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Diseased Body in Wuthering Heights Essay

In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte it can be viewed that there is “more suffering caused by a diseased mind than by a diseased body.” The idea of a “diseased mind” is a mental illness or madness and the “diseased body” is a physical illness or injury, both of which are displayed by many characters in Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff is a prime example of a character with a “diseased mind” that causes him suffering. He spends the majority of his life contemplating and acting out revenge towards Hindley and the Lintons because he believes it was their fault Catherine thought it would “degrade” her to marry Heathcliff, even though she loved him; this is one example of his unstable mind set. In chapter 9 Nelly foreshadows the suffering of Heathcliff by saying “if you [Catherine] are his choice, he’ll be the most unfortunate creature,” this is because Nelly understands that society wouldn’t accept the pair to marry, therefore Heathcliff will be unfortunately heartbroken. Heathcliff believes that Catherine is a part of him: “I cannot live without my soul,” he says which highlights that he is suffering without her. It is from this heartbreak and suffering that his “diseased mind” commenced. Heathcliff’s “diseased mind” heightens when he asks for Catherine to “haunt” him when she is dead; haunting is an element of the Gothic genre but the madness of Heathcliff is enhanced when he requests that Catherine drives him “mad.”

The word “mad” is ambiguous in this quotation because it could be viewed that Heathcliff wants to be haunted until he is angry with Catherine so he can destroy his love for her. An alternative view is that Heathcliff wants to be haunted until he is insane and suffering since he is desperate to see Catherine, this becomes true because after Catherine’s death Heathcliff’s mind is haunted by his love for her. Jerold E. Hogle explains this is accurate because characters in Gothic novels are “haunted psychologically” and this is accurately shown through the character of Heathcliff. His mind is “diseased” by his separation from Catherine due to her choice of partner and her death, which causes him and everyone in the novel immense suffering because of his vengeance.

Heathcliff’s unconditional love causes Catherine’s “melancholy” “mental state” because it is overwhelming and she is in love with him but a Victorian society wouldn’t accept their relationship because of the Heathcliff’s very low class, which would result in them being “beggars.” Catherine has “a peculiar expression arising from her mind set” before she tells Heathcliff “you have killed me,” this highlights her “diseased mind” and the suffering it is causing her because she hasn’t died yet but it could be interpreted that she feels as though she has which emphasises her suffering, but also her madness. The “peculiar expression” that Catherine is described to have could be because she was “thinking… of Wuthering Heights.”

The “expression” could be interpreted as a smile, which would be “peculiar” to Nelly because she has been depressed living with Edgar, therefore a smile would be unusual; David Punter explains “Gothic reminds us we are driven by our passions” and Catherine’s passion is Heathcliff, which would explain her “expression” when thinking about Wuthering Heights. This idea of Catherine’s thought process in her “diseased mind” emphasises her pain and suffering because she cannot be without Heathcliff, her “soul,” yet she is continuously thinking about him, this is essentially what drives her insane.

Catherine’s mental suffering is closely linked with her physical suffering which is an example that represents the “diseased body” in Wuthering Heights. Another character with a “diseased body” in Wuthering Heights is Isabella, whose “bruised” body is a valid example of suffering. Heathcliff’s “diseased mind” causes him to abuse Isabella which leads to her suffering and her injured body


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