A Comparison of the Divided Self in Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein


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Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein - Theme of the divided self

 Theme of the divided self within Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Thematically, the divided self is one of the most interesting themes within both novels and is of great importance to the development or ruin of the characters in both 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Frankenstein.' Both authors when primarily exploring this theme focus upon the physical, mental or spiritual division within certain characters.

 

In Emily Bronte's novel 'Wuthering Heights,' the principal characters Cathy and Heathcliff are presented as needing this division within themselves to recognise their need for each other. This endurance of physical, mental and spiritual division whilst alive, allows them only tragically to experience when in death, complete entity within themselves.

 

Primarily Cathy is not depicted as divided; instead, she is presented as belonging to a family unit, which seems to stay intact until the arrival of a 'gypsy brat.' Although Heathcliff creates a divide within the family due to his arrival, Cathy is seen to gain a friend with whom she feels she has an affinity both physically, spiritually and mentally, which will become increasingly evident as the novel progresses. However, this alliance throughout the novel is frequently thrown into turmoil by outside influences or factors. As we are informed from the onset, the "greatest punishment" that could be bestowed upon Cathy was separation from Heathcliff.

 

Cathy and Heathcliff's separation only therefore ensues as a result of their initial outing to Thrushcross Grange. Their promise to grow up together as 'rude as savages,' is destroyed when Cathy and Heathcliff are separated physically by many factors resulting from this visitation. Just as the Linton's dog 'holds' Cathy, so too is the Linton's house symbolically presented as separating her from Heathcliff, when Heathcliff resorts to peering in through their 'great glass panes' to see Cathy, after being physically 'dragged' out of Thrushcross Grange.

 

Cathy is also depicted as physically separated from Heathcliff even when she returns to Wuthering Heights. Instead of a 'wild, hatless little savage' with whom Heathcliff has an affinity with, she returns as a 'very dignified person.' Heathcliff is now therefore separated physically from Cathy, not only by appearance but as he said in the previous chapter, her superiority "to everybody," including him.

 

The presentation of Cathy and Heathcliff as physically divided is not only literally seen through the differing households but also through Cathy's own actions and attire.

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Although Thrushcross Grange is symbolically portrayed as repressing Cathy and separating her from Heathcliff, Cathy is presented as 'readily' accepting from the Linton's, 'fine clothes and flattery,' which would in turn distinguish her from Heathcliff when she returns.

 

Upon her arrival, she is immediately seen as separated when she sits above everyone else 'upon a handsome black pony.' This is emphasised further when although Cathy is joyful to return, she refrains from touching the dogs, 'lest they should fawn upon her splendid garments.' Similarly, when Cathy encounters Heathcliff, although she runs to embrace him, she gazes 'concernedly' at her dress, which she fears has become 'embellished.'

 

Emily Bronte clearly depicts the physical state of the divided self also through Cathy and Heathcliff's marriages. Only when Cathy marries Edgar and Heathcliff marries Isabella, can we truly see the division within the self. As we see throughout the novel, Heathcliff's absence has a profound effect upon the steady decline of Catherine's physical and mental state of health. Due to their separation, Catherine no longer recognises her own reflection as Heathcliff mirrored all that she represented. "Don't you see that face?... It was yourself Mrs Linton: You knew it a while since."

 

The relationship between male and female in 'Frankenstein' is also subject to division. Whereas Cathy and Heathcliff need one another to survive as a whole, Frankenstein's relationship with Elizabeth cannot survive as the monster will not allow it due to Frankenstein's refusal to "create a female" for the monster. Just as Frankenstein hoped for happiness with his marriage to Elizabeth, the monster also wishes for a companion equal to him that will, in turn, "perfectionate" as Elizabeth would do with Frankenstein, his "weak and faulty natures." Frankenstein's marriage to Elizabeth would enable him to regain his lost innocence, which was lost, due to the creation of his "abhorred monster," thereby creating within Frankenstein an internal division, until this union occurs. As the monster is refused an opportunity to be free from 'misery,' he therefore destroys his creator's chance. "I shall be with you on your wedding night." Just as the monster is divided due to lack of companionship, one may also see his creator suffering the same fate that has not resulted, as in Wuthering Heights from outside influences, but due to his own actions.

