Alright readers, lets have a little discussion, shall we? I just finished watching the movie Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I was supposed to read it for book club, but since 1800s English Lit isn’t my thing, I took the easy way out and watched the movie. The question I’d like to discuss is this: Were Heathcliff and Catharine in love or lust?
I would argue that they were in lust. For Heathcliff, it was always lust. Not just sexual lust, but emotional lust as well. He loved Cathy because she loved him. She made him feel good and she was the only person who truly cared for him. That is the only reason why he wanted to be with her. The second he saw her slightly more “civilized” he assumed she wouldn’t treat him the same way and so he started acting like a jerk. For the rest of the story he manipulates her and makes decisions based solely on raw emotion.
For example, I’m pretty sure he planned his return to occur right after Cathy’s marriage to Edgar. He didn’t want to stop the wedding, he wanted it to happen so he could come back and make Cathy miserable. That’s not love, that’s crazy.
Heathcliff all but admits his twisted ideas of love when he tells Isabelle that the fact that she sees good in him is almost enough for him to try to love her. He only loves those who love him. You may argue that this is admissible given his upbringing and that, though its twisted, its the only love he knows. On the contrary, he was shown the greatest and most sacrificial love when Mr. Earnshaw brings him in from the street. Mr. Earnshaw loved Heathcliff unconditionally and for no reason, yet Heathcliff never learned to do the same. Actually, scratch that. He eventually does learn to do the same when he commits suicide so that young Catharine and Hareton can be happy together and not deal with his crazy.
As for Cathy, I think her feelings started out as love. Like her father, she really did love Heathcliff unconditionally for who he was. But again, she wasn’t willing to make sacrifices to keep that love going. His brooding depression made her uncomfortable so she started hanging out with Edgar. Yet she wouldn’t release Heathcliff from her charm, not even after she was married. She would still flirt and kiss and give him a reason to return time after time. That’s not love, that’s selfish lust.
So, who does demonstrate love in this story? I think Nelly is the best example. She is mistreated and talked down to by everyone at least once in the story, and yet she continues to faithfully serve the Earnshaws and take care of Cathy and young Catherine. Another example is Edgar. Although he’s a pushover and sometimes stupid, he does honestly try to put Cathy’s feelings first and makes sacrifices in attempts to make the marriage work.
And then, of course, there is Young Catherine and Hareton. My sister told me that the its worth it to read the book simply because of the ending. She was right, its definitely my favorite part. Those two young people learned the power of humility, of saying “I’m sorry” and of learning from the mistakes of those around them. Young Catherine, though she was attracted to Hareton from the beginning, chose Linton and stayed faithful to him until his death. Only then did she turn her affections to Hareton, so as not to mislead him or break the heart of her dying husband. And when they were together, they did insult each other. But they also apologized and administered forgiveness. In the end, they are rid of all the crazy that proceeded them and someone learn what it means to truly love someone.
Now it’s your turn. Have you read Wuthering Heights and, if so, do you think Cathy and Heathcliff were in love or lust?