Catherine and Her Soul

The chastisement against Catherine is present throughout the novel but begins with her father, Earnshaw. The father compares Cathy to her brother, saying that because she is worse behaved than him her father cannot love her, “‘Nay, Cathy,’ the old man would say, ‘I cannot love thee, thou’rt worse than thy brother. Go, say thy prayers, child, and ask God’s pardon. I doubt thy mother and I must rue that we ever reared thee!’” (43). This reveals Earnshaw instructs Catherine to be better behaved than her brother in order to receive his approval; thus Catherine is set to the expectation of better behavior than her brother while he, in general, gets to roam free. Dean also comments on Catherine’s “tongue always going—singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same”, indicating the family’s displeasure and chastising of Catherine when she speaks (42). 

While the family is not fond of Catherine when she runs her mouth, Catherine is not fond of Isabella. She speaks about how she treats Isabella, in general, with respect regardless and does not feel burning jealousy towards her, she “never feel[s] hurt at the brightness of Isabella’s yellow hair, and the whiteness of her skin…the fondness all the family exhibit for her” (98). Catherine notes Dean’s fondness for Isabella as well when she mentions the family’s liking for her, as many in the family feel opposition to Catherine for her constant rambling. However, Catherine claims she feels no jealousy towards her. Additionally, she mentions “it pleases her brother to see us cordial”, revealing again the pressure the family places on Catherine to get along with family members and expecting her to bite her tongue (98). On the other hand, the men in the family do not face the same type of pressure and freely express their aggressive opinions towards each other. In an attempt to speak positively of Heathcliff, Catherine is met with aggression and opposition as Edgar begins to cry at the sound of the man’s name. Catherine’s indication of her husband and Heathcliff’s behavior, while she is expected to act cordial with Isabella, becomes a turning point for Catherine’s mental state as she begins to realize her lack of control of her own life.

Furthermore, Catherine perceives her connection with Heathcliff as the two being a part of a singular soul, as she claims “‘I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being’” (82). For Catherine to watch Heathcliff court and marry Isabella, while she is still criticized by Dean and Heathcliff to bite her tongue about her opinions on the situation, Catherine believes the state of her soul is at risk of being lost to her. Thus, the criticism for Catherine to restrain her speech and the loss of a part of her soul lead to Catherine’s descent into insanity in an attempt to maintain what she believes is rightfully hers.

One thought on “Catherine and Her Soul”

  1. I like your interpretation of Catherine’s actions and why she declines into madness. Your point about the expectation for Catherine to get along with Isabella while the men around her to roam free reminds me of strawberrymochi’s post. strawberrymochi also notes a societal acceptance that women should not declare their affections for men while men are free to act on their lust. Your posts seem to show a pattern of societal constrains toward women in Wuthering Heights. While some live with the constrains, others (like Catherine), whose personalities are too strong, are doomed to be suffocated by those chains.

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