 

Emily Bronte further develops Catherine's state of division through where she lives, either in Wuthering Heights or Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff and Edgar represent the extreme emotions felt by Cathy in certain parts of the novel. Both symbolise the differing households and how, when Cathy is contained within one of these environments with either Edgar or Heathcliff it has a discernible effect upon her character and future. To a certain extent, both are needed in order for Cathy to be complete. Without them she cannot survive as Heathcliff represents her sole being, "he's more myself than I am," her desire for freedom again to those "hills" where she may return to again with her former playmate and regain what was repressed within her due to her first outing to Thrushcross Grange and from her marriage to Edgar. However, even though she is presented as divided even when they are seen as physically together, due to her superiority in social class. "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff...He shall never know how I love him."

 

The importance of social class is emphasised through Cathy's marriage to Edgar. Edgar represents more of the imposed order of society, the conventional and cultivated, everything that Cathy seeks to obtain. "You love Mr Edgar because he's handsome, rich and loves you." She knows she can rely upon his predictability in any situation that may arise. Although Catherine desires the passion that Heathcliff presents to her, she is 'at present' depicted as believing Edgar's docile love will save her.

 

As Catherine cannot live within both environments, ultimately she feels restricted when she picks Edgar as her husband and chooses to move to Thrushcross Grange, as spiritually Cathy is presented as needing Heathcliff as whatever their "souls are made of" they "are the same." Without him, Catherine considers herself a mere shadow of her former self, wishing to be a "girl again, half savage."

 

Within Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein,' the divisional aspect of the two principal characters, Frankenstein and the monster, rather subvert the theme of being physically divided. Mary Shelley presents this theme through her use of juxtaposition when describing both Frankenstein and the monster convulsing in the same chapter. Linguistically she reflects Frankenstein as becoming part of his creation at the moment of its birth. Just as Frankenstein describes how in his fever "every limb became convulsed," so too does the monster reflect, effectively through Shelley's use of descriptive language, how when created it had a "convulsive motion" which "agitated its limbs." As Mary Shelley presents Frankenstein and the monster as one through her comparative language, her use of syntax within the description of the monster's birth also adds emphasis to this theme.

 

Thematically, the divided self is once more, seen as subverted through the use of imagery instead of language. Rather than describing the actions of both Frankenstein and the monster as analogous through the use of language, Mary Shelley, through Robert Walton's encounter with Frankenstein also thematically reinforces both characters as united through the use of imagery.

 

Even though the reader is later informed the traveller is Frankenstein, the unique choice of imagery when describing him as an 'interesting creature' serves only to reinforce how Frankenstein has become divided from humanity due to his unnatural creation. However, this singular image has a paradoxical effect upon Frankenstein's divided self. Although one may view Frankenstein as divided, one may also regard him as united with his 'creature.' Just as he is presented as 'gnashing his teeth,' the monster is later seen to reflect Frankenstein's actions by gnashing his teeth in 'the impotence of anger.'

 

Mary Shelley's use of language regarding the theme of giving birth to an embodiment of ones self clearly depicts the physical, mental and spiritual void in both Frankenstein and his creation. Just as Cathy's emotions are repressed within Wuthering Heights, so too are Frankenstein's. The monster himself may represent the division within Frankenstein's sub conscience, his primitive self. "We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up." As his creation has given birth to his other self, he is closely linked with the monsters own spiritual self. "You my creator, detest and spurn me...to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us."

 

Emily Bronte also successfully presents as Mary Shelley does, the theme of the divided self through her use of language. When the reader is told "her mind has wandered, her soul no longer remains within her," one may view Emily Bronte's description of Cathy's divided self as conflicting. Although her soul is seen to escape what she likens to a "shattered prison" which has, like the two households similarly restricted her, this liberation also divides Cathy within herself, spiritually, mentally and physically.

 

The monster, within Frankenstein is also subjected to spiritual division. His perception of life is based upon experience. Through his involvement with the cottagers he instinctively learns to "assist their labours," thus developing a sense of humanity. This instinctive good side is destroyed however when the cottagers reject him and with a "bitter sickness" the monster therefore learns how he will treat Frankenstein in return, thus destroying his sense of humanity, forever dividing him until his death.

 

Within both novels, the theme of the divided self is an experience, which each protagonist character is seen to endure. Until they tragically accept their destiny, Cathy, Heathcliff, Frankenstein and the monster are presented as physically, spiritually and mentally divided, not only within themselves but also with each other. Only when they finally succumb to death, are "the dead at peace," leaving the reader to ponder upon the rhetorical question which touches upon the theme of the divided self; for "where can I find rest but in death?"

