Marriage Minute # 95 Heathcliff and Catherine
from my book, Marriage Minutes, available from Amazon.com
I won’t spoil the story for you if you haven’t read it. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, has much to say about the strangeness of relationships, misplaced values, prejudice, and the madness of trying to control other people’s lives.
Heathcliff and Catherine love each other, and they are actually much like each other. They are well suited for each other, and they both go to great sacrifice to be with each other. They seem made for each other, except for one tragic difference, and that is, all the other things they love. Catherine is too much in love with good breeding and social position. Heathcliff becomes too much in love with revenge.
Catherine has another problem. She believes Heathcliff should be able to bring her the moon, or do other amazing things to make her happy. She is like those people today who believe that if they are unhappy, it must be because they are not effectively loved. Expectations of mind-reading, of always being understood, and always being served by others, become the plague of relationship misery. The woman who is sad because she has little of no relationship has a valid complaint. Yet, the woman who is sad because her relationship doesn’t do everything for her that her soul will ever need, will have only sadness because relationships will never replace the healthy and growing personal self. “Become successful and I will be happy”, she might say to her husband, but it will not be so.
Heathcliff had another problem. He believed that he could steer the rest of the world by his fervor for Catherine. If he only knew how little he controls in this life, he might have made some different choices, and would have had more real control, of himself. Letting himself be judged “unworthy” by unworthy judges, he tried every plan he could think of, but his plans didn’t have the cooperation of all those around him. Imagine that. Yet, today men are still are still trying to “prove” themselves by proving more than will ever be true, especially without the good relationships we need in this life.
Bronte does much in her book (of wonderful prose, by the way) to warn against the false images of men and women that still plague the world of love. Each generation seems to have to re-invent the process with the same mistakes. It’s a shame that good experience doesn’t always get passed down. Bronte called Wuthering Heights a “misanthrope’s heaven.” Can you imagine heaven for people who hate people? Most of us would call it something else.
Charlotte Bronte, Emily’s sister, described well the missing element in the lives at Wuthering Heights. In spite of the passion, the supposed love, and all the human effort at creating the world in their own image, the missing element was “kindness.”
Charlotte said, concerning Emily, “… nothing moved her more than any insinuation that the faithfulness and clemency, the long-suffering and loving-kindness which are esteemed virtues in the daughters of Eve, become foibles in the sons of Adam. She held that great mercy and forgiveness are the most divine attributes of the great being who made both man and woman, and that what clothes the Godhead in glory, can disgrace no form of feeble humanity.”