Wuthering Heights: Betrayal
Betrayal is a violation of trust or commitment that creates conflict within a relationship between individuals. Wuthering Heights, a realistic fiction novel written by Emily Bronte, displays many occurrences of betrayal between the characters. The plot in the novel is based off of a love relationship between an orphan, Heathcliff, and Mr. Earnshaw’s daughter, Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw brought Heathcliff to live at Wuthering Heights and he fell in love with his daughter Catherine. Heathcliff and Catherine grew inseparable and their love for each other never went away. However, their feelings of love for each other could not overcome the painful emotions inflicted in one another through betrayal. Other characters in the novel, such as Isabella Linton and Mr. Earnshaw, also partake in betrayal that creates action in the plot. The theme of betrayal in Wuthering Heights motivates the characters in the story to cause the action that keeps the plot going.
The storyline of Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship begins when Mr. Earnshaw leaves for his trip to Liverpool. Mrs. Earnshaw, Hindly, and Catherine are the other members of the Earnshaw family that resided at Wuthering Heights. Before leaving for Liverpool, Mr. Earnshaw asked his family what they wanted from Liverpool and none of them were expecting what they were about to receive. Mr. Earnshaw came home from Liverpool three days later with an orphan boy, which his family was not incredibly fond of. “… Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors: she did fly up, asking how he could fashion to bring that gipsy brat into the house, when they had their own bairns to feed and fend for? What he meant to do with it, and whether he were mad?” (Bronte 108). Mrs. Earnshaw was not the only one who felt betrayed by this action; Mr. Earnshaw’s son, Hindly, also felt betrayed. Mr. Earnshaw tended to favor Heathcliff over his own son and that made Hindly feel unimportant. More significantly, this act of betrayal started the relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff. If Mr. Earnshaw had not have betrayed his family’s wishes by bringing an orphan home, then Catherine and Heathcliff’s love story would have never began, leaving the novel without a purpose. Mr. Earnshaw betraying his family serves as the fire-starter to the plot, but Catherine’s betrayals add fuel to the fire.
Catherine Earnshaw was a woman who was puzzled by her many different ideals and feelings. Even though she had claimed to love Heathcliff with all her heart, she still went and married Edgar Linton. Edgar was raised as a spoiled rotten child but matured into the ideal gentleman for Catherine; she viewed Edgar as “handsome and pleasant to be with” and “young and cheerful” (Bronte 236). Catherine did not want to marry a man like Heathcliff even though she loved him because she felt that she needed someone like Edgar. The marriage of Catherine and Edgar serves as the most influential act of betrayal in the plot because it radically changes Heathcliff. After Heathcliff hears of Catherine and Edgar’s marriage plans he decides to exile himself for three years. Not only did he disappear for three years, everything Heathcliff did after his temporary departure from Wuthering Heights was caused by the emotional pain inflicted in him by the betrayal of Catherine. “I cannot look down to this floor, but her features are shaped in 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! The most ordinary faces of men and women – my own features – mock me with a resemblance. The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!” (Bronte 1000). Catherine not only betrayed Heathcliff by marrying Edgar, but she betrayed herself. “You teach me now how cruel you’ve been – cruel and false. Why did you betray your own heart Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself” (Bronte 497). Her betrayal of her true feelings for Heathcliff led to her demise. Her unwise choice was the reason she was unhappy with Edgar; being with him instead of Heathcliff was just enough to kill her. Another act of betrayal that helps drive the plot is when Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton. His only reason for marrying Isabella was to betray Catherine, just as she betrayed him. Heathcliff marrying Isabella goes against the Linton family wishes so Isabella also betrayed her own family in this action. Without Catherine betraying her true feelings there is no explanation for Heathcliff’s actions, which is crucial to the development of the plot.
Betrayal in Wuthering Heights serves as one of the main motivations for action in the plot. If Mr. Earnshaw had never betrayed his family’s wishes by bringing Heathcliff home, none of the plot action would have ever happened. The rest of the events in the plot happened directly because of Catherine’s marriage to Edgar. Heathcliff was incredibly enraged and Catherine realized her decision to marry Edgar was wrong and it would eventually kill her. The marriage of Heathcliff and Isabella betrayed both the Linton’s wishes and Catherine. Emily Bronte uses these examples of betrayal as a driving force for the plot. Without betrayal, the plot would ultimately lack meaning and purpose.