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In chapter nine, we are introduced to the issues surrounding different
ideas of love through Catherine's dilemma. The author uses a variety
of imagery and ideas to separate superficial love from true love.
We are shown that her love for Edgar, a gentleman residing in the
estate of Thrushcross Grange, is indeed superficial. Catherine tells
Nelly that she has just accepted Edgar's proposal, yet she does not
seem satisfied with her choice:
"I accepted him, Nelly; be quick, and say whether I was wrong!" Say
whether I should have done so - do!"
This immediately implies that she is not confident of her own
judgement - she seeks assurance and comfort that her choice was the
correct one by pleading to Nelly, her servant. This is extremely odd,
as the majority of people would not commit themselves to lifetime
relationships without being sure that it is the right choice to do so.
We are shown that the reason behind her doubt is that her "love" for
Edgar is plainly superficial. Nelly also understands this, and asks
Catherine, bluntly, if she loves him. She replies firmly:
"Who can help it? Of course I do."
I believe that her manner in responding to this question completely
contradicts the words which that she actually speaks. She replies in a
very 'matter-of-fact' tone, which suggests that her reasoning behind
her love should be visible and obvious to all. She suggests that no
woman could resist him, which, combined with the previous point,
implies that he is desirable due to his outward appearance and status
- he is "marriage material". Hence, Catherine has shown us that her
love for Edgar is the same love that any woman would feel for him,
which is not true love; it is merely attraction. She furthers this by
declaring that she does not want to be a "beggar", which she believes
would be the outcome of marrying Heathcliff.
I also believe that Catherine is trying to convince herself of her
love for Edgar. This was shown earlier by her asking Nelly for
reassurance, but it is shown further when Nelly asks her why she loves
"I love the ground under his feet, and the air over his head, and
everything he touches, and every word he says - I love all his looks,
and all his actions, and him entirely, and altogether. There now!"
This response also puzzled me - it has been worded in a very
impersonal fashion. She uses dry, unlovable vocabulary in her
description, such as "ground", "feet" and "air". It is a list of
clichés, and instead of giving the intended outcome of proving her
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common and shallow. The conclusion of "there now!" gives the
impression that she is only saying these declarations to convince
Nelly of her love, of which she herself is unsure - she almost says it
in a proud manner.
The idea of superficial love is explored throughout this scene, as
Catherine only wishes to marry Edgar as he is "handsome, young and
cheerful". As mentioned before, she wants to have a "proper" husband,
and does not wish to become a "beggar". She dresses up when she
expects Edgar, whereas she does not for Heathcliff, who we will soon
find to be her true, eternal love. She even admits that her love for
Edgar will not last:
"My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change
it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees."
This shows that her love is, indeed, superficial - it is only
appealing on the outside, and once the pretence has worn off, it will
not be the same at all.
These points combined, we can see that Catherine's love for Edgar is
purely superficial, and this fact is known to Catherine, as we can see
by her doubts. If she is to feel all these doubts on the day of their
engagement, it shows that she knows something is missing from her
She has known Heathcliff all her life, and declares him her
"soulmate". We are shown that her feelings for Heathcliff are very
deep - her description of her love does not contain shallow clichés or
"Nelly, I am Heathcliff. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal
rocks - a source of little visible delight, but necessary."
This contrasts vividly with, firstly, her description of what she
loved about Edgar, and secondly, with the idea of her love with Edgar
being "foliage in the woods". She describes Heathcliff as being a part
of her, necessary to her living. It also expels any hint of
superficial love from the situation, as she does not find him
appealing in the way that she finds Edgar, yet her love for Heathcliff
is deeper - it is the rocks beneath the foliage.
"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be;
and, if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the Universe would
turn to a mighty stranger."
This amplifies her idea of not being able to survive without him.
Although his rock-like character is unappealing, he is a part of her.
She proves this snapping that "talk of their separation" was
Comparing the above, we can see that she loves Heathcliff
passionately, but only loves Edgar so she can have the life she feels
she was meant to have.
I believe that we are meant to question her choice - the author gives
us clear indication, as shown above, that her feelings are far deeper
for Heathcliff. Catherine says that she cannot exist without
Heathcliff - then why would she not marry him? Furthermore, we are
introduced to a dream of Catherine's, in which she goes to heaven.
This image is normally associated with happiness and tranquillity, yet
she says that she hated it, and "broke her heart" crying. She was only
comforted when she was returned to Wuthering Heights, which shows that
she prefers the stormy, dark abode to the typically light and happy
idea of heaven. This shows that her choice to marry Edgar was a
complete contradiction to what her inner-self was trying to convey to
her through her dream - she is happier with what she knows and is part
of, not what is thought to be good.
This chapter strongly questions marriage - firstly the reasoning
behind it, but also its necessity at all: she marries Edgar although
she loves Heathcliff more, yet, as long as he is still in her life,
she can exist. This shows that she does not need to be married to
Heathcliff to love him, as long as he remains in her life.
In conclusion, we can see that her love for Edgar is superficial, and
her passionate love for Heathcliff is so deep that it does not need
the bond of marriage to secure it.