Exile in Wuthering Height
The Exile of Catherine and Heathcliff Wuthering Heights, the creation of Emily Jane Bronte, depicts not a fantasy realm or the depths of hell. Rather, the novels focuses on two main characters^ battle with the restrictions of Victorian Society. Societal pressures and restrictive cultural confines exile Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff from the world and then from each other. The story commences in the desolate moors of Yorkshire, home of the estate Wuthering Heights. True to its setting, the novel develops Catherine and Heathcliff as mischievous children who wander the isolated bogs, separating themselves from the activities of Wuthering Heights. Catherine^s childhood exile stems from her lack of compliance with the rules concerning the conduct of a Victorian lady. As a child, her father was too ill to reprimand the free spirited child, ^who was too mischievous and wayward for a favourite.^(33). Therefore, Catherine grew up among nature and lacked the sophistication of high society. Catherine removed herself from society and, "had ways with her such as I never saw a child take up before; she put all of us past our patience fifty times and oftener in a day;...we had not a minute^s security that she wouldn^t be in mischief. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going--singing, laughing, and plaguing everyone who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip she was--"(37). Catherine further disregarded social standards and remained friends with Heathcliff despite his degradation by Hindley, her brother. ^Miss Cathy and he [Heathcliff] were now very thick;^(33) and she found her sole enjoyment in his companionship. Catherine grew up beside Heathcliff, ^in the fields. They both promised to grow up as rude as savages; the young master [Hindley] being entirely negligent how they behaved,^(40-41). During her formative years Catherine^s conduct did not reflect that of a young Lady, ^and one of their chief amusements [was] to run away to the moors in the morning and remain there all day,^(41). Thus, Catherine^s behavior developed and rejected the ideals of an oppressive, over-bearing society, which in turn created an isolation from the institutionalized world. The two existed on their private island unchecked until Catherine suffers an injury from the Linton^s bulldog. Forced to remain at Thrushcross Grange, the Linton^s home, after her injury, isolates Catherine from Heathcliff and her former world of reckless freedom. Living amongst the elegance of the Lintons transforms Catherine from a coarse youth into a delicate lady. However, sublimation into Victorian society does not fit her nature and confines her individuality. Her transformation alienates Heathcliff, her soul mate and the love of her life. Catherine fits into society like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. However, she feels pressure to file her rough edges and marry Edgar Linton. Catherine justifies her union with Edgar for all the wrong reasons, "because he is handsome, and pleasant to be with.^... ^because he is young and cheerful.^...^because he loves me.^...^And he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighborhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband."(70-71) Catherine knows in her heart that she shouldn't marry Edgar because she loves Heathcliff and such a marriage would be detrimental to her non-conformist spirit. Ellen, the housekeeper, forces Catherine to admit that without those qualities she would not admire Edgar, rather, ^I [Catherine] should only pity him--hate him, perhaps, if he were ugly, and a clown.^(71). However, society exiles her from Heathcliff, now a lowly servant and pushes her into a union with Edgar. Catherine cannot keep this to herself and vents her remorse on Ellen, I^ve no.. business to marry Edgar Linton... and if the wicked man [Hindley] 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 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 lightening, or frost from fire."(73) Catherine knows she will be unhappy and ill-suited in her marriage to Edgar, but society leaves her no other option, especially after Heathcliff flees Wuthering Heights at the onset of Catherine^s engagement to Edgar Linton. Heathcliff grows up as the foster child in the Earnshaw home and is regarded as an outcast by family members. His arrival at Wuthering Heights is marked by contempt and insults from every person in the family, except old Mr. Earnshaw. Even Nelly considered herself superior to Heathcliff and referred to him as an it. Her actions further exile Heathcliff from the Earnshaws^ company by treating him as inferior and sub-human. Both children, ^entirely refused to have it in their bed with them or even in their room; and I [Nelly] had no more sense, so I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it might be gone by the morrow.^(33). Eventually, Miss Catherine warmed up to the orphan and they soon became best of friends. Mr. Earnshaw, ^took to Heathcliff strangely,^(33) and esteemed the ^poor, fatherless child^(33) as the favorite of the three children. Hindley saw, ^Heathcliff as the usurper of his father^s affections and his privileges,^(34). Heathcliff^s lineage and posi! tion as the favorite of Mr. Earnshaw causes Hindley to push Heathcliff away and eventually exile him as a servant at Mr. Earnshaw^s death. Therefore, the, ^dirty, ragged, black-haired child;^(32)^from the very beginning,... bred bad feeling in the house;^(33). Catherine^s acceptance of Edgar^s proposal drives Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and isolates him from the love of his life. Deemed inadequate by society and Catherine, Heathcliff flees from the estate for the ensuing three years. ^The blame of his disappearance...belonged^(80)on Catherine, for her actions drove him away and exiled him from Wuthering Heights. As an adult, Heathcliff harbored the torment of his childhood and felt he had been, ^treated ...infernally-infernally!...and if you [Catherine] fancy I^d suffer unrevenged, I^ll convince you of the contrary,^(102-103). Heathcliff seeks to destroy those who severed the relationship between himself and Catherine. Catherine^s affection for her soul mate renewed at Heathcliff^s return to Wuthering Heights. However, Heathcliff^s vengeance, ^hit on exactly the most efficient method of revenging,^(103) himself on Catherine. Torn between the love of her life and the husband she dotes on, she dies from grief. Thus, in the years following Catherine's death, Heathcliff transforms into a diabolical monster whose only, ^bliss lies...in inflicting misery.^(103). Heathcliff deliberately manipulates Hindley^s addiction to alcohol and gambling in order to draw the master of Wuthering Heights into debt. Therefore, with Hindley^s death the estate reverts to Heathcliff because he holds the mortgage to the property. His actions refuted Victorian morals and exiles him from the company of decent people. Heathcliff^s character banishes hi! m from everything good, respectable and kind. In the end, a generation is lost to the oppressiveness of a strict society that forced conformity. As children, Heathcliff and Catherine were chastised for wandering the periphery of society, rejecting the chains of conformity. However, as they grew and attempted to abide by the restrictive rules, they were forced apart and each lived equally unhappy. In the Victorian Era, marriage and the expectations of society jailed the artist and restricted freedom of thought and action. The novel Wuthering Heights reflects the suppressed passion for life experienced by Emily Jane Bronte.