Tuesday, August 3, 2010

They Deserve One Another: Catherine Earnshaw & Heathcliff

In WUTHERING HEIGHTS, Heathcliff is the consummate bad boy. Now, the bad boy thing has been done to death in YA novels --- sometimes done well, sometimes ... not so much. And it's caused plenty of controversy.

But there's a major reason why Heathcliff works as a bad boy in WH: His love interest, Catherine, is a mean girl.

Heathcliff outdoes Catherine in his penchant for abuse --- emotional, physical, and psychological, tormenting two families in his quest for revenge for years of being treated as a second-class citizen in the Earnshaw household.

(It's likely this all began because he arrives at WH with no last name, completely misunderstood because he was way ahead of his time and should've been a 1980s pop star. But that's for another blog post.)

Oh Edgar, you'll never compare.
But Catherine is also abusive --- selfish, cruel, shallow, and spiteful. In her own ways, she tortures Heathcliff, marrying Edgar Linton for money and status and then blithely ignoring Heathcliff's torment, even enjoying and poking fun at it.

That's why they're perfect for one another --- and make for such an agonizing, compelling love story. Both Catherine and Heathcliff are emotionally wounded people, but their fierce love could be their saving grace, giving them happiness and contentment.
You couldn't just stay this way, could you?
But their faults ruin that potential and unleash their nastiest, most destructive sides, cementing their doomed affair. Oops.

Holy crap, Emily Bronte, I bow down to your awesomeness.

Bronte gave us a seriously imperfect love between two messed-up people and got us (or at least me) to root for them, despite how frustrating and awful they could be.

A modern (and less intense) example of this? Carrie and Mr. Big. And Carrie nearly married her Edgar Linton (ahem, Aidan), too. Unlike Sex and the City (TV show, not book), WH didn't give them a happy ending.

Of course, Emily didn't fully torture her readers. She gave us a second-chance happy ending, between Catherine's daughter Cathy and Heathcliff's much-abused ward, Hareton.

Thanks, Emily, or else I would've thrown my book across the room. For real.


Ok, can you think of any other couple out there --- doomed or not, YA or adult, books/TV/movies --- that totally deserves one another? And what did you think of WH and the Catherine/Heathcliff dramarama? Anyone throw the book across the room anyway?

7 comments:

  1. I love WH. It is actually one of my favorite books. I love Catherine and Heathcliff's tragic love story. They definitely did deserve each other.

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  2. Gossip Girl's Chuck and Blair definitely deserve one another! :)

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  3. One of my two most favorite books of all time. I think I have five copies of "Wuthering Heights" and I love every single one of them equally! I agree with you that Bronte really did show us her writing chops when she wrote "WH". Catherine is so strong and aggressive and still so passionate and against any sort of heroine stereotype I've ever read before. I can only imagine how erotic and sensual their love would have been considered; even today, I think of "WH" as one of the most wildly romantic and passionate books of all time. I'm not sure that Carrie and Mr. Big is a fair modern day equivalent of Catherine and Heathcliff, but I'm at a loss for anything else. I'll have to think some more about it. Maybe I'll read "WH" again. Why not!

    Great post!

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  4. I agree with Sara: Gossip Girl's Blair and Chuck are a modern spin on that couple, and really well done.
    And maybe, but with reservation, tVD's Damon and Katherine are close to them too, but then again TVD has developed its own story for them, really. But the obligatory book mention was in both shows ...

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  5. Hamnoo - Excellent example! I haven't read all the TVD books, but now I really want to!

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  6. I realize this post is almost 2 years old, but I thought I'd mention Scarlett O'Hara and Rhett Butler (with the Edgar/Aidan character being Ashley Wilkes).

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    Replies
    1. Two years later or not -- that's a perfect example!

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