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1.3 Themes in Wuthering Height
‘Wuthering Heights’ is a novel of Emily Bronte, known for the famous destructive love between Heathcliff and Catherine. Before I start, I would like to ask: Is love the major issue in the book? Or does the position in society outweigh the feeling of love? I found many other interesting themes which are discussed along the whole length of the novel, among which love, revenge, and social class are the main themes in the book and the racism, nature, the obsessive and the degradation are the minor themes, but not less important as the others. In the information below, I will present the detailed themes which strongly affected me and I will try to answer those questions during this chapter.
I will start discussing love and passion in the book. It seems that Emily Bronte put the accent on the strong feelings between the characters and love is the most powerful one. Love appears in the form of several types and with different intensities in the novel. But there is a special type of love, the one between Heathcliff and Catherine, which is the most beautiful story in English Literature. Their love became an archetype because of their desire to become a single soul, to take care of each other, no matter what; the type of love in which the lovers feel as if they were the only persons on earth. I will start by referring to each type of love I found in the text. The love between Heathcliff and Catherine, as I said before, is a beautiful one, but it is also a destructive love. Everybody was against their love because they had a strange love; they were violent, doing unusual things which were not accepted by the others.
Compared to this kind of love, the love between Catherine and Edgar was civilized and constructive. From my point of view, in their love, I found peace and comfort on all sides. Also, their love was accepted by the others. The love between Cathy and Linton is another type of love. It’s like a father-daughter love. I consider that Linton wants Cathy to marry him because he wants to protect her, and love her as a ‘mother’. I think that Linton didn’t receive the love that he wanted from his parents and that’s why he was doing that with Cathy. And the last but not least, the love between Cathy and Hareton is the most beautiful one. Their love is open-hearted and innocent and constitutes an equilibrium between all the loves above-mentioned. Their love contains the passion without destructiveness between Heathcliff and Catherine, the fineness and the tenderness without inequality between Edgar and Catherine.
The social class is another important theme in the story. In the Victorian period, a great emphasis was placed on social classes and it was, somehow, a family heritage. For all that, people accepted their positions in the social hierarchy and they did not fight to have more than that, because of the different society at that time. Also, the people were judged by this aspect, and not by their personalities and the kindness of their souls. And this is a false thinking, because, from my point of view, the destiny and the character of Heathcliff would have been different, if the people had behaved gently with him. For example, the children born in a rich family in that time will be rich until the end and the same thing with the poor ones. This thing doesn’t change at all, I remain at the same level since my birth. But in the Emily Bronte’s novel, the characters tried to change their social class and a strong example for this is Heathcliff.
I think that the author chose to put the characters in this lower class because she knew that they could change and the class position was a motivation and an impulse for them to change. Certainly, the social class is very well defined in the book, except for Heathcliff because when he returns rich, he surprises everyone, but his personality was the same; he has the countryman’s personality. The saying ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ fits Heathcliff perfectly well. Also, the two regions where the action takes place are built concordantly with the lower and upper class. Thrushcross Grange is visibly superior to Wuthering Heights. The last one is a farmhouse, in which live normal people, belong to the lower class. Heathcliff, a poor orphan boy belongs to Wuthering Heights, together with the servants to the lower class and Catherine and Isabella belong to the upper class. So I think that is a connection between the social class, revenge and the richness. I consider that Heathcliff returns rich because he has a purpose: he intensifies the love of the two women with this change because he knows that the betrayal of their social class means the betrayal of their family.
From my point of view, this next theme has a connection with the previous one. This paragraph is about the human races but more especially, it refers to Heathcliff’s race. When he arrives for the first time in the house, he is not easy on the eye; he is described as a black man, even if he isn’t, people behave with him as if he were a slave, as if he has no heart in the chest, in one word, he is nobody for the others. He is also named gypsy by Lintons and Hindley for many times in the novel: ‘He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect’, ‘how he could bring that gypsy brat into the house’, ‘Take my colt, Gipsy’. He is judged in all situations by his appearance because it seems that, as the situation in these latter days, the idea of discrimination is present everywhere.
