The Double Soul of Emily Bronte
I lov'd her, and destroy'd her!" Byron
Wuthering Heights is no simple love story. It is the anguished expression of the fractured double soul of Emily Bronte, the double soul of humanity and of the tragedy of life; the splitting of that soul by existence in the world; a world of strife and of competition. Wuthering Heights is a masterpiece of double design; an expression of loss and desire; the desire to be whole, to be reunited with the original self that is always fractured by birth into the world. Wuthering Heights haunts its readers because it asks unanswerable questions; Who am I? Where do I belong? Where am I going? Whom do I love? How can I hold my love? What is now, the past, the future? Where is she? Where is he? How can I get in? How can I get out?
The soul of Wuthering Heights is universal and it yearns, it suffers, it seeks, it withholds mysteries, it is orphaned and crying. Emily herself was orphaned, her mother dead and her father, a representative of the Christian religion which Emily rejected, a religion that preached and oppressed, was aloof, leaving the orphaned children to themselves. Emily was orphaned again and again, by the death of her sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, the little mothers, and by the death of her Aunt and brother, Branwell. She clung to her Mother Earth, to the moors, the sky, the winds, the rocks, the heather, her animals, her kitchen, her home, to the path overgrown with weeds; and when torn from this great mother, she suffered, grieved and almost died.
In her great novel, orphans abound. Cathy is motherless and fatherless, being rejected by her father in life and deserted by her mother and father in death. Heathcliff is parent-less, almost origin-less and his adoptive father soon dies, leaving both Cathy and himself at the mercy of the vengeful, Hindley and to the persecution of the old hypocrite, Joseph.
Hindley, another suffering orphan has no mother and is rejected by his father in favour of Heathcliff, the stranger.
Hareton is orphaned at birth, his mother dead and his grieving father lost in drink. The younger Cathy enters the world as her mother leaves it. Young Cathy has a father but he is powerless to protect her from Heathcliff's revenge. As Edgar dies, Heathcliff, the avenger, walks his new daughter home. He is her jailer.
Young Linton, son of the dead Isabella, is sneered at by his father, Heathcliff. Linton is the most miserable of orphans, having no strength of his own.
Yet the need for love is great, the need for the boundless mother love. Cathy and Heathcliff protect their great love for each other, as two parts of a whole, as one being in two visible parts by hanging up their pinafores and making a sanctuary in the arch of the dresser, by sleeping together in the same bed, by scampering on the moors and by general rebellion.
From all of these safe places they are sundered and split apart. Joseph tears down their privacy pinafore screen, he drives them out from the bed and Cathy is laid alone for the first time, as she will be for the second time in death, and Hindley bars Heathcliff out from the home, debasing him in body and spirit. The Lintons accept Cathy and reject Heathcliff. Cathy realizes she is " Heathcliff" at the same moment that she betrays both herself and him by marrying, Edgar.
Hareton seeks a father in his abuser, Heathcliff, and loves him, as Heathcliff does him, though he won't let himself show it. Young Cathy loves her father, young Linton and Hareton, all in spite of strife and anger. The need for love and to find the right love drives the story.
But to err is to die. Emily Bronte, if she had any religion at all, paints a religion of the self in Wuthering Heights. Like The Byronic Hero, she must be true to herself and be united as a whole soul with her mirror image, Heathcliff. Cathy betrays the code, marries Edgar, suffers and dies but does not find rest. She is cloven in two. Heathcliff is forever faithful and cloven in two by Cathy's rejection and death. Yet he is always true to Cathy and to himself. He regrets nothing he has done, as it is true to his code. He must be with and for Cathy. He seeks, suffers and dies. He believes he will attain his goal. He will dissolve with his love; his Cathy.
Emily Bronte leaves us with the mystery. Do they walk? Do they sleep in the quiet earth? Where are they? Not here? Not there? Not perished?
Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte's great agony of joy. It cries, I love you. Don't leave me. My heart's bliss is here, on this earth, on this moor, under this sky, with you who are more myself than I am. Wuthering Heights pulses with the passion for life, for food, for work, for family, for home, for childhood; an eternal childhood, and for an all encompassing and unending Mother-love.
Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights has a double structure throughout, echoing the double opposites of the soul.
It has two narrators, Lockwood, the stranger who blunders into the mysteries and Nellie, the intimate, who relates the everyday details.
It has two families, the Earnshaws, earthy and wild working people and the Lintons, upper class and refined gentry.
It has two houses, the Heights, solid and of stone, windswept and embattled by the elements, and the Grange, in the valley, in a walled in and pleasant park.
It has two Cathy's, the first drawn away from home to destruction and the second, going toward home and fulfillment.
It has two rivals, Heathcliff, strong, passionate and true, cruel and defiant, and Edgar, civilized, gentle, weak and moderate.
It has two grieving widowers, Hindley lost in the mire of weakness and drink, and Heathcliff, grieving for his true love, Cathy, driven by the strength of his desire.
It has two degraded sons, Heathcliff, the foster son of Mr Earnshaw and Hareton, the foster son of Heathcliff.
It has two mis-marriages; Cathy and Edgar and Heathcliff and Isabella.
It has two mismatched sons . Heathcliff's son Linton is pure Linton, showing nothing of Heathcliff about him. Hareton, a fine fellow, is hardly a reflection of the cowardly Hindley. Hareton adopts Heathcliff as his true father.
In fact, it is as though Heathcliff has two sons, his own, Linton, who he says is not worth a farthing, and his foster son, Hareton, who is worthy of his love.
