The story of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights has been one of the most influential and powerful piece of literature ever written. After being published, it garnered a lot of interest because of the theme that was deemed misleading and critically unfit for society. The main theme of the book revolves around the evolution of love, passion and cruelty.
During the first half of the book, Catherine showed different types of love for two different people. Her love for Heathcliff was her everything, it was her identity to love and live for Heathcliff but as soon as she found out how society views Heathcliff, she sacrificed their love and married Edgar Linton in the hopes of saving Heathcliff from Hindley and protecting him from the eyes of society.
In her conversation with Nelly, Cathy who professed her love for Heathcliff quoted “My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself.” Catherine proved Nelly Dean that the only person who can make her feel pain and sorrow is Heathcliff. The extent of her love was uncovered when she sang her praise of “I am Heathcliff” because this was the turning point in the book that allowed the readers to truly understand and see the depth of Cathy's love for Heathcliff.
On the other hand, Catherine's love for Edgar wasn't natural because it was a love that she taught herself to feel. It might have come unknowingly to Cathy but she did love Edgar as she said “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees.” Cathy knew that it was not impossible to love Edgar for he was a sweet and kind gentleman who showed her the world but unlike her reasons to love Edgar, Heathcliff doesn't have to be anybody or anything for her to love him (Phillips, 2007). Catherine proved that changing love cannot compare to the love she and Heathcliff has for each other for they have a love that cannot be broken, as long as forever is they are bound to each other.
Though Catherine and Heathcliff's love brings joy to each other it has also caused them great pains and the people around them. Their love destroyed innocence and purity. Catherine was going to marry Edgar because of his wealth and status. By marrying Edgar, it would give her a name she can be proud of and the people would envy her (Seichepine, 2004). This marked the lost of innocence for Catherine because she now knows the rules of society.
Heathcliff once thought that if he could only leave Catherine then he would be free from the fate that binds them but he cannot escape because for him there is no escape and apart from Catherine there is nobody else that mattered. When Heathcliff returned 3 years later, he used Isabella Linton as a means of revenge on both Catherine and Edgar. Heathcliff was not scared nor did he even shared a drop of pity on Isabella. He was going to use her innocence to hurt the people she loved and even the woman he loved.
Isabella, on the other hand really loved Heathcliff and prayed that somehow he begins to see someone else other than Catherine. She knew that she never reflected in Heathcliff's eyes but she chose to stay with him because of her love. Isabella has the type of love that will never be returned. She accepted the fact that Heathcliff only loves Catherine and chose to forsake her family but this love destroyed her. In the end, she left Heathcliff with their child but he didn't even care.
Edgar Linton, towards Catherine has the type of love that entraps. He, like Heathcliff, is trap in a love that will never set him free. His love for Catherine allowed him to accept everything about her, even the love she shares with Heathcliff. Edgar gave her the chance to choose between the two of them but Catherine couldn't pick one over the other. She used her pregnancy to tie Edgar to him and make him follow everything she says. Edgar like Isabella, has the love that can never be returned. No matter how much kindness and love he shows Catherine, it would never compare to the love she and Heathcliff has shared.
Wuthering Heights is a haunting story of love and passion because it is centered around the destruction of love and how it destroys the people themselves. Love unabled Catherine to choose between Heathcliff and Edgar even though her true love is Heathcliff. Heathcliff on the other hand vowed revenge on the people that have wounded him including Catherine. His passion for revenge supported him and changed him.
After Catherine's death, Heathcliff lost the emotions to live as a human. He even wanted her ghost to haunt him and stay with him forever. Heathcliff quoted “And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then”, this has been the most intriguing line in the book as it goes beyong moral teachings and ethic. For Heathcliff, Catherine's death didn't free him instead it trapped him more to her. Heathcliff out of grief and misery said“Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!' If Catherine is Heathcliff, for him he is the very soul that makes him alive. Her death was the beginning of his end. Now that she has left him, he has nothing. For Edgar, it is a haunting love because he has to practically beg Catherine to love him and when she finally does, he has to share it with Heathcliff because Catherine loves both of them. Hindley was also played by love because when his wife, Frances died he turned to alcohol and made him hate his son. The depth of love he had for his wife was in a way, surprising because Hindley was described as a selfish man who only loves himself. When he lost the only person who ever showed him real love, he must have been unable to come into terms with reality.
Emily Brontë exploited love and used it to support her writing. Even the second generation was not able to escape the curse of love. Hareton was taken in by Heathcliff but he treated him like a servant the same way his father, Hindley treated Heathcliff but nevertheless, Hareton loved Heathcliff like a child loves his parent. Heathcliff used his son Linton to inflict more pain on Edgar even on his death. By forcing little Cathy to marry Linton, Heathcliff was robbing Edgar of the little time he had left to spend with his daughter, the same way he was robbed of his right to be with Catherine on her death bed.
Cruelty is another theme of Wuthering Heights that revealed the dark side of society. It all began with Catherine telling Nelly Dean that marrying Heathcliff would be degrading but she would not allow Heathcliff to love anyone other than her. Catherine's selfishness towards Heathcliff and Edgar is a form of cruelty because she does not think about how the two would feel. Heathcliff and Edgar have to satisfy her wimps because that is how much they love her, it came to the point where they can no longer turn back.
Catherine would starve herself to punish both Edgar and Heathcliff, it was her choice to get sick in order to get the attention of the two which ultimately led to her death (Bloomfield, 2011). Heathcliff abandoned his wife, Isabella even though she is pregnant because he does not love her. And Isabella sacrificed her family to be with Heathcliff and in the end, Edgar decided to close his heart on his only sister. The chain of misfortune continues as Heathcliff carries out his plan of revenge on Hindley. He even included the young Hareton who wanted nothing but his happiness.
Though it is love that destroyed him, it was also love that freed Heathcliff. He witnessed how little Cathy and Hareton's love was blossoming, it might have reminded him of how he was before and thus finally gave up on everything. It is amazing to think how these characters sacrificed themselves to love and to be loved. True love can never be replaced by any other love. It was the driving force that created a monster in Heathcliff. He only wanted to love Catherine but society separated them and they have grown apart but even so, they found themselves back to each other. No matter how they were separated, their longing for each other is a strong and concrete evidence that true love only happens once.
Love developed the characters and made them act based on their passion. However, it was also love that destroyed and created cruelty. Happiness is a choice and so is love. The purest kind of love can inflict the greatest pain in the world just like how Heathcliff and Catherine's love was, so close yet so far.
Bloomfield, Dennis. "An Analysis Of The Causes And Effects Of Sickness And Death In Wuthering Heights." Bronte Studies 36.3 (2011): 289-298. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. New York: Penguin Books, 2003.
Phillips, James. "The Two Faces Of Love In Wuthering Heights." Bronte Studies 32.2 (2007): 96-105. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
Seichepine, Marielle. "Childhood And Innocence In Wuthering Heights." Bronte Studies 29.3 (2004): 209-215. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.