Should Wuthering Heights be considered relevant in today’s society? I say, yes. Although I must admit, I was very close to hating this book, not only because of the confusing situations which occurs and my dislike towards all characters, but also for much more reasons that I don’t wish to point out at this moment for that we shall be here for a terribly long time if I did.
However, I must also admit, the context of this book, “Wuthering Heights”, have portrayed many relevant themes that are still existing today, even as I speak.
Catherine’s decision of marriage is one example. “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary Nelly, I am Heathcliff.” In this quote, Catherine was well aware of her love for Heathcliff claiming that they both have the same souls. She had no income or property of her own. Her physical comfort depends on the will of her father and brother and the most crucial decision of her life, to marry Edgar Linton, is determined by the fact that if she were to marry Heathcliff, they would become ‘beggars’. In my opinion, this is a case of forbidden love. Catherine and Heathcliff cannot be together as their statuses are simply too far apart. Many has pointed out that this is irrelevant today as currently, we have the freedom to marry whoever we like.
Statuses and class aren’t considered as important anymore. But is this so? That nowadays we could say “I do” to whoever we desire? In the book Forbidden Love, by Norma Khouri, told on the accounts of a true story in the small town of Jordan, there is a much similar situation. Dalia, a Muslim, was in love with a Catholic man called Michael. In Jordan, it is considered extremely immoral for two people with such different beliefs to be together. As a result, Dalia was ‘honorably’ killed when her secret relationship was discovered.
Here, this is much like the account of Wuthering Heights. Although it is fair to argue that both stories are different; one deals with religion and honor killings when the other with statuses. However the concepts of the two are very much alike as both revolve around the idea of forbidden love. Love that can never be equated. Perhaps the procedure of murder or revenge would not appear in every situation such as this, but most definitely it will end painfully tragic. The heartbreaking story of Dalia and Michael was real. It only happened several years ago.
As I have heard in your speeches, many have pointed out that the scene of Catherine’s ghost was much irrelevant as opposed to today’s society for that we now do not believe in the supernatural. I find this argument rather hypocritical. If I remember correctly, only a few years back, was there not a reality TV show starring John Edwards which was such a big hit, it attracted millions of viewers around the whole globe? Mr. Edwards claimed, through his television show, that he could communicate with the souls of the dead. This not only brought the attention of numerous but also their belief in him. Many say that his so-called ‘communications’ is probably just a sham and aren’t genuine. Whether he really beholds such powers or he was simply making up his sixth sense, I do not care for that he is a person that I neither like nor like to know more of. I am merely mentioning this troublesome man to prove my point.
Not of the existence of the supernatural or that ghosts do really appear through your window, but of our beliefs in it even today. As modern day citizens, our acceptance of the paranormal is still very strong. If it wasn’t so, then wouldn’t the ratings for a reality show of communications with dead spirits be extremely low and unpopular much like the opposite of the results of Mr. Edwards’ multi-million making one? Here, in the story of Wuthering Heights, the use of a ghostly scene was to attract the readers’ attention making the book sound interesting and engaging. Bronte addresses the bond between Catherine and Heathcliff in a spiritual way. Thus, making their love towards each other almost inseparable.
As children, they had a bond that grew out of similar needs. They grew up protecting and trying to shelter each other from the abuse of Hindley and Joseph. Consequently, they developed an eternal friendship, love and affinity. One could say that they were soul mates even children. Bronte expands the notion of eternal love by creating the supernatural aspect in the story. This is illustrated when Heathcliff contacts Catherine’s spirit after she dies. Their souls are eternally joined so as a result, Heathcliff cannot live in this realm without her. Only their souls joined together make one. Heathcliff eventually dies to reunite his soul with Catherine.
Another aspect which is relevant today and forever it shall remain relevant is selfishness. Catherine’s selfish character was depicted when she wanted both Edgar and Heathcliff at the same time. In the beginning, she was introduced as a ‘high spirited’ character who was wild. However, she drastically changes throughout the book. When she hurts her leg and is forced to stay at Thrushcross Grange, she returns to Wuthering Heights as a well dressed and dignified lady. She was easily swayed to the superior lifestyle of the Lintons and began to look down upon Heathcliff. She even laughs at his rough and dirty appearance and says “I didn’t mean to laugh at you. I could not hinder myself Heathcliff. Shake hands at least! What are you sulky for? It was only that you looked odd. If you wash you face and brush your hair, it would be alright. But you are so dirty!” I as a reader was left surprised and cheated with this reversal.
However, she becomes more and more selfish by the minute and even tries to change Heathcliff and begins to feel that he is in fact, beneath her. This is one of the reasons why she starts to look at Edgar in a new light. He, unlike her family, was refined, gentle, rich and handsome. When he asked her to marry him, she accepted, knowing very well that she loved Heathcliff. “I’ve no more business to marry Edgar than I have to be in heaven. If the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now, so he shall never know how I love him; and that not only because he is handsome, Nelly, but because he is more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightening or frost from fire.” We could her marriage to Edgar was for all the wrong reasons.
Catherine even confides to Nelly, “he shall be rich and I shall be the greatest woman of the neighborhood and I shall be proud of having such a husband.” It is evident that Catherine throws away love for her own selfish wants and materialistic motives. She wanted Edgar for his life and riches and Heathcliff for his soul. She didn’t want to choose between the two and she never really did. She toyed with both of them by marring Edgar while still loving Heathcliff. Thus, she caused pain for the two men, by causing Edgar to be jealous and Heathcliff desiring revenge. Catherine’s passion towards Heathcliff ruined many lives. Later in the story, she suffers from the results of the selfish and naive decisions she makes. I wasn’t sorry for her not only because I find her very much annoying, but because I felt that she deserved it they were the bad choices that she must live with.
Her character was childish and spoilt who loved to be in the centre of attention. It is not surprising why she wanted to be the most powerful woman in the neighborhood. The character Catherine, not only gives us something to hate and despise, but to also learn from. Throughout the whole story she was indeed very selfish and very rarely has she ever used her head to decide. Thus, this lead to the suffering of not only her, but many additional innocent lives in both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. My point here is selfishness is something that only destroys happiness of not simply you, but others as well. This theme is not only relevant, but should be considered everyday.
In conclusion, I still think that “Wuthering Heights” is a relevant text and should be studied by teenagers through high school. Even though I shall be feeling somewhat sorry for them, the book portrays the some of the most significant qualities of mankind. That is something that I cannot argue against.
Courtney from Study Moose
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