Wuthering Heights Wuthering Heights discussion


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What is the nature of Cathy's love for Heathcliff?

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Rita Lamb "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same..."

Cathy is trying to analyse the nature of her relationship with Heathcliff, for Nelly's benefit (and ours). But we know she's already chosen to marry Edgar Linton - partly, she says, because she admires his looks, partly for status, but mainly to make him a means to nobly rescue Heathcliff from Hindley...

Is this girl off her head? Does she have any idea what sexual love is at this point? Does she ever?


message 2: by Rita (last edited Aug 21, 2015 08:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb Cemre wrote: "Some critics say that Cathy is justified for not marrying Heathcliff because their love is a very pagan one that can't be realized in a Christian marriage. This reading ignores the fact that this does not really apply to Heathcliff. He seems to think that they should have married."

I agree that as an adolescent he's apparently imagining the two of them will marry. Certainly he can't bear to stay and hear more after Cathy says it would 'degrade' her to marry him.

But I don't understand why he doesn't react the most at the point when she tells Nelly she's already accepted Linton. Logically, wouldn't you think that that would be the moment where he would either feel forced to interrupt - to protest at her destruction of his hopes - or flee the scene in pain? After all, he must know that if she accepts someone else then she won't be marrying him! But he bears that. Perhaps to Heathcliff the worst moment comes when the one person he has always believed accepts him without reserve, suddenly turns judgmental. She judges him for his lack of money and status, in just the same way others do. She sees him through other eyes.


message 3: by Rita (last edited Aug 21, 2015 09:14PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb Mary wrote: "Heathcliff had an unhealthy obsession.. I don't think marriage would have been good for those two. Dysfuntional x 1000. 2 ego-centrics would just collapse."

You can't easily imagine their love evolving to cope with the arrival of kids:)


Rita Lamb It's an interesting idea that their relationship is fundamentally not Christian. Neither of them seems particularly Christian to me! I certainly don't see Heathcliff being much influenced by doctrines of mercy and the need to forgive. He would be my candidate for "man least likely to turn the other cheek".


Rita Lamb No I think it's the other way round - H worships Cathy, even after she's gone:

"There he has continued, praying like a Methodist: only the deity he implored is senseless dust and ashes; and God, when addressed, was curiously confounded with his own black father!"

It's impossible to imagine a marriage between H & C admitting a third person - agreed, their relationship isn't the traditional basis for marriage.


message 6: by Rita (last edited Aug 22, 2015 02:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb I never thought of Cathy as a haughty rich girl. She does love commanding people, yes, she likes to give orders.

The Earnshaws are an old family, almost definitely longer in the district than the apparently richer and more genteel Lintons.

Richer=the Lintons keep a carriage while Mr Earnshaw walks to Liverpool.
More genteel: too much evidence to cite! The Earnshaw family manners are more like those of respectable yeoman farmers. I mean, as a six-year-old Cathy greets Heathcliff by spitting at him, and gets a clout from her dad "to teach her cleaner manners". There is no great social gap between the Earnshaws and the farm servants whom they often eat and work alongside - except the Earnshaws are landowners, and probably have been since the middle ages or Tudor times. Their status is long-established. The Linton family fortunes may be more recent and based in (textile?) trade. I always picture them as having done what so many families did in the 18th c - make a fortune in trade, buy a country estate and raise their status to 'landed gentry'.


Rita Lamb I like the comparison of Cathy's feelings for H being like those of a twin sister. Normal heterosexual teenage lust seems surprisingy low in the mix - though she does let slip she thinks he's "handsome".


Rita Lamb No, I haven't read much literary theory or studied the book in an academic environment. But even an amateur can see this is a very complex book, not the hyper-chick-lit romantic fantasy people often think. It isn't single-faceted. Currents of thought about the religion and society of the day flow through it, it examines gender roles and the nature of sexual attraction...yes, it's a real pity she only had chance to write one work. Imagine if Austen had died after P&P.


Rita Lamb Waaay off-topic :)

Names - Linton, Hindley, Har(e)ton and Earnshaw are all Lancs/Yorkshire place names. Earnshaw means 'eagles wood'; Hindley means 'wood of the hinds (female deer)'; Harton actually means 'stone town' but Bronte spells it to suggest 'hare town'; Linton may mean 'flax town' or 'lime (tree) town'.

I don't think Bronte particularly interested herself in placename-derivation but she'd obviously noted the habit in older landed families of proudly giving boys first names taken from maternal-kindred surnames. I think she spins it slightly. She probably had her bleak, bare, craggy hero's name decided first, Heathcliff. Since it was supposed to be an Earnshaw name, she gave the other male Earnshaws names of two syllables, both beginning with H, both with 'natural subjects' as first elements - heath, hind, hare. All of them sound like, and (apart from Heathcliff) are, placenames; so all could plausibly be surnames of old and established local landed families to whom the slightly down-at-heel Earnshaws were once connected.


message 10: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb @Cemre
Yes, Catherine is a girl and girls were less likely to be christened with a kindred-name, though it apparently could happen. There's just been an 18th c. period drama on tv here about a Lady Seymour Worsley :)


message 11: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb @Mary
I'm guessing Bronte wanted a name for her hero that suggested some spiritual affinity with harsh, wild places.

