Heights is a wonderfully passionate story of Heathcliff, a foundling
who falls madly in love with the daughter of his benefactor, Catherine,
resulting in violence and misery. It's hard to imagine that a book
with such power came from the mind of a frail young girl, who would
die a year after her book was published.
Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre, and sister to Emily, didn't
know what to make of Heathcliff and once wrote "whether it is
right or advisable to create a character like Heathcliff, I do not
know. I scarcely think it is. But this I know; the writer who possesses
the creative gift owns something of which he is not always the master-something
that at times strangely wills and works for itself."
the story of two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons. One day
Mr. Earnshaw returns from a business trip, and instead of bringing
the usual gifts for his children, he brings home Heathcliff.
pleasant for the Earnshaw children, Hindley and Catherine and for
the Linton children, Edgar and Isabella. After the death of Mr. Earnshaw,
everything that goes wrong is blamed on Heathcliff by both Hindley
and Edgar. Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights and things become peaceful
once again. Catherine marries Edgar Linton but Heathcliff returns
suddenly wealthy and puts an end to the happiness in Cathy's marriage.
He becomes master of Wuthering Heights, the Earnshaw house and his
entire life then becomes vengeful, first for his love of Catherine,
and then to all who he believes have taken her from him.
Hindley Earnshaw falls under Heathcliff's prey and ends up drinking
himself to death. Catherine, torn between her love of Heathcliff and
the milder love of her husband, dies of a fever while giving birth
to their daughter.
Heathcliff, now more then ever making himself a "plague"
on both their houses plots to entrap the younger generation; Isabella's
son, Linton, Catherine's daughter, also named Catherine, and Hareton
Earnshaw, Hindley's son. The only one of the second generation still
living is Heathcliff who by now is crazy.
Upon the death of Heathcliff, which he believes will reunite him with
his beloved Catherine, it actually, and more importantly frees Catherine
Linton and Hareton Earnshaw and they are finally free to marry. With
one act, the two families are once again reunited and restored to
good fortune, happiness and peace.
"May she wake
in torment!" he cried with frightful vehemence, stamping his
foot and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. "Why,
she's a liar to the end. Where is she? Not there--not in heaven --not
perished---where?---Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings!
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! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe.
I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always----take
any form ---drive me mad---only do not leave me in this abyss, where
I cannot find you! O God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without
my life! I cannot live without my soul!"
"Nelly, there is a strange change approaching;
I'm in its shadow at present. I take so little interest in my daily
life that I hardly remember to eat and drink. Those two who have left
the room are the only objects which retain a distinct material appearance
to me, and that appearance causes me pain, amounting to agony. About
her I won't speak, and I don't desire to think, but I earnestly wish
she were invisible. Her presence invokes only maddening sensations.
He moves me differently; and yet if I could do it without seeming
insane, I'd never see him again. You'll perhaps think me rather inclined
to become so,
he added, making an effort to smile, "if I try to describe the
thousand forms of past associations and ideas he awakens or embodies.
But you'll not talk of what I tell you; and my mind is so eternally
secluded in itself, it is tempting at last to turn it out to another."
Passage from Wuthering Heights, Chapter 3
"If I were in heaven, Nelly, I should
be extremely miserable."
"Because you are not fit to go there,"
I answered. "All sinners would be miserable in heaven."
"But it is not for that. I dreamt once
that I was there."
"I tell you I won't hearken to your
dreams, Miss Catherine! I'll go to bed," I interrupted again.
She laughed, and held me down; for I made
a motion to leave my chair.
"This is nothing," cried she:
"I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home;
and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels
were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath
on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy. That
will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I've no more business
to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked
man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought
of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never
know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but
because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of,
his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam
from lightning, or frost from fire."
.the very name evokes thoughts
of passion, betrayal, jealousy, revenge, and desperation. The central
character in Emily Brontes novel 'Wuthering Heights' is one
of deep intensity, with whom his longing and passion for Catherine
Earnshaw causes a transformation so extreme, that his character becomes
one of the darkest and complex in all of English literature. His passion
for Catherine, and her spurning of Heathcliffs affections, turn
him into a driven man, willing to go to any length to hurt her, and
those around her, for the remainder of his life.
