Loving Too Much in Wuthering HeightsDoing anything in excess is not supposed to be a good thing. Heathcliff is so over the top in his feelings for Catherine that I wonder if they could have been...

Loving Too Much in Wuthering Heights

Doing anything in excess is not supposed to be a good thing. Heathcliff is so over the top in his feelings for Catherine that I wonder if they could have been happy together even under the best of circumstances. I think Heathcliff's obsession for Catherine would have eventually destroyed both of them. What do you think?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hmmm...interesting.  I was just reading some Jung which reminds me of this very situation.  Jung argues that in most relationships, one partner acts as the "contained" while the other acts as the "container" but "since the more complicated has perhaps a greater need of being contained than the other, he feels himself outside the marriage and accordingly, always plays the more problematic role." 

If this is true, then yes, I do think Heathcliff's need to be contained would eventually have been more than Catherine could bear, even if they did experience a period of happiness. Again, as Jung says, "I want" at midlife turns into "I must."  I cannot see Heathcliff amenable to this shift, can you? 

Citation:  Jung, Carl.  Trans. R.F.C Hull.  "Marriage as a Psychological Relationship."   The Development of Personality, Collected Works, Vol. 17, 324-325).


sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, if Heathcliff's obsession for Catherine would prevent happiness, Catherine has a few issues of her own that would interfere as well--unless those are what would need to be avoided to have the "best of circumstances."  Heathcliff could not love a woman other than she, so she is only person we can imagine creating the extraordinary "love"--or, better yet, obsession that he has for her. The great problem is that his love for her as hers for him is narcissistic, which is why they see each other as "soul mates"--each imagines the other his/her reflection, the other half that will make him/her whole. Great love depends on a full and complete sense of self, not one dependent on being completed by the lover--that, all psychologists (including the arm-chair sort) will tell us is doomed to failure.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cheer up jamie-wheeler! I don't think we need to let our own lives be shaped by the lives of Catherine and Heathcliffe, thank goodness - they both live life to extremes in very different ways, and there is a sense in which they are characters who are not meant for this world in their defiant rejection of social conventions. I do agree that I don't think they would have ever been happy if they had married or got together - there relationship is so much more than can be contained by human standards. Remember how Catherine describes it in Chapter 9 - I always get rather uncomfortable when I read that because it is just too much - they are too together as characters. Any successful marriage needs to allow both partners a limited amount of independence because we all need space to breathe!

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hmmmm...hate to get all Jungian here again, but isn't the sense of self largely dependant on the unconscious?  Could Heathcliff or Catherine ever have achieved a sense of self, wounded as they both are psychically (sp?)?  For that matter, is "great love" ever even a possibility if the bottom line is dependant on a "full and complete sense of the self"?  Who would you say does not depend on the reflection of the lover to feel a sense of completion? 

Aw, jeez... I think I'm doomed to failure.... :) 


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Wuthering Heights

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