Also, during his evolution in the novel, I think that he tries to demonstrate how he really is, but the people are focused more on what is said about black people. He tries to establish his own position in society, he starts from the bottom and he deals with many obstacles and difficulties to be on the top, but his effort is in vain; the only character, who is close to him even from the beginning, is Catherine, the love of his life. Even if he succeeds in becoming what he wanted, he is not completely happy, because of the others. He tries hard to be socially equal with the others, to be integrated into their society, to live in a free world, far away from inequality, discrimination or exploitation. I cannot judge Emily Bronte’s way of thinking regarding all those aspects, because it is the same thing today. People talk more and more about races equality, freedom, but no one is doing anything about it. This is an international problem, which will last for many years and it will continue to appear books about this subject because this subject is an inexhaustible source of information.
Revenge is one of the main and predominant themes in Wuthering Heights. It seems that the revenge didn’t bring anything good, only worse because this was the cause of the many characters’ death. I will start by saying about Heathcliff. Nelly, the narrator of the book, tells the story of Heathcliff and his revenge. He ruined Hindley by taking Wuthering Heights; also, he refused Hareton’s education. His marriage to Isabella was also a weapon of revenge because Catherine married Edgar Linton. Catherine’s ghost makes Heathcliff worse. He tried to separate Cathy and Linton because he thought they didn’t deserve to be happy. But Heathcliff figured out in the end that revenge is useless. He gives up, and only when he finds the true love and peace. He was finally happy in the other world.
Also, Catherine’s revenge is not good. She blames Heathcliff and Edgar Linton for her early death, and also, I think that her double personality killed her because she didn’t know how to divide between them and this thing drives her mad. ‘You and Edgar broke my heart, Heathcliff! […] You have killed me – and thriven on it’. She had a miserable death. She remained captive on earth for 20 years because she couldn’t find peace and happiness in revenge. Hindley hated Heathcliff since they were children. He denied Heathcliff’s education and love for Catherine and this led to bankruptcy. After the all above-mentioned, the revenge didn’t help with anything to achieve the characters’ goals.
Another theme concerns the forces of nature and I found the storm and calm, which are transposed in two kinds of characters and houses; Wuthering Heights with the people who live there represent the storm and Thrushcross Grange and its inhabitants represent the calm. This difference can be seen very clearly and often in the characters’ actions. But, at a certain time, this is changing: the calm becomes a weakness, it is not a characters’ quality anymore and the storm produces spiritual nervousness. Also, I think that the title is very suggestive because it indicates the constant weather from there and the atmosphere from the inside, which is almost the same thing for me. Nevertheless, the characters, Catherine and Heathcliff, have a relation with the time too. I can say that their relationship looks like the weather from outside: it is tumultuous, bad and changeable.
I think that the obsession of Heathcliff can also be an important theme. And this theme is in connection with the theme above-mentioned. Heathcliff feels for Catherine two different feelings: love and hate (which is expressed by his desire for revenge). Since they were children, Catherine was the center of Heathcliff’s life. And because they couldn’t be together, his obsession advanced more and more. Somehow, his obsession with revenge is completed by the obsession with love, and that’s why he couldn’t get over until the end. Also, another example of Heathcliff’s obsession is the moment when Catherine marries Edgar Linton and leaves Wuthering Heights for Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff cannot resist the temptation of seeing her and he watches her from outside. He is obsessed with her because they have a very strange relation and Heathcliff never felt this for anybody else.
And the last but not least theme discussed by me in this subchapter is the characters’ moral degradation. From my point of view, the characters have degraded because of several reasons; some of them because of the strong power of revenge, love and the desire to achieve their purpose irrespective of the means used. This theme can be easily seen in the scenes referring to hell and heaven; at the beginning with the description of Mr. Lockwood’s Wuthering Heights as ‘a perfect misanthropist’s Heaven’ and in the end with the ghosts’ apparition walking on the marshy hills. Also, Catherine and Heathcliff can be compared with supernatural forces: Heathcliff can be Satan, who is determined and unyielding regarding his desires; and Catherine can be compared with a fallen angel, who has a gradual transition from Light to Darkness.
In conclusion, there are many themes in this book and I would like to talk about them and each of these themes has an important part in the book. When I read again the book, I found many interesting things which I couldn’t discover in my first reading. I can swear that there is more about them because this is a book full of surprises and also, I think that things like these can happen in real life too. I consider that this book contains elements, motives, and themes which make from this book, a masterpiece of Emily Bronte and also of the Victorian period. I chose to talk about the themes in Wuthering Heights because this subchapter will help me to introduce the next chapters regarding romanticism and realism in the book.