Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Catherine Earnshaw Linton
Miss. Catherine Earnshaw– later, Mrs.Catherine Linton– is the central character in Emily Bronte’s gothic novel Wuthering Heights. From the beginning, she appears as an enigmatic, stubborn and defiant woman, who shreds the readers’ moral sense and imagination. She is rebellious, very loving, and passionate. As an empathetic person she trips, gets up, and again trips till her passion and maverick mind consumes her.
In the novel, she first makes her appearance posthumously – in a page in her diary that falls into the hands of the new tenant Lockwood during the latter’s one-night stop-over at the house of Heathcliff. Thereafter, she appears as a ghost desperately trying to sneak into the house. It is clear that she has departed from the earth much earlier, leaving Heathcliff, her lover, pining for her company. Thus, begins her enigmatic entry into the plot.
Nelly Dean becomes the narrator to describe the persona of Catherine to the readers. She is not very much older than Catherine. Nevertheless, she takes care of her with motherly care. Even till the time of her death, Nelly remains at her bed side. The upbringing of the prematurely born baby of Catherine falls on Nelly.
Despite the apparently strong bonding between the two, Nelly does not appear to be charitable in her portrayal of Catherine. Nelly is the only person who tries to rein in the wayward mind of Catherine. When the matter of Edgar’s marriage offer came up, Nelly cautions Catherine not to go ahead, because, by all accounts, Catherine was so much emotionally bonded to Heathcliff. Catherine does not heed Nelly’s advice and goes ahead with the marriage with Edgar, the wealthy suitor. Mischievously, Catherine makes no attempt to erase Hearhcliff’s love from her mind. She knows how absurd it is to nurse the romantic feelings with her ex-lover Heathcliff, but she does not care. The schism in her life widens in stead of narrowing.
Catherine, as a child was un-polished, wild and stubborn. Although she marries Edgar for the lure of the wealth, status and comforts of the Edgar family, she makes little effort to mend her maverick mind. The Heathcliff connection is too strong for her to break free.
Even when she is on the family way with Miss Catherine in her womb, she can not restrain her wandering mind. She fantasizes about being Mrs. Heathcliff one day although her love for Edgar, her husband, does not wane. As a woman, how could she belong to two men? But, she was too deviant to restrain herself.
When Catherine was convalescing at the Thurscrush Grange (Edgar’s house) nursing her ankle, she became a polished woman – just the type to fit into the Edgar family. She returns to Wuthering Heights (her paternal house) with the qualities and traits of becoming the wife of an aristocratic affluent young man.
Nelly vividly describes the pre-marriage meetings between Miss Catherine and the doting and loving young Edgar. He is bent upon winning her heart. He lavishes his romantic feelings on her. Curiously, he is not put off by her unruly temperament and loves her for this waywardness! Even the presence of Heathcliff in her heart does not detract Edgar. At times, Edgar, the suitor, in his anxiety to appear suave and soft, fears Miss Catherine.
Quite awkwardly, even after the marriage, Heathcliff continues to call on Mrs. Catherine Linton at the Thrushcrush Grange. Edgar gnashes his teeth in disapproval, but puts up with his wife’s abominable conduct. The threshold of tolerance soon comes, and Heathcliff is virtually shoved out of Thrushcrush Grange by Edgar.
Heathcliff knows he is doing something very immoral when he tries to get close to Catherine. However, it is his desire for revenge rather than his love for her that drives him to indulge in such show of affection.
While trying to dissect Catheine’s abnormal character, one must reflect on the very abnormal childhood she had. With no father to mentor her, she was left to fend for herself in the company of Heathcliff spending whole day-light hours in the wilderness of the surroundings. This left the young impressionable Catherine to imbibe Heathcliff’s boorish ways. In her later life, this imprint of savageness proved to be her undoing.
After Catherine is married to Edgar, she naively hopes that her husband would allow her to retain Heathcliff in her mind for good. Even she hopes that she could help Hearhcliff rebuild his career with her husband’s money. Her intention was to enable him to get a respite from Hindley. Hethcliff, on the other hand, finds it impossible to reconcile to the loss of Catherine. He perceives it as a betrayal which needs to be avenged.
Catherine departs at the middle of the novel leaving the readers cringe with the thoughts of the horrific events that would unfold. She reappears as a ghost, as a tormentor and an enigma. Torn between Edgar, her husband, and Heathcliff, her lover, she seethes in pain. The readers suffer too, trying to grapple with the morbid memories.