In the previous generation, Mr Earnshaw had the same; Hindley whom he said was nothing and would amount to nothing, and Heathcliff, the foster son, whom he valued and loved.
Throughout both generations there is a double dose of rejection, adoption, love and hate.
Wuthering Heights has two religions; the self righteous and punishing Christian Creed as hurled about by Joseph and the Earthy Creed of the integrated self, as sought and suffered by Cathy and Heathcliff.
It has two places; the inside and the outside; the inside of the family and the outside of the family; the inside of society and the outside of the society; the inside of the house and the outside on the moors; the inside of religion and the outside of personal code; the here of the earth and the there of the after-place; the double places of heaven and hell, depending on the viewer; the inside of love and the outside of hate; the inside of being together and the outside of being apart.
It has two generations, the first destroyed in woe and the second raised up in joy.
It has two endings; Heathcliff and Cathy walk the moors in death or sleep in the quiet earth. Hareton and the second Cathy return to the Grange to renew the Earnshaw family.
Two phrases could illustrate the whole novel. " Where is She?" and " Heathcliff, Come back." They express the double passion, the double loss, the double longing, the double search, the Double Soul of Emily Bronte.
Souls born into the world have a dilemma; they have to earn a living. In Emily's time, marriage was a way to do that, a marriage to a stable man with money. She well knew the worries of the daughters of the house who must earn their way in the world by doing what their very souls hate. Emily, Charlotte and Ann suffered away from home, in company they found incompatible and even, hateful, doing work for which their souls were unsuited. Branwell fared even worse in his attempts to earn his way in a world too harsh for his soul.
In Wuthering Heights, Cathy looks for a solution for her problem. How will she live, how will she make do? She decides to marry Edgar but would not have thought of it had Hindley not degraded Heathcliff so. The naive Cathy thinks she can take a husband, use his money to raise up her true love, and keep Heathcliff as a soul-mate in the bargain. Little does she know of marriage and of men. Just as she realizes she is Heathcliff's soul-mate and that she is wrong to marry Edgar, she does so, compelled by the temporal world and its pressing needs.
Thus, the split and the tragedy. Thus the universal condition of the human creature who must be eternally himself to be happy, yet must compromise to make way in the here and now; in an indifferent world. Survival exacts a split for all of us between what we are and what we have to do to survive.
Heathcliff says nothing could have separated himself and Cathy, nothing from either God or Satan, nothing from either Heaven or Earth, nothing but free will: Cathy's free will. Heathcliff would have born with poverty and banishment to stay true to their love, their code of oneness, but Heathcliff was not a woman. A man could live where a woman could not. Cathy thinks of a roof over her head and respectability, all the while keeping her heart for her lover. The world had other ideas.
I might say that Wuthering Heights is not a love story at all, although needy pairs of lovers appear on every page: Hindley has only one idol, his wife Frances; the younger Cathy clings only to Linton who becomes her all and all after her father dies; Isabella runs to Heathcliff, tossing away family in the process; Heathcliff and Cathy become each other; Hareton and the younger Cathy merge, reuniting the family.
I might say Wuthering Heights is a story of joy and anguish - the joy of the united soul and the anguish of the split soul. Wuthering Heights is the story of Emily Bronte's very soul. It is a book written by a woman and about a woman. Cathy is the hero of Wuthering Heights. It is all about her. It is about her united self, born and bred on the moors, "a wicked , wild slip" of a girl who lords it over her family and her home. She is nourished by the sky, the wind, the rocks, the heather, the solitude, the freedom. It is about that same girl grown up and trapped by decisions forced on her by the realities of life. She must marry. She must marry money to be secure and to be respectable. She must give up her name, her home, herself and become a wife; a nobody, a face in the mirror, changed.
When Cathy says " I am Heathcliff" she could also have said, " Heathcliff is me". Here are personified, the two parts of Emily Bronte's soul. Cathy is the wicked wild joy of wholeness and Heathcliff, the faithful agony of the fractured spirit. Emily Bronte was both of these. At home, with her household duties, her rambles on the moors, her pets, her writing, her solitude and privacy, she was whole. Away from home, that broken agony of longing erupted with so much force as to threaten her life.
Like Cathy, Emily protested. She refused to eat and refused to talk to anyone away from home. Cathy rampages, has tantrums, gets sick and even dies to get her wish - to return to her original whole self. And that self is rooted in rock, in earth, in the place of her birth.
Heathcliff sees evidence of Cathy's existence everywhere, evidence that she existed and that he has lost her. Cathy infuses everything, even the flagstones on the floor tell of her existence. Heathcliff struggles to find her in a long and terrible fight. Here stands Emily Bronte revealed. Here stands her vision of life on this earth; a life that has full knowledge of the united source and a life that suffers the full agony of the outcast soul struggling to regain oneness.
Wuthering Heights is a story of a lover - of a woman. No man could love like that; with his entire body and his very soul. Wuthering Heights reflects in mirrors after mirrors, the Double Soul of Emily Bronte- celebrated in solitudes and exclusiveness - in the soul's chosen place and with the soul's chosen person.
( Rosi ) Postscript.." Nelly' I am Heathcliff!" Emily says she is heath and cliff...she is the earth of her home. To take her away from herself is death......for Emily in life....for Cathy in the book. Heathcliff.....the heath and cliff of the Haworth moors.
Note: I am reading "Sunset Song" by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. The mother says to her daughter, " Oh, Chris, my lass, there are better things than your books or studies or loving or bedding, there's the countryside your own, you its, in the days when you're neither bairn nor woman".
Emily, the moors, her own and she, theirs.........the heath and the cliff.......the eternal rocks, the bones of life itself.
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