“… She has been pining for your sake several weeks; and raving about you this morning, and pouring forth a deluge of abuse, because I represented your failings in a plain light for the purpose of mitigating her adoration. But don’t notice it further. I wished to punish her sauciness, that’s all – I like her too well, my dear Heathcliff, to let you absolutely seize and devour her up.”
This passage is located immediately after Catherine Linton reveals the attraction that Isabella Linton, her sister-in-law, has for Heathcliff. It’s impossible not to feel flabbergasted when reading this paragraph, since Cathy shows absolutely no regret for having just revealed the secret in front of Heathcliff, making Isabella feel extremely humiliated.
This scene has a dense psychological brutality and the paragraph I chose encapsulates Catherine’s devilish behavior, motivated by her jealousy of Heathcliff. The words “raving” and “pouring forth a deluge of abuse” show how Cathy has considered Isabella’s quite normal attraction to Heathcliff as practically a sin. She wanted to “mitigate” her adoration by portraying Heathcliff in a bad light. Cathy had a clear plan to follow and she did, acting with no restraints whatsoever.
It seems that Cathy escapes from the controlling web that civilization imposes on us, but which is paramount for survival. The domestic setting of Thrushcross Grange and its isolation exacerbates her unrestrained behavior. Therefore, the passage portrays how domestic abuse can happen for futile reasons and in a fairly frequent fashion, having no consequences for the one who starts it. The domain of law is often absent in domestic setting, especially one so isolated as Thrushcross Grange. We can feel as suffocated as Isabella, who has no one to turn to in the house.
This passage also reveals some of the gender expectations in Victorian society. Isabella’s desire for a man was reprehended by Catherine.” There is this idea of “how dare you, expressing your feelings towards a man?”. The attraction her sister-in-law feels is “sauciness”. Also, there’s this idea that, in case Catherine didn’t do anything, Heathcliff would have no other choice but to “seize and devour” Isabella. Therefore, there is an opposite set of gender expectations here: one that blames women for feeling attraction and another that considers the sexual impetus of men to be natural and unavoidable.
To sum up, Wuthering Heights delves into domestic settings to show how suffocating and brutal these places can be, especially for women. Although Isabella acts in a way that Victorian society expects her to act, she is humiliated by Cathy for just showing her emotions. It is known that Cathy is jealous, but her motives are also rooted in misogyny. The result is sheer and gratuitous brutality.