ROMANTIC LOVE IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Romantic love takes many forms in Wuthering Heights: the grand passion of Heathcliff and Catherine, the insipid sentimental languishing of Lockwood, the coupleism of Hindley and Frances, the tame indulgence of Edgar, the romantic infatuation of Isabella, the puppy love of Cathy and Linton, and the flirtatious sexual attraction of Cathy and Hareton. These lovers, with the possible exception of Hareton and Cathy, are ultimately self-centered and ignore the needs, feelings, and claims of others; what matters is the lovers' own feelings and needs.
Nevertheless, it is the passion of Heathcliff and Catherine that most readers respond to and remember and that has made this novel one of the great love stories not merely of English literature but of European literature as well. Simone de Beauvoir cites Catherine's cry, "I am Heathcliff," in her discussion of romantic love, and movie adaptations of the novel include a Mexican and a French version. In addition, their love has passed into popular culture; Kate Bush and Pat Benetar both recorded "Wuthering Heights," a song which Bush wrote, and MTV showcased the lovers in a musical version.
The love-relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine, but not that of the other lovers, has become an archetype; it expresses the passionate longing to be whole, to give oneself unreservedly to another and gain a whole self or sense of identity back, to be all-in-all for each other, so that nothing else in the world matters, and to be loved in this way forever. This type of passion-love can be summed up in the phrase more--and still more , for it is insatiable, unfulfillable, and unrelenting in its demands upon both lovers.
HEATHCLIFF AND CATHERINE: TRUE LOVERS?
Despite the generally accepted view that Heathcliff and Catherine are deeply in love with each other, the question of whether they really "love" each other has to be addressed. This question raises another; what kind of love--or feeling--is Emily Brontë depicting? Her sister Charlotte, for example, called Heathcliff's feelings "perverted passion and passionate perversity."
I list below a number of interpretations of their love/ostensible love.
Soulmates. Their love exists on a higher or spiritual plane; they are soul mates, two people who have an affinity for each other which draws them togehter irresistibly. Heathcliff repeatedly calls Catherine his soul. Such a love is not necessarily fortunate or happy. For C. Day Lewis, Heathcliff and Catherine "represent the essential isolation of the soul, the agony of two souls–or rather, shall we say? two halves of a single soul–forever sundered and struggling to unite."
A life-force relationship. Clifford Collins calls their love a life-force relationship, a principle that is not conditioned by anything but itself. It is a principle because the relationship is of an ideal nature; it does not exist in life, though as in many statements of an ideal this principle has implications of a profound living significance. Catherine's conventional feelings for Edgar Linton and his superficial appeal contrast with her profound love for Heathcliff, which is "an acceptance of identity below the level of consciousness." Their relationship expresses "the impersonal essence of personal existence," an essence which Collins calls the life-force. This fact explains why Catherine and Heathcliff several times describe their love in impersonal terms. Because such feelings cannot be fulfilled in an actual relationship, Brontë provides the relationship of Hareton and Cathy to integrate the principle into everyday life. Creating meaning. Are Catherine and Heathcliff rejecting the emptiness of the universe, social institutions, and their relationships with others by finding meaning in their relationship with each other, by a desperate assertion of identity based on the other? Catherine explains to Nelly: ...surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or...
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