How do Edgar Linton and Heathcliff compare and contrast in Wuthering Heights?

Edgar and Heathcliff are alike in loving and caring about the welfare of Catherine. Otherwise, they are a study in contrasts. Edgar is fair, handsome, wealthy, gentle, and well-mannered. He offers Catherine a luxurious, well-ordered household. Heathcliff is dark, brooding, often surly, and has been degraded to a farmhand. Even after he disappears and comes back a wealthy gentleman, he is hard-hearted and dangerous. Yet Catherine loves Heathcliff in a way she can never love Edgar.

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When it comes to physical appearance, Edgar Linton and Heathcliff could not have been more different. Heathcliff is dark, brooding and often unkempt-looking, whereas Edgar Linton is fair, blue-eyed and has soft, inviting features. While Heathcliff is rugged and wild like Wuthering Heights , Heathcliff is refined and charming like...

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When it comes to physical appearance, Edgar Linton and Heathcliff could not have been more different. Heathcliff is dark, brooding and often unkempt-looking, whereas Edgar Linton is fair, blue-eyed and has soft, inviting features. While Heathcliff is rugged and wild like Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is refined and charming like Thrushcross Grange.

With regard to their personalities, Heathcliff is as wild as his appearance. Having been rescued from the streets of Liverpool by Cathy’s father, Heathcliff has known hardship and suffering, and he is consequently quick to become defensive or offensive. He is prone to fits of rage and jealousy. Edgar Linton’s character, on the other hand, is sophisticated and refined, and his manners are impeccable.

Cathy has feelings for both Edgar Linton, who she winds up marrying, and Heathcliff. Her feelings for Heathcliff are wild and passionate, whereas she appreciates Edgar for the safety net that she offers him. It is made clear that the only reason she chooses to marry Edgar over Heathcliff is for the security that being a Linton can offer her. Her heart belongs to Heathcliff, and she describes her soul as being at one with him.

In a nutshell, Edgar Linton embodies light and goodness, while Heathcliff embodies a wild nature and passion. The two are opposites, both in looks and character. The only thing they have in common is their love for Cathy.

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Edgar and Heathcliff are alike in that they both love and genuinely care about Catherine's welfare. However, in discussing with Nelly Dean the question of whether or not she should marry Heathcliff, Catherine astutely lays out the differences between the two.

Edgar is the acceptable match. He is handsome, wealthy, and kind. Marrying him is her ticket out of a chaotic, dysfunctional household dominated by an alcoholic older brother. Edgar offers her safety; calm; security; a beautiful, orderly home; love; and status. She loves him in a superficial, conventional way.

However, Catherine says to Nelly, "I am Heathcliff." They have a deep, savage soul connection that has been forged by growing up together in a household where their "parenting" has swung between abuse and neglect. They learned to depend on each other to survive, they have faced cruelty together, and they understand and care for each other in a way that Cathy knows can never happen with Linton. Edgar will never comprehend her the way Heathcliff does. Cathy says she doesn't always like Heathcliff but that she can't imagine being without him. His sorrows have been her sorrows. His joys are hers. He is engrained into her and hardly a moment goes by when she doesn't think of him.

In part, she wants to marry Edgar so that she can help Heathcliff, who has been degraded by abuse. She compares her love to Edgar to having the shallow roots of a potted plant, while her love for Heathcliff has the deep roots of an oak tree.

Unfortunately, the dark, often surly Heathcliff, picked up off the streets of Liverpool and turned into a farmhand, does not look to the world like the kind of "catch" that the fair, handsome, gentle, well mannered Edgar does. Even after Heathcliff disappears and comes back a wealthy gentleman, he is still a dangerous and suspect person.

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The contrast of these two characters, Edgar and Heathcliff, really exemplifies a common conflict in literature, that of forbidden love.  Simply put, Edgar's love for Catherine provides her with safety, security, and a comfortable lifestyle; he can even be credited, perhaps, with having turned her into a lady during her stay at his home.  Heathcliff loves her in a way that borders on the obsessive, and he isn't really capable of the empathy, commitment, and/or sacrifice required to make a long term relationship, i.e. marriage, work.  However, this very quality in him seems to draw Catherine to him, as well as the romantic notion that they were/are/will always be soulmates.  Catherine didn't seem to have much interest in the notion that they were soulmates when she first returned from her stay at the Lintons', but when Heathcliff returns after a three year absence as a handsome and strapping man, she seems to have an epiphany of sorts.

The conflict in this novel is not unlike the conflict found in Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, where Newland Archer marries one woman for reputation, appearances, and social stability, while he secretly adores another.  It is also similar to the conflict found in the pop culture phenomenon of the Twilight vampire saga by Stephenie Meyer; Bella struggles throughout much of the series with her feelings for Jacob, which tend to be platonic in nature, versus her passion-to-the-point-of-obsession for Edward.

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