An essential element of Wuthering Heights is the exploration and extension of the meaning of romance. By contrasting the passionate, natural love of Catherine and Heathcliff with the socially constructed forms of courtship and marriage, Emily Brontë makes an argument in favor of individual choice. Catherine and Heathcliff both assert that they know the other as themselves, that they are an integral part of each other, and that one’s death will diminish the other immeasurably. This communion, however, is doomed to failure while they live because of social constraints. Heathcliff’s unknown parentage, his poverty, and his lack of education make him an unsuitable partner for a gentlewoman, no matter how liberated her expressions of independence. Brontë suggests the possibility of reunion after death when local residents believe they see the ghosts of Heathcliff and Catherine together, but this notion is explicitly denied by Lockwood’s last assertion in the novel, that the dead slumber quietly.
The profound influence of Romantic poetry on Brontë’s literary imagination is evident in her development of Heathcliff as a Byronic hero. This characterization contributes to the impossibility of any happy union of Catherine and Heathcliff while they live. Heathcliff looms larger than life, subject to violent extremes of emotion, amenable to neither education nor nurturing. Like Frankenstein’s monster, he craves love and considers revenge the only...
(The entire section is 889 words.)
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