Heathcliff & Catherine: A Gothic Romance

As we leave Sam and Molly to their eventual fate, let’s turn our attention to others who have graced our lives for over 160 years.  These two literary lovers from their haunting gothic tale still touch the soul.

The primary story is about three children—Hindley, Catherine and Heathcliff.  Catherine and Heathcliff become soul mates while Hindley allows hate and disgust for Heathcliff to fester.  His harsh treatment of his “brother” lays the seeds for future misery and death.

Edgar and Isabella Linton are tragic figures caught in the star crossed love of Catherine and Heathcliff. Edgar marries Catherine and Isabella marries Heathcliff.  While Edgar loves Catherine with a passion, she cannot love him with the same passion. Heathcliff cannot love Isabella which brings her a joyless existence.

The secondary story deals with the three offspring— Hareton, son of Hindley; Catherine, daughter of Edgar and Catherine; and Linton, Heathcliff and Isabella’s son.  The children become victims in Heathcliff’s desires for revenge.  Heathcliff by treachery acquires Wuthering Heights and Hareton as his servant.

Like all gothic novels the characters suffer.  Their lives are destined for misery.

Heathcliff is a tragic hero and villain rolled into a complexity which unravels as he allows his grief for Catherine, his true love, to dominate Wuthering Heights and all of those connected to it.  He is a cruel taskmaster as he relives his childhood abuse in those he torments.  Like a cruel chess master he shows no mercy, no compassion, even for his own son.  When Catherine died many years before, Heathcliff’s soul died.  He is now a man with no compassion, no love, no soul, and no light.

He wanders the moors.  His night walk seems endless and fruitless. Searching and yet not finding Catherine.  Her ghost eludes him as he gradually allows his hold on life to slip through the fingers which once caressed the face of his goddess and held her in his arms.  The night sky with its many stars cannot awaken within Heathcliff a connection to the first morning when the morning stars sang at creation.

Heathcliff fades from the earthly confines of his mortal body. As he requested, he was buried beside his beloved Catherine.  For him this was heaven.  The place above held no special interest.

Of course, on the moors stories and tales haunted the living.  A shepherd boy claimed to have seen Heathcliff and a woman walking in the shadows of night in the starlight.

And how does the book end as told by the faithful nurse and housekeeper,

I sought, and soon discovered, the three headstones on the slope next the moor: on middle one grey, and half buried in the 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 harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.”

sleepers in that quiet earth”.  Is death a sleep?  Or do ghosts who have no place in heaven wander the moors of Wuthering Heights?  What is your fate among the heath and harebells of life?

Ponderings on this October Saturday morning….

G. D. Williams       © 2010