 

Theme of the divided self within Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

 

Thematically, the divided self is one of the most interesting themes within both novels and is of great importance to the development or ruin of the characters in both 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Frankenstein.' Both authors when primarily exploring this theme focus upon the physical, mental or spiritual division within certain characters.

 

In Emily Bronte's novel 'Wuthering Heights,' the principal characters Cathy and Heathcliff are presented as needing this division within themselves to recognise their need for each other. This endurance of physical, mental and spiritual division whilst alive, allows them only tragically to experience when in death, complete entity within themselves.

 

Primarily Cathy is not depicted as divided; instead, she is presented as belonging to a family unit, which seems to stay intact until the arrival of a 'gypsy brat.' Although Heathcliff creates a divide within the family due to his arrival, Cathy is seen to gain a friend with whom she feels she has an affinity both physically, spiritually and mentally, which will become increasingly evident as the novel progresses. However, this alliance throughout the novel is frequently thrown into turmoil by outside influences or factors. As we are informed from the onset, the "greatest punishment" that could be bestowed upon Cathy was separation from Heathcliff.

 

Cathy and Heathcliff's separation only therefore ensues as a result of their initial outing to Thrushcross Grange. Their promise to grow up together as 'rude as savages,' is destroyed when Cathy and Heathcliff are separated physically by many factors resulting from this visitation. Just as the Linton's dog 'holds' Cathy, so too is the Linton's house symbolically presented as separating her from Heathcliff, when Heathcliff resorts to peering in through their 'great glass panes' to see Cathy, after being physically 'dragged' out of Thrushcross Grange.

 

Cathy is also depicted as physically separated from Heathcliff even when she returns to Wuthering Heights. Instead of a 'wild, hatless little savage' with whom Heathcliff has an affinity with, she returns as a 'very dignified person.' Heathcliff is now therefore separated physically from Cathy, not only by appearance but as he said in the previous chapter, her superiority "to everybody," including him.

 

The presentation of Cathy and Heathcliff as physically divided is not only literally seen through the differing households but also through Cathy's own actions and attire. Although Thrushcross Grange is symbolically portrayed as repressing Cathy and separating her from Heathcliff, Cathy is presented as 'readily' accepting from the Linton's, 'fine clothes and flattery,' which would in turn distinguish her from Heathcliff when she returns.

 

Upon her arrival, she is immediately seen as separated when she sits above everyone else 'upon a handsome black pony.' This is emphasised further when although Cathy is joyful to return, she refrains from touching the dogs, 'lest they should fawn upon her splendid garments.' Similarly, when Cathy encounters Heathcliff, although she runs to embrace him, she gazes 'concernedly' at her dress, which she fears has become 'embellished.'

 

Emily Bronte clearly depicts the physical state of the divided self also through Cathy and Heathcliff's marriages. Only when Cathy marries Edgar and Heathcliff marries Isabella, can we truly see the division within the self. As we see throughout the novel, Heathcliff's absence has a profound effect upon the steady decline of Catherine's physical and mental state of health. Due to their separation, Catherine no longer recognises her own reflection as Heathcliff mirrored all that she represented. "Don't you see that face?... It was yourself Mrs Linton: You knew it a while since."

 

The relationship between male and female in 'Frankenstein' is also subject to division. Whereas Cathy and Heathcliff need one another to survive as a whole, Frankenstein's relationship with Elizabeth cannot survive as the monster will not allow it due to Frankenstein's refusal to "create a female" for the monster. Just as Frankenstein hoped for happiness with his marriage to Elizabeth, the monster also wishes for a companion equal to him that will, in turn, "perfectionate" as Elizabeth would do with Frankenstein, his "weak and faulty natures." Frankenstein's marriage to Elizabeth would enable him to regain his lost innocence, which was lost, due to the creation of his "abhorred monster," thereby creating within Frankenstein an internal division, until this union occurs. As the monster is refused an opportunity to be free from 'misery,' he therefore destroys his creator's chance. "I shall be with you on your wedding night." Just as the monster is divided due to lack of companionship, one may also see his creator suffering the same fate that has not resulted, as in Wuthering Heights from outside influences, but due to his own actions.

