Length: 1947 words (5.6 double-spaced pages)
Wuthering Heights was written during a time in which social structure and culture were very important. All people fell into a specific class depending on the reputation and wealth of their family. Catherine was considered to be in a higher class of society than Heathcliff was because she was part of a wealthy family with a large estate while Heathcliff was only a laborer. This large gap between their social status was one determining factor for the success of their love. Due to the economic forces of the era Catherine was motivated to leave Heathcliff for a man of higher status and more power. Thus causing Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship to never develop into a healthy true love due to their separation. Despite Catherine's desires for status, her and Heathcliff shared a mutual love that was both childish and obsessive. Their separation proved to be almost unbearable by Heathcliff's extreme reactions to Catherine's marriage to Edgar. Due to Catherine's abandonment he felt he was not worry enough to marry Catherine, therefore, he resulted in disappearing in order to achieve social status and wealth. Their love for one another became more obvious when Heathcliff returned. However, Heathcliff's return did more harm than good by stirring up emotions that had not been touched in either of the characters lives for a long time. Their unbalanced emotions and obsessions for one another caused by their separate social status lead them to torture and death.
In the late 1700's and early 1800's, when this novel took place, the social structure in the British society was very important. At the top of the society was the royalty, followed by the aristocracy. Both these classes held great social positions. Then there were the gentry who owned many servants and large estates, however, held little to no social position. Lastly, was the lower class, which was the majority of the population. The Earnshaw family, at the Wuthering heights, held a weak gentry's position compared to the Linton's at the Grange, who had carriages and a larger estate. Public appearance was an important factor in determining a persons social status. The Heights had no carriages and their public appearance decreased when the Mister and Mistress of the house past away causing their status to be lowered. Catherine's family was no longer stable in their gentry's position due to her parents death.
Catherine well aware of her family's decreasing status and her desired to gain as much wealth as she could, to assure that she could be the best woman and enjoy all the pleasures and comforts of the wealthy. She knew that Heathcliff could not offer her the stability she desired in a gentry position. Catherine admitted, "If Heathcilff and I married, we should be beggars?"(74). Heathcliff had no social status and was not even part of society. He is a representation of nature because he governed his own actions and held no place in the social structure. He was only a servant doing farming labor. Heathcliff had no money or possessions to his name meaning that if Catherine wished to keep her appearance she could not marry him. Understanding that she should merry into a wealthy family she said, "And he will be rich [Edgar], and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighborhood, I shall be proud of having such a husband." (71). Her desires to be wealthy and achieve a higher status persuaded her to marry a wealthy man instead of Heathcliff. To be known as a wealthy and prominent woman she married Edgar Linton. Edgar was considered to be a gentlemen because of his social position. This was also determined by the amount of money he had and how many servants, carriages and land he owned. He lived a very conventional lifestyle with many restrictions. He was civilized and wealthy and offered Catherine all the material gifts she needed. Due to the high influence on the importance of status and wealth she felt that she was supposed to choose Edgar over Heathcliff. She admitted her emotions to Nelly, "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff."(73). When Heathcliff became aware of Catherine's motivation to be wealthy and her embarrassment towards him, he was devastated. He felt completely betrayed by his lover and severely lower than her. Heathcliff realized that because of their social differences they could not be together. Determined to become worthy of her love he disappeared in order to gain a higher social status. Several years later Heathcliff returned a wealthy gentlemen. He had earned his money by trade and now represented the new capitalist ideas from the era. Heathcliff returns to the story with the intentions of taking over the old conventional ways with the new capitalist views and winning back his lover. He returns to the Wuthering Heights and begins to slowly take over the ways of the Earnshaw's by his new wealthy power. Heathcliff however, realizes that his new power is still not able to bring the two lovers together because their unhealthy love never matured.
