Psychoanalysis of Heathcliff

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When discussing the psychology of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and more specifically, the psychoanalysis of the central character Heathcliff, critics are quick to use the aid of the theories brought forth by Sigmund Freud. Freud states that people’s personalities consist of three parts: the id, ego, and superego. It is only when these parts of a person’s psyche are in balance, that that individual can be mentally healthy. If some traumatic event causes a shift in power between these elements, it will lead to personality contortion. This is what occurs to Heathcliff in Wuthering Height; Catherine chooses Linton’s status over Heathcliff’s love, which in turn causes Heathcliff to lose grips with his sanity. From that point on Heathcliff’s only focus is achieving his revenge.
The id is a person’s most primitive desires. These are his wants. The only focus that the id has is fulfilling its wants and achieving immediate satisfaction. The id is not affected by the everyday world. It operates on the pleasure principle. Heathcliff’s id wants Catherine, and when he couldn’t have her it caused him great pain. In a normal rational person, this is when the superego would come into effect. The superego would control the id’s irrational impulses and influence the ego to make the decision that is the most morally and socially correct. Then the ego would attempt to mediate between the id and superego, makes sense of things, and then makes a decision.
However, due to that fact that Heathcliff was an orphan on the streets when he was taken in by Mr.Earnshaw to Wuthering Heights, this is not how Heathcliff’s mind functions. This is because as an orphan all Heathcliff cared about was survival. According to psychologist Abraham Maslow, humans ...

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...eathcliff after completing his revenge. Although his ego is able to ignore the super ego and its punishment while he is pursuing his revenge, this is only because during this time the id power is indisputable. In the battle over control of the ego, as long as there is revenge to be had, the super ego doesn’t stand a chance. However, as soon as the id’s desire for revenge is met, it stops controlling the ego. It achieved its goals. This is when the super ego takes over. Now that it has power over the ego, the conscience system of the super ego begins punishing the ego severely. It doesn’t allow Heathcliff to achieve any feeling of satisfaction from his revenge. Instead the super ego’s punishment is so absolute that Heathcliff begins to feel tortured and empty, and eventually he becomes a hollow shell of the man he used to be. His punishment concludes with his death.

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