 

Emily Bronte further develops Catherine's state of division through where she lives, either in Wuthering Heights or Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff and Edgar represent the extreme emotions felt by Cathy in certain parts of the novel. Both symbolise the differing households and how, when Cathy is contained within one of these environments with either Edgar or Heathcliff it has a discernible effect upon her character and future. To a certain extent, both are needed in order for Cathy to be complete. Without them she cannot survive as Heathcliff represents her sole being, "he's more myself than I am," her desire for freedom again to those "hills" where she may return to again with her former playmate and regain what was repressed within her due to her first outing to Thrushcross Grange and from her marriage to Edgar. However, even though she is presented as divided even when they are seen as physically together, due to her superiority in social class. "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff...He shall never know how I love him."

 

The importance of social class is emphasised through Cathy's marriage to Edgar. Edgar represents more of the imposed order of society, the conventional and cultivated, everything that Cathy seeks to obtain. "You love Mr Edgar because he's handsome, rich and loves you." She knows she can rely upon his predictability in any situation that may arise. Although Catherine desires the passion that Heathcliff presents to her, she is 'at present' depicted as believing Edgar's docile love will save her.

 

As Catherine cannot live within both environments, ultimately she feels restricted when she picks Edgar as her husband and chooses to move to Thrushcross Grange, as spiritually Cathy is presented as needing Heathcliff as whatever their "souls are made of" they "are the same." Without him, Catherine considers herself a mere shadow of her former self, wishing to be a "girl again, half savage."

 

Within Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein,' the divisional aspect of the two principal characters, Frankenstein and the monster, rather subvert the theme of being physically divided. Mary Shelley presents this theme through her use of juxtaposition when describing both Frankenstein and the monster convulsing in the same chapter. Linguistically she reflects Frankenstein as becoming part of his creation at the moment of its birth. Just as Frankenstein describes how in his fever "every limb became convulsed," so too does the monster reflect, effectively through Shelley's use of descriptive language, how when created it had a "convulsive motion" which "agitated its limbs." As Mary Shelley presents Frankenstein and the monster as one through her comparative language, her use of syntax within the description of the monster's birth also adds emphasis to this theme.

 

Thematically, the divided self is once more, seen as subverted through the use of imagery instead of language. Rather than describing the actions of both Frankenstein and the monster as analogous through the use of language, Mary Shelley, through Robert Walton's encounter with Frankenstein also thematically reinforces both characters as united through the use of imagery.

 

Even though the reader is later informed the traveller is Frankenstein, the unique choice of imagery when describing him as an 'interesting creature' serves only to reinforce how Frankenstein has become divided from humanity due to his unnatural creation. However, this singular image has a paradoxical effect upon Frankenstein's divided self. Although one may view Frankenstein as divided, one may also regard him as united with his 'creature.' Just as he is presented as 'gnashing his teeth,' the monster is later seen to reflect Frankenstein's actions by gnashing his teeth in 'the impotence of anger.'

 

Mary Shelley's use of language regarding the theme of giving birth to an embodiment of ones self clearly depicts the physical, mental and spiritual void in both Frankenstein and his creation. Just as Cathy's emotions are repressed within Wuthering Heights, so too are Frankenstein's. The monster himself may represent the division within Frankenstein's sub conscience, his primitive self. "We are unfashioned creatures, but half made up." As his creation has given birth to his other self, he is closely linked with the monsters own spiritual self. "You my creator, detest and spurn me...to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the annihilation of one of us."

 

Emily Bronte also successfully presents as Mary Shelley does, the theme of the divided self through her use of language. When the reader is told "her mind has wandered, her soul no longer remains within her," one may view Emily Bronte's description of Cathy's divided self as conflicting. Although her soul is seen to escape what she likens to a "shattered prison" which has, like the two households similarly restricted her, this liberation also divides Cathy within herself, spiritually, mentally and physically.

 

The monster, within Frankenstein is also subjected to spiritual division. His perception of life is based upon experience. Through his involvement with the cottagers he instinctively learns to "assist their labours," thus developing a sense of humanity. This instinctive good side is destroyed however when the cottagers reject him and with a "bitter sickness" the monster therefore learns how he will treat Frankenstein in return, thus destroying his sense of humanity, forever dividing him until his death.

 

Within both novels, the theme of the divided self is an experience, which each protagonist character is seen to endure. Until they tragically accept their destiny, Cathy, Heathcliff, Frankenstein and the monster are presented as physically, spiritually and mentally divided, not only within themselves but also with each other. Only when they finally succumb to death, are "the dead at peace," leaving the reader to ponder upon the rhetorical question which touches upon the theme of the divided self; for "where can I find rest but in death?"

 

 


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