What is Heathcliff's and Edgar Linton's contrasting relationship with Cathrine in "Wuthering Heights"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Wuthering Heights" while Edgar Linton, cousin of Catherine, has the traditional husband/wife relationship of their society, the relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff is completely unorthodox.  In fact, it is one that transcends the natural.  For Catherine, Heathcliff holds an almost-hypnotic influence, causing her to desire him even when she realizes this desire is morally wrong and detrimental to her person.  Sensing the mystical relationship of Heathcliff early in the novel, Catherine declares that Heathcliff "is I."  Theirs is a passionate, primal communication of souls; they are lost to each other in this fierce, tormented love. After she dies, Heathcliff begs her spirit to "torture" him:  "I cannot live without my life!  I cannot live without my soul!" 

When Catherine rejects Heathcliff for the conventions of her society and marries Edgar Linton she has as a husband a caring, devoted gentleman, a steady, unassuming person who suffers Catherine's accusations of cowardice until he strikes Heathcliff.  But, such behavior is out of character for Edgar. He is genteel, well-bred.  Ironically, Catherine becomes ill under his devoted care after Heathcliff leaves their house because she cannot thrive on Edgar's "insipid attentions" as they are referred to; her nature craves the demanding soul and passion of her social unequal, Heathcliff.