Wuthering Heights

Love in Wuthering Heights

Biography of Emily Brontė
An Emily Bronte Chronology and discussion questions
The Brontė Sisters
The Brontė Family
Haworth - Bronte Country
Writer - Filmography
Character List
Book Wuthering Heights
Film Wuthering Heights 1939
Film Wuthering Heights 1971
Wuthering Heights 1971
Wuthering Heights Masterpiece Theatre's 1998
Wuthering Heights 2003 TV
Wuthering Heights - Kate Bush
Love in Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights
Woeste Hoogte
O Morro dos Ventos Uivantes 1992
Arashi Ga Oka 1989
Abismos De Pasion 1954
Review Summary
Jane Eyre


Romantic love takes many forms in Wuthering Heights: the grand passion of Heathcliff and Catherine, the insipid languishing of Lockwood, the coupleism of Hindley and Frances, the tame indulgence of Edgar, the romantic infatuation of Isabella, the puppy love of Cathy and Linton, and the flirtatious sexual attraction of Cathy and Hareton. These lovers, with the possible exception of Hareton and Cathy, are self-centered and ignore the needs, feelings, and claims of others; what matters is the lovers' own feelings and needs.


Despite the generally accepted view that Heathcliff and Catherine are deeply in love with each other, the question of whether they really love each other has to be addressed. This question raises another; what kind of love--or feelings--is Emily Brontė depicting? Her sister Charlotte, for example, called Heathcliff's feelings "perverted passion and passionate perversity."
I list below a number of interpretations of their love/ostensible love.
Soulmates. Their love exists on a higher or spiritual plane; they are soul mates, two people who have an affinity for each other which draws them togehter irresistibly. Heathcliff repeatedly calls Catherine his soul. Such a love is not necessarily fortunate or happy. For C. Day Lewis, Heathcliff and Catherine "represent the essential isolation of the soul, the agony of two souls–or rather, shall we say? two halves of a single soul–forever sundered and struggling to unite."
A life-force relationship. Clifford Collins calls their love a life-force relationship, a principle that is not conditioned by anything but itself. It is a principle because the relationship is of an ideal nature; it does not exist in life, though as in many statements of an ideal this principle has implications of a profound living significance. Catherine's conventional feelings for Edgar Linton and his superficial appeal contrast with her profound love for Heathcliff, which is "an acceptance of identity below the level of consciousness." Their relationship expresses "the impersonal essence of personal existence," an essence which Collins calls the life-force. This fact explains why Catherine and Heathcliff several times describe their love in impersonal terms. Because such feelings cannot be fulfilled in an actual relationship, Brontė provides the relationship of Hareton and Cathy to integrate the principle into everyday life.
Creating meaning. Are Catherine and Heathcliff rejecting the emptiness of the universe, social institutions, and their relationships with others by finding meaning in their relationship with each other, by a desperate assertion of identity based on the other?
Transcending isolation. Their love is an attempt to break the boundaries of self and to fuse with another to transcend the inherent separateness of the human condition; fusion with another will by uniting two incomplete individuals create a whole and achieve new sense of identity, a complete and unified identity. This need for fusion is motivates Heathcliff's determination to "absorb" Catherine's corpse into his and for them to "dissolve" into each other so thoroughly that Edgar will not be able to distinguish Catherine from him.
Freud explained this urge as an inherent part of love: "At the height of being in love the boundary between ego and object threatens to melt away. Against all the evidence of his senses, a man who is in love declares ‘I' and 'you' are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact."
Love as religion. Love has become a religion in Wuthering Heights, providing a shield against the fear of death and the annihilation of personal identity or consciousness. This use of love would explain the inexorable connection between love and death in the characters' speeches and actions.
Love as addiction. Is what Catherine and Heathcliff call love and generations of readers have accepted as Ideal Love really an addiction? Stanton Peele argues that romantic or passion love is in itself an addiction.


