Thursday, 16 May 2013

A2 English Literature: Gothic Doubles in Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff and Catherine

This is the most obvious example of doubling in the novel, and ties in perfectly with one of the most famous lines from the text:

"I am Heathcliff ... he's more myself than I am"

And also:

"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same"

These words, uttered by Catherine to Nelly, encapsulate how Brontë fuses more than one element of the gothic - excess, obsession and doubling. The excessive, obsessive and transcendental love between Heathcliff and Catherine leads to the idea of them being doubles of one another - or even the idea of them being two parts of a unified whole. Their love even exceeds death, with Heathcliff going off to check up on her corpse later in the novel, commenting that her face "is hers yet". At the end of the novel, it is reported that the two are seen wandering the moors together as ghosts. This idea of love exceeding death strengthens the interpretation that they are doubles - they are united even in death.

Both characters are also instinctively violent. Heathcliff hangs dogs, mistreats Linton and is called "a bird of bad omen". Similarly, Catherine appears to act on instinct in a violent manner; when she is a child, and her father asks what her and Hindley would like as gifts when he returns from his journey, she asks for a whip. Furthermore, she 'boxes' Edgar at one point in the novel. It's not quite hanging a dog, but for a lady of that time punching your soon-to-be husband (oh, and biting Nelly too) is pretty violent. 

Both Heathcliff and Catherine also adhere to the notion of Gothic protagonists showing extremes of behaviour. Both characters are extreme in their actions - some may say melodramatic - and this links back to how the two are doubles of one another. Heathcliff's revenge is extreme and lasts throughout the entirety of the novel - and is inflicted onto more than one generation. Catherine's reaction to Heathcliff and Edgar's 'disagreement' is also extreme - not many people starve themselves to death over that sort of thing. Only Catherine.

Heathcliff and Hareton

Heathcliff seems to raise Hareton like his own. Although Heathcliff isn't affectionate towards Hareton, it could be argued that he sees something of himself in the character.

When you think about it, the similarities aren't exactly subtle. Both characters are violent; Heathcliff's violence has been explained above, and Hindley continues the violence - he pushes Linton at one point, which is actually a bad thing even if I did laugh out loud when I read it.

Furthermore, both characters were raised from a servile position and are taunted as children. Heathcliff is bullied by Hindley, who calls him an "imp of Satan", whereas it is Linton who taunts Hareton, who refers to him as a "devil". The demonic imagery used to describe both characters also suggests a likeness between the two.

At first, both characters are also deprived of education. Heathcliff is more or less dragged from the streets of Liverpool into Wuthering Heights and appears to know very little - he is presented as something of a rogue, which makes his arrival after three years of absence all the more surprising. Similarly, Hareton is taunted by Cathy for being uneducated; she calls him a "dunce" for not being able to read his own name. It is eventually Cathy who furthers Hareton's knowledge, however - just one of a few examples in the novel where education/knowledge leads to power.

Heathcliff and Hareton are also presented as gatekeepers on more than one occasion. By this, I mean that they are presented as the characters who guard Wuthering Heights and are often spotted outside. In chapter one Lockwood sees Heathcliff leaning on the gate of Wuthering Heights, and throughout the novel Heathcliff often controls whether people enter or leave. In particular, he is sure to keep Nelly and Cathy trapped in Wuthering Heights in the latter stages of the novel. Similarly, Hareton is often seen outside Wuthering Heights, and appears to have control over who can enter:

"he moved off to open the door"

Hareton, like Heathcliff, also has the power to lock people in or out of the house, too:

"I let one volume fall; he kicked it after me, and shut us out"

Catherine and Cathy

The age-old saying 'like mother, like daughter' can arguably apply to Catherine and Cathy, although the two are never able to interact with one another. The fact that they share the same name and that Cathy was born as Catherine died suggests an element of doubling about them - does Catherine's soul or spirit pass through to Cathy as she dies? The fusion of death and birth in just one moment is a typical gothic antithesis - two contrasts being placed alongside one another.

I've already mentioned the violent symbol of a whip being associated with Catherine when she is a child. The symbol reappears when Cathy is a child, and she attacks Hareton, saying:

"I gave him a cut with my whip"

There are also two moments in the novel that almost directly mirror one another, both involving Catherine/Cathy and a bit of a sap (Edgar/Linton). 

After Catherine 'boxes' Edgar, she urges him to return when he leaves, saying:

"You shall not leave me in that temper"

And later, when Cathy pushes Linton (hooray!) and then apologises, she angrily says:

"Don't let me go home thinking I've done you harm!"

Here, the second moment directly echoes the first. This is interesting structurally (is Cathy repeating the life of Catherine?) as well as in terms of characterisation. Both the scenarios and characterisation give way to the interpretation that Catherine and Cathy are indeed doubles of one another.

There are more doubles that can be spoken about, but I've left it at three because I think they're the three strongest, the three with the most evidence behind them and the three which are best to talk about in the exam. There are also just about as many oppositions as there are doubles in the novel (Heathcliff v. Hindley, Nelly v. Lockwood, Wuthering Heights v. Thrushcross Grange etc.) and I may cover them in another post. :)

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