Wuthering Heights is a Victorian novel regarding the lives of the Earnshaws andLintons. Through three generations, they all experience wave after wave oftragedy all originating with Heathcliff’s overwhelming desire for revengeagainst the Lintons. This hatred is brought on by the treatment Heathcliffreceives from the Lintons as well as Edgar Linton’s marriage to Catherine, hissoul mate. Although many passages of love are exposed in Wuthering Heights, thetrue genre of this book is tragedy due to the role of characters other thanHeathcliff, the untraditional happy ending, and the death of the heroine earlyin the story.
The role of several characters makes this novel a tragedy. Hindley,Hareton, Cathy, and Linton would be completely unneeded if this were a true lovestory. Hindley becomes Heathcliff’s Nemesis from the very beginning. He iscruel and hateful towards Heathcliff. “He drove him from their company to the servants, deprived him of the instructions of thecurate, and insisted that he should labour out of doors instead, compelling himto do so as hard as any other lad on the farm” (Bronte, 49).
Hareton is alsounessential to a love between Catherine and Heathcliff. Hareton is Hindley’sson and is treated like a slave, much the way Heathcliff was treated as a boy byHindley. At one point, Heathcliff, talking to Nelly, describes what is in storefor Hareton, “I know what he suffers now, for instance, exactly; it is merelya beginning of what he shall suffer, though””(Bronte, 211). Hareton andCathy’s love does make for a reconciliation of all this tragedy. However, itis after the majority of the book and therefore does not negate the previousmisfortune.
Linton is a pathetic boy who only brings disgust and general pity tothe book. Through the book, Linton is very sick. In this scene, Cathy has cometo pay him a visit, “. .
. trembling, and retaining her hand as if he needed itssupport, while his large blue eyes wandered timidly over her, the hollownessround them transforming to haggard wildness the languid expression they oncepossessed” (Bronte, 249). None of these characters are heroic or essential tothe love between Catherine and Heathcliff. The only possible heroic figure isHeathcliff who is evil and rotten. Furthermore, this novel does not have atraditional love story ending. Nearly the entire key characters die and mostbefore the book is halfway over.
In the first half, Heathcliff and Catherine aresoul mates, yet she marries another. To the last day of her life, they argue andblame each other for their unhappiness. In their last moments together,Heathcliff berates Catherine for the pain she has caused him. “I have notbroken your heart ? you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have brokenmine” (Bronte, 158).
True love is not selfish and does not blame. Even afterCatherine is dead, the love between Cathy and Linton is very shallow. It is nota true love story because of his apathy towards her. “His lack of interest inthe subjects she stated, and his equal incapacity to contribute to herentertainment, were so obvious, that she could not conceal her disappointment”(Bronte, 249). Also, Heathcliff forced them to marry. The only sense of a lovestory is at the very end when Hareton and Cathy are seen as a happy couple.
But,this too was plagued by Cathy’s ridicule of him, “Oh, you dunce” (Bronte,239)! Also, this was plagued by his maltreatment of her, “I was afraid for amoment, and I let one volume fall; he kicked it after me and shut us out”(Bronte, 240). Even though all seems well in the end, this is not a typicalromance. Additionally, our heroine dies early in the novel. She is consumed withbrain fever and never recovers.
Her love for Heathcliff is only apparent duringthe childhood years. Selfishness and anger overwhelm any feelings of love shehas toward him as an adult. With her gone and half the book remaining, it isimpossible to continue with any type of love story between them. In fact,Heathcliff spends the rest of his life eaten with anger and anger does not breedlove. He is even angry towards Catherine because she married Edgar instead offollowing her heart. “Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not oneword of comfort” (Bronte, 158).
Their love is, in fact a tragedy, because itis a spiritual, rather than physical love and they are only truly united aftertheir deaths. There seem to be no feelings of happiness related to any feelingsof love between Heathcliff and Catherine. Conclusively, the love that is in thisnovel is not a pure love. Everyone is full of anger, hate, and resentment. It isdifficult to classify this novel as a love story because it is not happy.
It isapparent that because of the additional characters of Hindley, Hareton, Cathy,and Linton, as well as the uncommon ending, and the early death of our heroine,this novel should be classified as a tragedy.