Ive always been fascinated with stories
of obsessive love, and to me, Ralph Fiennes portrayal of Heathcliff
in the 1992 adaptation is the most complex, and multi-layered portrayal
of this character I have ever seen. I truly feel he captured Heathcliffs
tortured and sadistic nature convincingly, yet also conveyed a deep
sadness, as he was a victim of circumstances. When Ralph is on the
screen, you cant help but be transfixed by him, and he brings
a sensuality to the role that no other actor has been able to do.
Throughout the film, you see Heathcliffs transformation at several
significant events in his life, and Ralph helps the viewer to understand
what tragic consequences a love so deep can do to a man, and what
drives him to such desperation. Watching Heathcliffs demise
is heartbreaking, and he shows his pain so openly, as he does during
Cathys deathbed scene, and his breaking the glass to enter into
the house to hold Cathys lifeless body, ignoring the blood on
his hands. This can also be considered a metaphorperhaps part
of Heathcliffs pain is guilt, believing that he was somehow
responsible for her death?? Through his words and gestures, Ralph
takes the viewer inside Heathcliffs soul, and we suffer along
In the film, we see Heathcliff rise from
an orphaned street urchin, to a grown up man, with feelings and growing
bonds with his childhood friend Cathy. Through a look, a gesture,
you see Ralphs Heathcliff change into a man with full-blown
sexuality, and an all-consuming passion for a woman who does not return
his love, but who runs from it. Cathy is fighting her own demons,
and has a desperate need to get away from her true love of Heathcliff,
and turning to the bland Edgar. As Heathcliff, the spurned lover,
Ralph captures the intense pain and longing of a man driven to hurt
the one person he loves more than life itself, a woman whos
selfishness drives her one true love away. When Heathcliff returns
after a two-year absense, Ralph conveys so convincingly a man who
is possessed, and who believes that if he makes himself a better man,
with money and power, that he will finally capture Cathys love,
but to no avail.
Rejected once again, he finds a new purposeto
torture all those who mistreated him, and take away the one thing
that Cathy loves more than him, that is her childhood home Wuthering
Heights. Heathcliff believes that by possessing their home, he can
possess her. Ralph is facinating to watch in this film, as he plays
Heathcliff as a man without conscience. Ralph is able to capture Heathcliffs
pain to such a degree, with a look, a gesture, and the tension that
is so necessary for this character, that he simply jumps off the screen.
From the opening scenes when Heathcliff helps Cathy in the stables,
to the pain of her death, and his vow to her that she will never rest
in peace while he is alive, is so well done by Ralph, that you cannot
help but understand what he is going through, and he brings such life
to the character.
We often see villains portrayed in films
as monsters, but Ralphs Heathcliff is a man with feelings, desires,
and goals, yet his tragedy is that they mutate into self-distruction.
When Catherine is lying in her casket, and the stubborn Heathcliff
refuses to let her go, no one but an actor of Ralphs range can
evoke such pity and anguish, as when he is holding Cathys body
in the casket. Breaking through the windows of the house he has been
forbidden to enter, cutting his hands in the process, you see a lifetime
of desperation come to fruition by attempting with all his being to
break the bonds of death, and reach out to his beloved. Ralphs
portrayal grabs the viewer, and takes them along with it, almost to
the point where you understand the injustices, and his reactions to
it. Ralph is able to transform himself throughout the film, which
is a tremendous gift. I would recommend this film very highly, and
the musical score by Ryuichi Sakamoto is hauntingly beautiful. We,
as the viewers, wish we could somehow release Heathcliff from his
eternal torment. Alas, but Heathcliff lived in a prison all his ownhis
love for Cathy, a woman who loved only herself.
in Wuthering Heights
Good versus Evil--
(also love and hate) The power of good is stronger than the power
of evil and good will someday dominate. Also that all our striving
here on earth amounts to nothing, and it is not until we are dead
and face to face with our creator that we shall find our happiness
or doom. Brontë is most interested in the spiritual feelings
for her characters, making contact with an existence beyond this life
on earth. The difference between that feeling that Catherine has for
Heathcliff and the one she feels for Linton is that Heathcliff is
a part of her nature while Edgar is only a part of her superficial
love. It is a spiritual love rather than a physical one that binds
Heathcliff and Catherine together.
