The Invention of Wings follows the peculiar institution of slavery through the eyes of two young girls, Sarah and Hetty. They both struggle with the realities of societal customs pitched against them. Sarah is futilely vying against the strong patriarchal customs of her society while Hetty has to bear with the fact that as a slave, she is unequal to those around her. They are both driven by different factors to rise above the stringent boundaries imposed upon them by society. On the other hand, Wuthering Heights is a complex love novel which explores the relationships of two affluent families through two generations.
The love triangle between Catherine, Edgar, and Heathcliff eventually develops into a full-flung feud between the lovers. Although Wuthering Heights and The Invention of Wings address the idea of unyielding passion, Wuthering Heights delves on its destructive role in relationships while The Invention of Wings explores its ability to cloud an individual’s judgment, thus illustrating the theme that passion is an influential force that causes an individual to act upon their emotions over their rationale.
To begin, the novel Wuthering Heights explains how passion works to weaken relationships. Heathcliff is an internally broken man after Catherine’s passing and he tries to take his misery out on those around him, regardless if they were relatives or not. He tries to enact revenge on Hindley through Hindley’s son, Hareton, by “making him a brute: he was never taught to read or write” (Brontë 191).
Although Hareton was considered family, Heathcliff does not care for him at all. Hareton is just another method for Heathcliff to fulfill his desire for vengeance. On an extreme level, Heathcliff even uses his own son essentially as a pawn. Heathcliff forcibly arranges for Miss Linton to marry Linton in an effort to acquire Thrushcross Grange from Edgar. Linton is understandably distressed from the entire ordeal as he states “‘my father threatened me…and I dread him-I dread him!’” (Brontë 255). This exemplifies how Heathcliff’s emotion has overshadowed his rationale as a result of passion.
The bitter taste of humiliation and defeat left in his mouth from the past causes him to take his anger out on those around him, including his son. He is too caught up with his idea of avenging past events to recognize what he is doing is unethical. This reveals the destructive nature that passion can cause. Normally, fathers are accommodating for their offspring but Heathcliff is oblivious to Linton’s well-being, thereby eliminating any chance of a healthy father-son relationship.
Conversely, The Invention of Wings explains how passion can ultimately cause a single individual to suffer. Sarah yearns to become a female lawyer ever since she is a young girl, an unprecedented vocation for someone of her gender. She knows that “there were no female lawyers” (Kidd 20) yet she still toys with the thought since “an acorn grew into an oak tree, didn’t it?” (Kidd 20). Evidently, Sarah is unafraid to be different. She is very strong-minded and has a knack for testing the limits of the law. However, she is devastated when her education is taken away from her when she is “denied all access to the books” (Kidd 68) as a punishment for her rebellious behavior. Her goals are instantly crushed.
At this point, she realizes the impossibility of ever fulfilling her dream. Had she possessed more self-control, Sarah may have never been deprived of an education and been able to accomplish great things. Her overzealous ambition to overstep societal boundaries had caused her internal pain and turns her into “one wretched girl” (Kidd 71) whose “hurt got worse and worse” (Kidd 71) since her “studying was over and done” (Kidd 71).
Thus, unrestrained fervor can definitely cause an individual’s downfall. This same idea applies to one of the slaves in the novel, Charlotte. She initially steals a “brand new bolt of green silk cloth” (Kidd 34) and then lies about its whereabouts. When her master eventually finds her in possession of the cloth, Charlotte is brutally punished. Charlotte had lied since she “couldn’t get free and she couldn’t pop missus on the back of her head with a cane, but she could take her silk” (Kidd 37) as a form of rebellion. Charlotte’s internal spite for her master’s hard hand causes her to put her emotions above her rationality. She decides to irk her master to appease her hatred, which only causes her more suffering in the end. Charlotte is not the same person after her punishment and the readers can sense that she is losing her inner fortitude after the entire ordeal.
Next, Wuthering Heights contains an instance where passion in the form of love causes and individual to become oblivious of others. This is illustrated when Catherine vows to marry Edgar instead of Heathcliff. She proudly boasts that “I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighborhood, and I shall be proud of having a husband” (Brontë 75). Catherine even goes on to claim that it “would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him” (Brontë 79). By stating this, Catherine is clearly is clearly indicating she is only marrying for wealth and not actually for the emotional stability of a relationship. Deep down, she knows that she is truly engrossed with Heathcliff, even stating that her “greatest miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries” (Brontë 80) and that “I am Heathcliff” (Brontë 80).
But alas, she is drawn to Edgar for the promises of financial stability that he would bring her. By accepting Edgar’s marriage proposal and humiliating Heathcliff, she is choosing what her impulsive desires tell her to do rather than choosing the more prudent path which will lead her to a loving relationship. In “Love and Self-Knowledge: A Study of Wuthering Heights” the author John Beversluis supports this notion by stating that Catherine “sees herself as powerfully, even irresistibly, attracted to Heathcliff.”
This can be attributed to how “they identify with one another in the face of a common enemy, they rebel against a particular way of life which both find intolerable.” But in the end, she “simply drifts into the marriage [with Edgar] unreflectively. And she acts in bad faith to everyone concerned.” Simply put, Catherine’s actions ruined her relationship between both Edgar and Heathcliff. Although she embarrassed Heathcliff, she still had feelings for him which causes her spouse to become jealous.
Similarly, The Invention of Wings depicts how passion in the form of love can also impair an individual’s moral judgment. When Sarah is sailing on the boat back to Charleston after her father’s tragic death, she meets Israel Morris. He is a Quaker with a “wife and eight children, six boys, two girls” (Kidd 193). Sarah is instantly attracted to this man, as shown when she admitted that “[h]eat flared in my chest” (Kidd 195). His faith only magnifies her feelings for him since she is also interested in Quaker beliefs in gender equality and abolition. She tries to rid her feelings by reasoning that “he was married, and for that I was grateful. For that, I was safe” (Kidd 195).
But in the end, his temptation was too much for her as she swooned that “every letter he answered would incite my feelings more” (Kidd 203). In essence, Sarah’s feelings and emotions are overpowering her ethics and sense of duty. Her mother loathed the idea of her running “‘off to live in the house of a Quaker’” (Kidd 214) and needed Sarah as moral support after the death of her husband.
Sarah is following what her heart tells her in this situation rather than actually doing what is morally right. Instead of being there for her mother following such a tragedy, she wants to pursue the love of her life. She is simply being selfish to her family and puts her own needs above the concerns of her mother’s long term health. If Sarah were able to snap out of her drunken state of love, she would be able to make better decisions.
In the end, emotions are definitely a vital factor that can skew an individual’s decision-making capabilities. It is hard to make sound choices when there is a strong influence of passion when addressing a particular topic, as demonstrated in both Wuthering Heights and The Invention of Wings. Although sometimes it is hard to ignore the deep feelings a specific issue may evoke, it would be wise to disregard them.
Beversluis, John. “Love and Self-Knowledge: A Study of Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth- Century Literature Criticism (2006): 106-113. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: Barnes and Noble Books, 2004. Print.
Kidd, Sue Monk. The Invention of Wings. New York: Penguin, 2014. Print