I have recently finished reading 'Wuthering Heights' and it once again became clear to me why I love this book so much. The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is simply breath taking, especially in comparison with other famous English couples. Take, for example, the love between Jane Eyre and Mr. Heathcliff. There is passion and love there, but somehow it is still too civilized. It fits in perfectly with the fairy tale of a poor girl falling in love with a rich secluded man. It is almost the same between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy in 'Pride and Prejudice'. I just wanted to show you the following excerpt from 'Wuthering Heights':
'I cannot express it, but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be and existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this would have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning, my great thought in living in himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it. My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don't talk of our separation again - it is impracticable.'
Cathy is here trying to explain her love for Heathcliff to Nelly, her nurse, and I think it is one of the most heart-felt and true love declarations in English Literature. Catherine sees Heathcliff as a continuation of her soul. They are one and the same, the pain one feels is also felt by the other. In a way, it is not very romantic. It is almost as if they are two prisoners bound together, unable to either escape their prison or each other. Therefore, the death of either would mean the demise of the other, mentally. If you ask me, the scene of Heathcliff screaming out for Cathy after Lockwood saw her in a dream. He was never sociable to begin with, but he has become even more cruel and secluded since her death.
I also love the comparison she makes between her love for Linton, her fiance, and Heathcliff. By comparing both of them to nature, Emily Bronte implies that love is a very natural thing, even if it is given to two different people. Yet the 'foliage' she mentions withers and dies eventually. She is attracted to it because it is so fresh, pretty and lively, yet all of that will fade and nothing will be left to love. Her love for Heathcliff is the 'rock' on which she has built her life. Without him, there is no way for her to continue. Her choice between the two has also been interpreted as a choice between nature (Heathcliff) and culture (Linton). Will she choose what is acceptable or what her heart has always told her is right for her.
Another crucial element to a true love story: they are star-crossed. From the very beginning, it is clear that the two are from different classes and could never be together. But it is also clear that the two need each other. We therefore get the situation that the two will endlessly spin around each other, always interfering in each others lives. That's why there relationship is so passionate. They are constantly on the edge of losing each other and their desperate fights, to which Linton and everyone else are victim, are the result of this.
Don't get me wrong, this book is not a cheesy love story. It takes some time to get used to the writing style, the changing narratives can be confusing and it took me some time to realize the love between Catherine and Heathcliff is actually love and not deep-rooted dislike and a fancy for arguing. They are bound in a way neither of them truly understands and just like it drags them down, it makes victims out of all those around them. They love each other desperately and they have to get some relief from this pain by hurting others.
What do you think? |I'd love to hear your thoughts on Heathcliff and Cathy and on love couples in literature in general!