This is the most dominant theme of the second half of the novel, although
in the last chapter Heathcliff abandons his plan for revenge. Heathcliff
first believes that if he can avenge the death of Catherine that he
will somehow grow closer to her. However, the exact opposite occurs.
When Heathcliff gives up on his plan for revenge, he is soon reunited
with Catherine in eternal bliss.
Crime and Punishment--
All the characters have sinned in one way or another and in the end
they are all punished for their crimes. However, Cathy and Hareton
are not corrupt in any way and they are the ones who finally destroy
the evil between their families in the next generation.
Passion versus Rational Love--
Passion is what divided Catherine from Edgar. Catherine's passion
for Heathcliff ruined the lives of so many people at Wuthering Heights
and Thrushcross Grange. The whole story revolved around the passion
that Catherine and Heathcliff felt for each other. Edgar, on the other
hand, felt a more reasonable love for Catherine. Catherine was devoted
to Edgar, yet was in love with Heathcliff.
Ignorance versus Education--
From the beginning, the reader can deduce that the Lintons are at
a higher social status than the residents at Wuthering Heights. This
is partly due to the fact that the Lintons are better educated than
the laborers at the Heights. Young Cathy's love for reading has a
direct effect on Hareton Earnshaw's pursuits at becoming literate.
The selfishness was first introduced when Mr. Earnshaw brought home
Heathcliff and presented him to the family. Because he took a fancy
to this young waif, the rest of the generations following Mr. Earnshaw's
life will suffer. Heathcliff was probably the most selfish person
in all of Wuthering Heights. He ruined Catherine's life when he disappeared
for three years. He also ruined Isabella's life by marrying her only
for revenge. Heathcliff forced young Cathy to marry Linton and then
later killed the poor sickly boy through neglect. These are only the
major actions that show Heathcliff's selfishness. Catherine's selfish
character was depicted when she wanted both Edgar and Heathcliff at
the same time. Catherine wanted Edgar for his life and Heathcliff
for his soul. She didn't want to choose between the two of them, and
therefore she never did. Thus, she caused pain for Heathcliff and
Brontë's Authorial Approach
Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights as
a poet constructs a poem. This work is sometimes considered a great
lyric poem because it is so condensed that one must read every line
carefully in order to not miss anything integral to the story. Her
word choice is impeccable; she paints panoramic images of characters
and events which vividly define tone and mood.
Brontë also uses techniques which would now be considered modern-day.
Within the first chapter the reader is pulled into the action and
suspense instead of having many pages of introduction. The interaction
of Nelly and Mr. Lockwood create suspense between sections of story:
When Nelly breaks off of her story one wonders what will happen next.
The novel takes place strictly in the area
of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Events are revealed in
great detail there, but when a character leaves this immediate area,
nothing is told of their situation. For example, Heathcliff left for
three years. Nothing was told about this time except for the fact
that he left and returned. Also, when Isabella flees to London the
reader is not "taken" there.
The narrative structure of Wuthering Heights
is quite unique. The narrator, Mr. Lockwood, is a minor character
in the story who is being told this tale by another narrator, Nelly
Dean. At certain points in the book, different characters become narrators
who tell their story to Nelly, who then tells Mr. Lockwood.
Brontë gives every character a duality
within their personalities. With Catherine, her heart and mind are
divided: she loves Heathcliff, but marries the more stable Edgar.
Heathcliff loves Catherine more than his life, yet he is a cruel and
harsh man. Nelly is an "impartial" storyteller, yet she
clearly influences events and their outcomes. Hareton is a coarse,
taciturn man who wants to become civilized but does not know how until
Cathy enters his life.
The motif of open doors and windows is very
important. They are symbols of escape and longing which are only a
few steps away; however, escape for these characters is nearly impossible.
They reach for what they cannot attain. These open doors may also
symbolize awaiting spirituality. They all wish to achieve it and they
constantly approach it until they reach it upon their deaths.
Although this work was written in the Romantic
Period, it is not a romance. There are no true heroes or villains,
only a revealing of what people truly are.