Wutherinng Heights ” Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong, imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty; never have given way but with life.” M. Heger on Emily Bronte.1 Throughout her life time, Emily Bronte was a self-imposed recluse from society, living in the confines of the hellish and quite savage moors of Yorkshire. It is in this isolation that she found the inspiration and strength of emotion to write such potent prose and poetry. In keeping with these facts, it is quite plausible to state that her social means were somewhat lesser compared to the emotional content surrounding her. Furthermore, writing is such an impassioned state; it could well have been her only means to free her soul toward the outer world.
In other words, her writings was the means by which she could search and question her personal knowledge on society. Wuthering Heights develops the search for knowledge or truth that subsequently damns and saves her emotionally charged characters: Heathcliff searches for the knowledge he might one day rest with Catherine Earnshaw; Catherine Linton searches for the enigmatic truth behind the family secrets. Knowledge for the players is one of construction and deconstruction of character. I will thus prove that, while Catherine Earnshaw gains knowledge toward perdition of mind and soul, Catherine Linton undergoes a deconstructive process necessary for the attainment of peace and happiness in life. Catherine Earnshaw’s quest for knowledge does not start with her discovery of Thrushcross Grange, but with the discovery of Heathcliff himself. As a young girl, she is cloistered in a very secluded but happy family circle.
The arrival of an exterior force, Heathcliff, starts the simple human process of discovery of the other. Catherine is a blank painting in our eyes – although “mischievous and wayward”2 like most children -before his entrance into the family fold. The reader must find the basic belief that the individual finds meaning in himself only by the relations that transpires with others. Catherine becomes a product of Heathcliff’s new influence. It is ironic that instead of the whip she desired, her father has given her the means to become an individual craving more than the intimate family circle.
One could say that the knowledge of the otherness pushes her away from the comfort of kindred unity and into the arms of the unknown harsh environment she is not prepared for. ” I am Heathcliff” (p.8 2) exemplifies that Catherine will at one point overstep these basic relations and become a misogynous mold for both and vice versa. Heathcliff’s passion becomes an ill-bred character development. This process develops toward her encounter with Thrushcross Grange, and the question of primitive human social choice. Catherine is now faced with another new element totally unprepared and certainly lacking in character. She must choose between the pride of blood or the passionate emotions of her savage companion. Social knowledge becomes more important to her : (to Heathcliff) ” It is no company at all, when people know nothing and say nothing..” (p.69).
Catherine starved from the outer world has no choice by primal hunger to assimilate the plush and more intricate social contract that the Linton’s offer. She explains her thoughts clearly to Nelly when discussing her marriage proposal. ” And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband.” (p.78). Catherine is ill-equipped to assimilate and comprehend the intricacies of her new situation : she has no concept of the price she must pay , and her grand emotional content is not enough to face the quite pragmatic and ingrate ideals of class. Her feeble explanation to Nelly that she will choose Edgar over Heathcliff is a weak excuse to explain why she has taken opulence of lifestyle over her primal passion for Heathcliff. The novelty of knowledge, culture and social rank has played its evil tune over the prey for the first time. Catherine until now is seen more as an addict to the new and bewildering effect of culture and knowledge in society.
It is impossible to dissociate this new process to one of personal development. First, Catherine is ill-educated on how to approach her new environment. She has not developed the proper skills to delve rationally in an all encompassing culture. Her mind becomes disturbed with the search for truth and knowledge in the social context outside Wuthering Heights. Edgar’s affections are a poor substitute for the pure energetic passion she has felt for Heathcliff. As she has said before their wedding, Edgar Linton is ” as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” (p.80).
The pragmatic reality at Trushcross Grange cannot fill the void that she has made for herself in leaving the furious calm of her childhood environment. Secondly, and more importantly, her development in social education results in her regression in psyche. Catherine cannot in any case find common ground between the elemental emotions with Heathcliff and her social duty now with Edgar. Catherine remains to Heathcliff the image of beauty, an ethereal romantic fetishism. For both, the image of beauty, lust and passion is reduced to themselves since they have never known anything else. Knowledge of beauty and passion are therefore inaccurate and impossible to continue in a seemingly fashion. Edgar’s rational love and sincerity will never control the fury in Catherine’s mind at realizing the price she has paid for furthering her status.
Catherine Earnshaw-Linton is thus damned into eternity for having not the strength to sustain both wild emotion and rational social status. The fierce internal motion between her sense of compassion and her social duty are too tempestuous for any human individual to withhold or control. Time like all has become the limit to her life and more importantly her quest for knowledge of the other. Even in death she tries to regain a balance between both worlds with her internment site: ” It was dug on a green slope, in a corner of the kirkyard, where the wall was so low that the heath and bilberry plants have climbed over from the moor..” (p.168). Catherine has chosen a place where she may be as close to the wild moors of her youth while never leaving the confines of her new world. We are also faced the impossible relation of composing with the Romantic and Victorian differences in character and social context.
Emily Bronte might wish us to understand that it is difficult to find in the mind of a recluse creature the strength to join old and new ideals. Thus, pure emotions cannot be restrained by common sense or return to a classical mode of thinking. This answer is too romantic, considering all the allusions to the social contract of the era: for example, her use of law to develop Heathcliff’s revenge. The Victorian era was one of regression for the status of women: they are sent out into the industrialized work force with little or no equality in status to men. Furthermore, land ownership for women continued to be refused until the Married Women’s property Act in 1870. Women are thus integrated in a harsher social context, but are not compensated for their new status. A question remains: how may we attribute th …