shows the difficulties and the extremes of Apollonian and daemonic personalities interacting can cause and the changes that need to occur to resolve the conflict. Heathcliff and Edgar inhabit opposing ends of the spectrum and Catherine gets caught in the balance. Heathcliff and Catherine fall in love, but she marries Edgar for social reasons. The differences between Catherine's dual personalities and the men each correspond to, eventually causes her death. The second generation: Hareton, Cathy, and Linton, resolves the first generation's conflicts by creating a balance between the extremes. Bronte uses Edgar to represent the Apollonian in contrast with the daemonic, represented by Heathcliff, to show the destructive nature of the extremes on Catherine, and the need for balance found in Cathy and Hareton.

Edgar Linton personifies the Apollonian figure. He had a sheltered upbringing and in his young life appears to have nothing but possession of the family dog to worry about, as Heathcliff observes: "‘That was their pleasure! to quarrel who should hold a warm heap of hair'" (Bronte, 47). He had fine clothes, a picturesque home, and any indulgence money could buy. His family taught him to value class divisions, evident in their treatment of Catherine and Heathcliff. The Linton family found the two Earnshaw children sneaking around their property and after setting the bulldog on them by Heathcliff's account: "Robert was ordered to take me off…he dragged me into the garden, pushed the lantern into my hand, assured me that Mr. Earnshaw should be informed of my behavior, and, bidding me march directly, secured the door again. Then a woman servant brought a basin of warm water, and washed her feet; and Mr. Linton mixed a tumbler of negus, and Isabella empties a plateful of cakes into her lap" (49).

The fact that Catherine appeared as a lady, and Heathcliff looked as far from a gentleman, played a large role in the different treatments they received, even though they participated in the same act. They treat Heathcliff like a thief, but treat Catherine like a princess. After becoming acquainted with Catherine, Edgar proposes marriage, and Catherine agrees. Heathcliff leaves when he learns that Catherine, his true love, decides to marry Edgar. When he leaves, the Linton household with the addition of Catherine remains a harmonious place, until Heathcliff returns a few years later. Catherine describes the atmosphere saying, "‘I begin to be secure and tranquil; and you restless to know us at peace, appear resolved on exciting a quarrel'" (109). As its on entity, the Linton family grows happier as time wears on. When times become less serene, no news, however upsetting, can induce Edgar to sink to Heathcliff's level of hatred and deceit. Even after his sister's marriage to Heathcliff, the only...
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