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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
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


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