Is the love of Catherine and Heathcliff sexual? Is it true that even when Catherine is clasped to Heathcliff's breast "we dare not doubt her purity" (Sidney Dobell, 1840); Swinburne agrees with Dobell because theirs is a "passionate and ardent chastity".

1. Is Heathcliff really Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son?
2. If not, are Catherine and Heathcliff raised so like brother and sister that there is emotional incest? or the hint of incest? English law forbid the marriage of siblings by adoption and of non-related/non-adopted children raised in the same household; this prohibition would seem to apply to Catherine and Heathcliff. Christopher Heywood suggests that by using the name of a son who had died, the Earnshaws precluded his marrying Catherine. Does this legal prohibition reinforce the implication of incest in their love?  3. Is Cathy really Heathcliff's child, so that Cathy and Linton are half brother and sister?

Is Catherine's marrying Edgar is an attempt to escape the adult sexuality of Heathcliff? If so, then how do we account for her emphatic hope to produce several heirs for Edgar? And is there any reason to assume that Edgar is not capable of Healthy or normal sexual relations?

What types of love are at work in Wuthering Heights?
Agape - All encompassing love, wondering expectation. Love or awe for a God.
Eros - Physical love, God of love.
Philos - Brotherly love. The love you would have for a friend.
Love - That state of feeling from recognition of attractive qualities, from sympathy or from natural ties, and manifests itself in warm affection and attachment.
- An instance of affection.
- In religious use, applied to the paternal benevolence and affection of God, to the affectionate devotion due to God from his creatures.
- Strong predilection for or devotion to something.
- The personification of sexual affection (Eros/Cupid).
- The sexual instinct and its gratification.
- A beloved person.
- A game of guessing the number of fingers held up in a quick movement of the hand.
A child could explain the concept of love, it is something straightforward and simple. Love “is”. However, as we grow older and things become classified, love becomes something incredibly complex and incomprehensible. It becomes purely a part of uncontrollable emotions, with its own wild beauty. That is the one thing that everyone will agree on, that love can be beautiful.
Emily Bronte (1818-48) was intense in her treatment of love and passion. Wuthering Heights (1847), her only novel, deals with two generations of the Linton and Earnshaw families in Yorkshire, and how their lives are affected by the ferocity of Heathcliff, who was brought into their lives as a boy found in the streets of Liverpool. “The love between him and Catherine Earnshaw is all-consuming, destructive and yet immortal. Wuthering Heights which has been called a dramatic poem, is full of the most violent emotions, paradoxically made even more intense by the perspective in which they are placed by the narrators of the story.” As in Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, the settings are important: the interiors of the houses, the Yorkshire moors, and the changing seasons.

The stark, passionate world created by Emily Bronte, has become one of the most widely read books in the English language. As a love story it appears to run more along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, rather than Mills and Boon, where the desperate passions of the characters, necessarily ends in death. It is typical of the Romance Genre for the characters to experience a moment of self knowledge, an epiphany, whereby the characters come to know themselves better through the love or actions of another person.
Virginia Woolf has described her view of Emily Bronte’s creation:
There is love, but it is not the love of men and women. The impulse which urged her to create was not her own suffering or her own injuries. She looked out onto a world cleft into gigantic disorder, and felt within her the power to unite it into a book.”
In her novel admittedly there are many of the characteristics of love, but they appear twisted as if seen through a bent looking-glass on a hall of mirrors. Passion turns to violence. Here even civilised, educated people appear to loose the veneer of society, revealing, perhaps some of the more deeply buried emotions and tendencies. How can such a thing be explained, when the repressed side of the characters, appears to have been magnified and more than human. Heathcliff, to the reader, appears inhuman, his violence is paramount, and yet so is his love. This is apparently what happens when there is something that you want, but can never posses. An example of the veneer of the Linton’s as opposed to the wild natures of Cathy and Heathcliff, is shown by something described by Nellie Dean:
It was not the thorn bending to the honey-suckles, but the honey-suckles embracing the thorn.
One example of an extreme violence, by a person who would otherwise have been characterised as a gentleman, was Lockwood’s actions, towards Cathy’s ghost, during a dream he had while staying at Wuthering Heights:
As it spoke I discerned, obscurely, a child’s face looking through the window Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro until the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes: still it wailed, ‘Let me in!’ and maintained its tenacious grip, almost maddening me with fear.
This example of Cathy’s ghost returning, as a child can be seen as an example of the child-like love she portrays. For her the dreams of happiness are located in youth (Freud characterised this as the polymorphous perversity of the infant). We can see that Cathy wanted to have everything, showing a child-like greed. She did not want to have to choose between her love for Linton and her love for Heathcliff. In a similar way her child-like approach to life proved that she was capable of the narcissism of the young, imagining herself universally loved:
But I begin to fancy that you don’t like me. How strange! I thought, though everyone hated and despised each other, they could not avoid loving me - and they have all turned to enemies in a few hours.”

