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Grief in Wuthering Heights

Essay by   •  February 3, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,649 Words (11 Pages)  •  2,691 Views

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Emily Bronte incorporates various types of grief into her writing in Wuthering Heights. This may be due to the conditions of many of her own experiences, or it may not, we cannot know. Regardless, the grief that is exhibited by the many different characters, differs for various reasons. The intense feelings of grief demonstrated in Wuthering Heights are most often insinuated by death. The ways in which characters relate to one another vary greatly, and also play a great role in determining the intensity of the sorrow felt by a character. Also, one's personality and capabilities can affect how he/she may feel about another's death. All of these are connected to the conditions in which a character was brought up and how he/she was living at the time of the tragedy, which also bears a large impact on the feelings of grief displayed.

For example, no one knows for sure where Heathcliff came from or how he lived before he came to Wuthering Heights as a child. We immediately learn that Heathcliff is different, and may perceive a mysterious persona about him. Which proves correct later in the book, because no other character's sorrow can compare to his, except maybe Catherine's. Heathcliff had an obsession. To him, Catherine was life. He did not want to live without her. Heathcliff came to Wuthering Heights as a child and grew up with Catherine always by his side, until Hindley returned. Therefore, his obsession began as a child. Because he grew used to having Catherine with him, as he grew older he never wanted to be separated from her. Hindley's forcing their separation probably only strengthened his passion for her, because once he couldn't be with her, he could only want it that much more. As I said before, we do not know what life was like for Heathcliff before he came to Wuthering Heights. We can only assume the worst because when old Mr. Earnshaw brought him back he told,

"...a tale of seeing it [Heathcliff] starving, and houseless, and as good as dumb, in the streets of Liverpool; where he picked it up and inquired for its owner. Not a soul knew to whom it belonged...he was determined he would not leave it as he found it." (33)

So, Heathcliff, never having had anything in his life was brought to Wuthering Heights where he had a roof over his head, a warm bed, food in his belly, clothes on his back, and, Catherine. Part of his connection to her was probably because once he went from nothing to everything, and he didn't want to lose what he had. That's why he wanted so badly to always have her in his life and he held on so hard to the idealistic thought of always being with her. Before she married Edgar, she said,

" I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in Heaven; and if the wicked man in there [Hindley] 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 because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's 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 lightning, or frost from fire." (75)

This helps to illustrate how Catherine and Heathcliff's passion for one another is almost beyond comprehension. It is as if it is beyond this world. Catherine cannot marry Heathcliff because of his social status and because he cannot provide for her and she accuses Hindley of being the cause. Because they cannot marry, she chooses to marry Edgar because she loves, "his looks, and all his actions, and him entirely and altogether,"(73). When Heathcliff heard Catherine talking, he decides to leave. Whatever he does, he betters himself to the point where he can seek revenge on Hindley and all others who caused him to be so "low" to where it would have degraded Catherine to marry him. He basically wishes to punish those who made it so he and Catherine could not be together in this life. Yet, it is almost as if they already knew then that they would be together for eternity whether they were married or not, because their souls "are the same." Catherine said,

"...surely you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be, an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning: my great thought in living is himself. 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 a mighty stranger...so don't talk of our separation again: it is impracticable." (76-77)

It is as if they just know they will always be together. Because Heathcliff and Catherine had such a strong connection, and they felt so passionately about each other, Heathcliff's grief for Catherine's death was agony for him. It was as if he was losing a part of his soul.

"Catherine Earnshaw, may you never rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you--haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe-I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always-take any form-drive me mad! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!" (158)

He wanted her to be with him no matter what, even if it meant she had to come back from the dead and haunt him, at least they would be together in some form. It seems even Catherine felt the same way. She knew she was going to die soon and said,

"We've braved its ghosts often together, and dared each other to stand among graves and ask them to come...But Heathcliff, if I dare you now will you venture? If you do, I'll keep you. I'll not lie there by myself: they may bury me twelve feet deep, and throw the church down over me , but I won't rest till you are with me. I never will!" (119)

She says that she will come back and haunt him until he is dead along with her. It seems

Heathcliff sticks around long enough to finish out his plan of revenge for those who prevented him and Catherine being together and made him miserable, until he figures out it isn't that important. Before he dies he says,

"My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives [Catherine Linton and Hareton]: I could do it and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don't care for striking: I can't take the trouble to raise my hand!...I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing." (303)

He basically gives up and wants to die

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