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How does Emily Bronte portray death in her novel Wuthering Heights.

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kareemoo | Student, Undergraduate | Valedictorian

Posted May 27, 2013 at 8:19 AM via web

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How does Emily Bronte portray death in her novel Wuthering Heights.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 28, 2013 at 4:26 AM (Answer #1)

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Death has transcendent meanings in Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights.  In Chapter XVI, after Catherine gives birth and dies shortly thereafter, Heathcliff cries out,

Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said that I have killed you-haunt me, then!.....Be with me always-take any form-drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life!

Arguably, there is a continuum with life and death in this Gothic romance. Catherine Earnshaw's marriage to Edgar Linton is a betrayal of her heart, Heathcliff tells her. It is this betrayal which destroys Catherine, who has described Heathcliff to Nelly as "He is more myself than I." With the driving force of life as unification, Heathcliff seeks Catherine so that he can break through existence as a sole entitiy with her. 

And, death haunts Heathcliff as he is tortured in life by his aloneness. In Chapter XVI, he tells the dying Catherine Earnshaw Linton,

Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?

This yearning for Catherine that transcends any sensual desire causes Heathcliff torture, consequently, he bribes the sexton to open her grave so that he can look upon Cathy's face again in his desire to be unified with her. When the "children of the storm," Hareton and Catherine, who learn from their parents' mistakes and change for the sake of their love, unify bodily and spiritually as Heathcliff and Cathy have been unable, Heathcliff is tortured by his comprehension, and he starves himself to death so that he can break through the boundary of the temporal world and be reunited with Cathy. He is, then, buried on one side of Catherine, where

neither death nor life, nor angles nor principalities nor powers, nor thing present nor things to come can destroy it [their love].

But, even in death Heathcliff must share his place with Edgar Linton, who resides on the other side of Catherine.

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