Catherine and Heathcilff share a love that is eternal and never changing. The two lovers share a love and passion for one another that holds firm as the strongest lasting emotion in the novel. As young children they create a deep connection that they firmly hold onto throughout their lives. The lovers never give their love a chance to change in fear that it could disappear. As a result of their never changing emotions their love is not able to mature into a healthy relationship. They forbid time to effect their bond resulting in their childish and unrealistic desires. Catherine explained how time could not change their love, "My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath"(74). Their love is eternal and will never end however their feelings for one another have not changed sense they were children. The lovers will not adapt their love to time as the trees do to seasons, but let it stay the same through everything, similar to a rock as it is frozen in time. Catherine's childish love is expressed through her desires to be young again. She wishes to be young in order to make her love with Heathcliff possible. She cried, "I wish I were out doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free why am I so changed?"(115). She admits that she has changed however she refuses to accept it to maintain their love.
Heathcliff and Catherine's similar perceptions and desire to be together create a notion that they both have a half to one soul that is try desperately to unite. When they were young they were both like nature in their free spirited ways. They were equals and were both living like savages. However, when Catherine was pulled out of her "nature lifestyle" and into the upper class a gap was placed between them. From that point forward their love was never able to mature and all they had to hold onto was their childish love. They reacted to their separation as if their soul was torn into two halves. Heathcliff demonstrates this feeling shortly after their second separation due to Catherine's death. "Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live with out my soul!"(153). Catherine makes a similar quote before her death on her thoughts of death. "I shall love mine yet; and take him with me [Heathcliff]: he's in my soul"(147). The two lovers share a bond that is so deep they feel that they have the same soul. Their connection is so deep that when one feels pain the other bleeds as well. "My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself if he were annihilated. The universe would turn to a mighty stranger"(75). Their love is a spiritual and timeless bond that is imperishable.
The two lovers unhealthy obsessions with each other caused them disappointment and illness. Catherine and Heathcliff were so addicted to each other that it was necessary for them to be together. For example Catherine calls their relationship, "A source of visible delight, but necessary"(74). Their love was necessary and a catalyst for their survival. When separated they would suffer withdrawal symptoms. Twice Catherine became ill because from separation with Heathcliff. When Heathcliff overheard Catherine's acceptance to Edgar's proposal he fled in desperation to become worthy of Catherine's love. Catherine was devastated to find that Heathcliff was missing and stayed up all night in the rain with hopes of her lover returning. "Catherine would not be persuaded into tranquillity. She kept wandering in a state of agitation growling thunder, and great drops that began to plash around her, she remained, calling at intervals and listening, and crying outright"(77).Catherine drove herself to an illness so strong that it killed two others in the novel. She felt the need to be with her lover not matter what the consequences. She became ill a second time after Edgar forbid her to speak with Heathcliff. Her addiction to Heathcliff fed off his presence and when she knew she could not see him she locked her self away refusing to neither eat nor sleep. This shows Catherine's unhealthily addiction to Heathcliff.
Torment and death were the most harmful results of Catherine and Heathcliff's love. When Heathcliff heard that it would degrade Catherine to marry him he ran away unable to bare to pain it brought him. He felt that the society had robbed him of his lover and it tormented him greatly. It took many years for him to return and when he did it was obvious that he was not the same. The torture that he went threw had effected him so greatly that he is referred to as "inhuman". Heathcliff was put threw this torment again when death separated Catherine from Heathcliff. He felt that with out her presence he could no longer go on. The narrator explains the torture he felt because of their separation, "He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears"(153). The death of Catherine tormented him causing him to become inhuman because he considered half his soul gone. The addiction and torment these characters went through to finally lead to their deaths. Catherine died because of addict withdrawal symptoms for Heathcliff. She become ill with an obsessive love that slowly killed her. Heathcliff's death was similar as he died lovesick for Catherine. The lovers had drove each other to their death and had killed each other. Catherine cried on her death bed to Heathcliff, "You have killed me"(145). Heathcliff later confirms this statement by confessing, "I killed you- haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers"(153). Their obsessive love cause them great pain and finally death.
Heathcliff and Catherine were in different parts of the social structure, forbidding them to be together. However their love was so strong that they were able to be together mentally while they could never physically be together. Their obsessive attempts to be together only lead to their destruction. The strong social structure of the time caused their initial separation. She was a wealthy gentry while he was only a servant. Heathcliff and Catherine had a strong passion for one another that developed when they were young. Their love's failure to develop resulted in obsessive addiction to one another that lead them to torment and death.