Hauling myself back on-topic, to what extent do you think Bronte may have self-censored her writing? I believe Victorian authors were obliged by public feeling to suppress any honest treatment of the reality of sexual desire. I think Thackeray complained it was impossible in his day for an author to show men as they really were. He was a man writing about men in an age of double standards: it must have been even harder for a woman to write explicitly about female desire?


message 12: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb @Cemre I remember Jane Austen has an Isabella in 'Northanger Abbey' and she's a Gothic fiction addict - never realised her name is a nod to her taste in books.


message 13: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb A lot of the book is concerned with power struggles of one kind or another, challenges to different hierarchies. Old money v. new: outsider v. established family:refined civility v. brute strength: demon lover v. saintly husband: land-owner v. landless peasant. There's even the challenge to established religion represented by Joseph.


message 14: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb Cemre wrote: "As to the censorship, I don't think that it's the case. Isabella's feelings for Heathcliff are clearly sexual. There's a scene where Frances sits on Hindley's lap and they kiss. (H and C are disgus..."

Frances and Hindley are engaging in a bit of marital affection: Hareton and Cathy2's flirtations are, as you say, playful. None of this need shock a Victorian - they didn't deny sex happened, they were just extremely anxious about public reference to the intimate details, especially if the sex was any way illicit. But is it a climate in which you could depict runaway sexual passion between a tall, dark, handsome single man and a (pregnant) married woman?


message 15: by Mari (new) - rated it 1 star

Mari Love??? What love??? There is nothing like love in that book. There is just egoism! Cathy doesn't love anyone, she is just a psycho bitch who loves to torment anyone and to blame them for her insanity! But she's not the only one, every character in the book is like that. They only hate, not love.


Katie I don't know as I could truly relate any of their interactions and feelings as "love" in this book. Infatuation? yes. Obsession? Definitely. Edgar Linton's love for Cathy was probably the only true love in this book. I did love Cathy's explanation of Heathcliff and her's souls " but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same...". It is such a romantic and beautiful picture and word painting. But I don't know as they really LOVED each other as much as were kindred spirits obsessed with themselves and since they shared so much of each other were obsessed with one another as well. But that's just my opinion. Then again I find myself thinking that Cathy truly was his only love in life...however he had very odd ways to show it. I just altogether found the book and it's characters, while very intriguing and very well written, very confusing and dark. Heathcliff disturbed me greatly as well as Hindley to an extent. Nelly, well somewhat endearing of a person, honestly makes you wonder where her loyalty actually was. And who her actual tie was. She flip flopped between everyone and crossed between everyone. She was an open book yet everyone confided in her to have her turn them in! How differently would their stories have unraveled had she kept to her own and moved on once she was originally let go?!


message 17: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita Lamb Yes, but I always cut Nelly some slack when judging her as a character, because she also has to be a plot device. I mean, she not only HAS to let Heathcliff see Cathy one last time - or a vital scene won't take place - but HAS to stay and watch and later tell Lockwood - or we won't know about it.

Personally I think a real-life Edgar would have fired her on the spot, right there, bam. Pack your bags.


message 18: by Acer (new) - rated it 3 stars

Acer Pseudoplantatus In my opinion, she does not love him as a person but as a function; she loves that he's waddling around her and adoring her (same goes to her feelings for Edgar), but even leaving out her cruelty towards both, given how neglectful she is of Heathcliff at certain times, how little she seems to care about his feelings or try to empathise with him, I really don't think she cares for him that much.


message 19: by Acer (new) - rated it 3 stars

Acer Pseudoplantatus In my opinion, she does not love him as a person but as a function; she loves that he's waddling around her and adoring her (same goes to her feelings for Edgar), but even leaving out her cruelty towards both, given how neglectful she is of Heathcliff at certain times, how little she seems to care about his feelings or try to empathise with him, I really don't think she cares for him that much.


Mochaspresso I think that they are in love, but it's an immature and unhealthy dysfunctional type of love driven by obsession. It's along the lines of LOTR's Gollum obsessing over his "precious". Cathy and Heathcliff seem to view and treat each other as possessions to stake claims on and become embittered when they find that they cannot do so.


message 21: by Ms. Latham (last edited Sep 13, 2015 05:13AM) (new)

Ms. Latham As someone above mentioned,

Catherine is exceptionally manipulative. In thinking back on her character, I don't believe she loved Heathcliff at all. Not in the romantic, sexual, or even familial sense of the term. Catherine was starved for attention and wanted hefty feedings for her ego to go along with it; however she could get it, she certainly would get it. Poor, orphaned Heathcliff was easy prey. As is written, it was no time before she had him nipping and chasing after her heels like a little puppy. He played right into her hands. That, if anything in the least, is what Catherine 'loved' about Heathcliff.

Now, Heathcliff, on the other hand, I do believe loved Catherine, and a great deal more than in a brotherly sense. Heathcliff loved Catherine unhealthily so, in fact - enough to drive him mad (as sort of happens). I do suppose he probably didn't know any better, though. He was never shown what a healthy relationship should look like, and he definitely would not have learned from spending all that time with Catherine.


message 22: by Ms. Latham (new)

Ms. Latham Mary wrote: "Yes! Very well said!"

Thank you, Mary!


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