Cathy’s love differs for Heathcliff and Linton. Of Linton she says:

“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.”

This however proves how shallow her love for him is, because she does not seem to love him, rather she loves all that is around him. Her love for Heathcliff is fundamental and unchanging, whereas her feelings for Linton are as changeable as the seasons:

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees - my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath - a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff - he’s always, always in my mind - not as a pleasure any more than I am always a pleasure to myself - but, as my own being.

However there is more than just the love between man and woman shown in Wuthering Heights. We can also see the love that Nellie Dean had for the infant Hareton, as perhaps a mother might have loved a son, although as everything in the novel, her love was not to be long-lived:

“I kissed Hareton goodbye; and, since then, he has been a stranger, and its very queer to think it, but I’ve no doubt, he has completely forgotten about Ellen Dean and that he was ever more than all the world to her, and she to him!”

The main feature of the novel, however is clearly the fundamental love which existed between Cathy and Heathcliff. It has been said that in Wuthering Heights we appear to have hit the wilder shores of love. As Cathy says:

“If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be, and if all else remained and he was annihilated, the universe would turn into a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it.”

It can be seen that the novels intensity and the escapism that we can find in its romance, is caused by its acute psychological understanding of the characters and how they communicate to each other. As the introduction to the Penguin Classics edition to the novel says: ‘On one level the novel appears to celebrate a transcendent love which surpasses the bounds of authority, mundanity, even death’.

There is a desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures, something which is already a powerful principle in human nature. The social state is so natural, so necessary, and habitual, that except in some unusual circumstances, or by an effort of voluntary abstraction, he never conceives himself otherwise than a member of a body; and this association is riveted more, and more, as mankind are further removed from the state of savage independence. Both Heathcliff and Cathy left the savageness of their upbringing to try to be equal to the people around them, and to learn the graces of society. At times it is clear to see that this is not necessarily their natural state, they both long to return to their natural state, to be able to run free on the moors, regardless of others. As John Stuart Mill wrote:

“All action is for the sake of some end, and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and colour from the end to which they are subservient.”

This is directly relevant to the characters of Wuthering Heights. From early on in the novel we watch the families, and we can feel disaster approaching. Everything which occurs in the novel only leads us closer to that final end, where we see Cathy, Heathcliff, and Linton in their final rest. Dylan Thomas wrote something which can be seen to connect strongly to this theme:

‘Though lovers be lost, love shall not,
And death shall have no dominion.’

It is only in death that their contrasting forms of love are combined, to leave a lasting peace. It is only in death that they are reconciled. The novel ends with a sense of peace finally having arrived to the participants of this painful love triangle. As Lockwood looks at the graves he describes what he sees:

I sought, and soon discovered, the three head-stones on the slope next the moor - the middle one, grey, and half buried in heath - Edgar Linton’s only harmonised by the turf, and moss creeping up its foot - Heathcliff’s still bare.

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in the quiet earth.

Perhaps in death they all found peace. After all, does heaven not offer eternal love and forgiveness?

"I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind."