How can Heathcliff's jealousy and possessiveness over Catherine be related to the issue of male dominance in society?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fascinating Question!

Heathcliff's jealousy and possessiveness can be attributed somewhat of he, himself, having been a victim of the society in which he was born (male-dominated).  We women tend to think that generally any male advances in life because he is male; but in Heathcliff's case, he also needed money and social status in order to be a part of society.  He goes off to gain experience and money enough to qualify for those things, but because of his horrible character, he never truly gains respect for who he becomes. 

A woman couldn't have done that, though; not in the 1800s when the story is set at least. Had Catherine run off to earn money to buy the Heights and become master of her own estate she still would have been considered something less than male. English society at the time (and Male-dominated societies) viewed anyone less than properly born into money or male as "less than" what was expected. For example, men felt threatened when women wanted to go to universities or medical schools; so what did they do? they said that women's brains couldn't handle the rigour.  When someone feels threatened, they can also feel jealous or afraid that someone outside of the norm will take what they have.  Hence, they hold more tightly to that which they do have and become very possessive so not to lose it.

Heathcliff then emerges from his victimhood and becomes the master of his own castle only to slip into becoming another victim of his own choices. He acts and reacts only to never get what he really wanted in the first place; balance and  happiness.

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Wuthering Heights

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