Love and Happiness: Wuthering Heights Essay

Submitted By phaugen1
Words: 2069
Pages: 9

A popular hit song, “Love Story” by Taylor Swift points out that the words all girls long to hear from their loved ones are: “You’ll never have to be alone. I love you and that’s all I really know. I talked to your dad. Go pick out a white dress. It’s a love story. Baby, just say ‘yes’.” The singer compares herself, however, to Juliet and the Scarlet Letter (the letter, strangely—not its wearer). These two “love stories” did not have the happiest of endings. Hester Prynne lived for many years ostracized and condemned for her sin and Juliet killed herself. Yet the song implies that the singer will have a happy ending, perhaps because unlike Juliet, she gets her man. Or, as Nettle would suggest, she might just be less neurotic than most and therefore, a happier person in general, making her more attractive to the opposite sex and so more likely to marry. Nettle says that married people are “less neurotic, and this is likely to be a cause, rather than a consequence of their marital status” (106). Does this mean that the darling madwoman of Wuthering Heights was simply too neurotic if she missed some of the finer points of marital bliss? The argument can be made against Catherine Earnshaw Linton’s neuroses by pointing to Nelly’s description of her as a child: “Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going—singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same” (Brontë 42). Neurotics, according to Nettle, score high on the scale of negative emotions, frequently answering questions such as “Are you miserable?” in the affirmative (101). Nettle is careful to point out that this does not mean that they cannot be extremely happy in between negative emotions, but Nelly says that Catherine’s spirits were always at high-water mark, indicating a generally happy childhood. From this limited insight, one must assume that Catherine has at least one copy of the long form of the 5HTT gene which Nettle says is necessary for lower neuroticism scores (139). Assuming she is not neurotic, one must look to another culprit for the misery which led her to what can only be described as her maniacal suicide, especially because the forces which Brontë indicts are still at large in the world today. The trouble comes when she is separated from Heathcliff, her adoptive brother and, as Gilbert and Gubar suggest, part of her own ego. In their essay, “Looking Oppositely: Emily Brontë’s Bible of Hell,” Gilbert and Gubar point to Catherine’s inscription of her name on the windowsill with many variations as evidence of the psychic fragmentation which seems to take place when Catherine and Heathcliff are separated and when she receives her “female education”: “What Catherine, or any girl, must learn is that she does not know her own name, and therefore cannot know either who she is or whom she is destined to be” (276). This argument becomes problematic when later in the essay they refer to the many names by which Edgar is called—Mr. Linton, Mr. Edgar, my master—as “all phrases conveying the power and status he has independent of his physical strength” (281). Of course, “my master” is a title given to a person in a position of power, but even if his titles/names are more prestigious, he still has many, suggesting fragmentation just like Catherine’s. Furthermore, Gilbert and Gubar go on to note that his mastery is “contained in books, wills, testaments, leases, titles, etc.” and that all these are the “paraphernalia by which patriarchal culture is transmitted from one generation to the next” (281). The very word contain, however, suggests that something is trapped inside. All of these things by which culture is transmitted can also be the very things that trap patriarchs in training. While it does make sense to explore Heathcliff’s existence as a fragmentation of Catherine’s psyche, it may be a disservice to try to subsume Edgar as well, as Brontë may have another mission for him as a real, independent character. The great…