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Thread: Catherine's Choice?

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    Catherine's Choice?

    Hi all, I've been mulling over Wuthering Heights, and a lot is said of Catherine's choosing Edgar over Heathcliff. I myself was of the opinion, that whilst she had already accepted Edgar's proposal, her confession to Nelly Dean left her undecided. Heathcliff's subsequent disappearance, and Catherine's utter distress over it led me to believe that had Heathcliff remained, she may have changed her mind about marrying Edgar... It seemed to further confirm my thoughts when in the novel, it states that THREE YEARS after Heathcliff's disappearance, she married Edgar. Why wait? Was she waiting for him to return, and when he hadn't after all that time, she assumed him gone forever and only then married Edgar?
    I felt that Heathcliff was largely responsible for her marriage to Edgar, hence her accusations upon his return that he had been the one to leave her. Whilst I thought she was still the most self centred character in the book for calling him "cruel Heathcliff" for abandoning her, I felt she said it because she discovered that her heart truly belonged to him during her confession to Nelly, and that she couldn't have married Edgar after all.
    Just a thought. I'd appreciate other points of view.

  2. #2
    Wandering Child Annamariah's Avatar
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    Yes, I agree with you. Heathcliff actually heard a part of the conversation between Catherine and Nelly Dean, but he got angry and left before he heard the end of it, which might have changed everything. It's so sad that a misunderstanding parted Catherine and Heathcliff for ever
    Little Lotte thought of everything and nothing. Her hair was golden as the sun's rays and her soul as clear and blue as her eyes.
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    According to this excellent website http://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/timeline.htm , Catherine is only 15 when Heathcliff runs away so she has to wait 3 years until she can get married to Edgar with her guardian's consent. Given that I assume that guardian was her older brother I can imagine he was all to happy to wash her off his hands.

  4. #4
    I think Catherine is the one who brings misery to herself and to pretty much all of the characters around her through her choices. Heathcliff left to better himself for her, and if he hadn't she would have probably never have even felt regret for marrying Edgar anyway.
    Heathcliff and Edgar are both the victims in this novel, victims of Catherines confusion and lack of choice. Although currupting the lives of both Edgar and Heathcliff, Bronte shows a whole new side of society to her Victorian audience, she demonstrates power of choice held by a woman, even if that power is to chose between two men.
    A female dominated narrator also may create certain bias.
    From a Marxist perspective, Heathcliff seeks power economically because of pressure placed on him by society. He ultimately becomes a dictator and becomes sort of the communist of Wuthering Heights, supressing others and controling everything. This also leads to his curruption.
    Evidently, although Heathcliff left, Catherine still chose Edgar.

  5. #5
    Phoebe phoebelll25's Avatar
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    Catherine loves Heathcliff in her soul and it never changes.And choosing Edgar although Heathcliff left is about her responsibilty,her reputation and her revenge towards the one she falls the whole heart to.
    Cogito, ergo sum.

    Amicus Plato, Amicus Aristotle, sed magis Amicus Veritas.

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    I've pondered Catherine's choice for some time...there are a lot of things to be said about why she married Edgar instead of Heathcliff...in the end we can all say it's the obvious: being comfortable, having security and knowing what tomorrow brings. But as i got to read more and to get to know Catherine, it becomes clear that her emotions and love towards Heathcliff have fluorished over time. They both have had very difficult live in different ways and were each other's rock through thick and thin. It IS a love so strong that one chooses to devote his life to hurting those who separated them, including the love of his life....if that's not sad, i don't know what is...

  7. #7
    One of the things that I really believe about this novel is that everyone made active decisions. It's not a tragedy of msunderstandings. Nothing could have ocurred differently because there was no other way any of these characters could have behaved. Catherine would have never have married Heathcliff even if he had heard the whole speach simply because she needed security. Think about it- Heathcliff as a man of the times was well within his ability to go out into the world and come back rich and posperous. Could Catherine have done that? Catherine had no other way of having prosperity save through whom she married.

  8. #8
    Registered User MrD's Avatar
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    Class, money, etc.

    Don't forget that women became the property of their husbands, the law didn't allow women many rights at all until the second half the 19th century.

    Cathy was going to marry Edgar for appearances and the money/property so as to provide a stable future for Heathcliffe, her true love. She would have found ways of ensuring he was never needing money. Maybe even seen him behind Edgars back!
    Light Travels Faster Than Sound, Which Is Why Some People Appear Bright Until You Hear Them Speak.

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    Although it is obvious Catherine should have chosen Heathcliff over Edgar, I think it is also essential that she chose Edgar all the same. Catherine and Heathcliff had found nothing to part them before the introduction of the Lintons: neither through the ill-treatment they received from Joseph, Hindley and Nelly, nor through the clear favouritism of Heathcliff over Catherine by Mr Earnshaw. Catherine only develops a growing separation from Heathcliff when her personality begins to divide between him and Edgar. Despite loving Heathcliff truly, it is necessary Catherine marries Edgar.

    I also agree with what others have posted concerning status: Catherine is a selfish character and I think often represents humanity's faults, as does Heathcliff. Sometimes humans follow what they know to be wrong for their own selfish means, and often aim for present pleasures rather than long-term pleasures or future pleasures. Edgar represents the pleasant pleasures which Catherine, being human, yearns towards. After all, speaking for myself, at least, in a romantic sense I would choose Heathcliff, the passionate, exotic suitor. However, in reality I would naturally choose the softer, secure character withwhom I would be able to have a stable life. Catherine represents that element of humanity for me, at least.

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    Just finished reading this book for the first time, so here's my take on it:

    The whole dilemma on who Catherine should of (and most likely WOULD have chosen had things not gone wrong), was laid out by the author in the relationship of Hareton and Cathy. It was made very clear that Hareton liked Cathy very much...so much so that he wanted to learn how to read and write because of her. Strikingly similar to why Heathcliff left Wuthering Heights after Catherine's declaration that she could never marry him...he left to better himself, and become what he imagined Catherine wanted him to be. Unfortunately for him, he arrived a few months too late.

    Which brings us to the real crux of the matter - why DID Catherine go ahead and marry Edgar? If, as she said, she felt it was wrong in both her heart and her head? Catherine herself gives the answer by saying that she would do it for Heathcliff's sake - to rescue him from Hindley's tyranny.

    Catherine Earnshaw to Mrs Dean: "I have no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man (Hindley) in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shoudn't have thought it." Also, "...if I marry Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power."

    So what Catherine did was very much a selfless act - putting the needs of others above her own.

    The only spanner that is thrown into the works is the fact that all this required Heathcliff to have actually stayed at Wuthering Heights in order to benefit from Catherine's marriage. But of course, he had other ideas on how to rectify the situation - thus making her selfless act of marriage for Heathcliff's sake a selfish one to ease her own lonliness. It's quite clear that had those two spoken on that night - telling each other what their plans were instead of making that most human of mistakes and assuming, the story would have taken a completely different turn.

    Who would doubt that Catherine would have married Heathcliff had she known that in three years he would return in the manner he did - wealthy, somewhat refined and able to support her? She didn't strike me as someone who needed all the trappings that a life with Linton provided...

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    That's a very good point: Catherine DID say that she would marry Edgar for Heathcliff's sake so that he might rise again. However, I am not entirely convinced that it is the real reason she married Edgar. Catherine lies on several occasions or pretends to be more innocent than she really is, such as asking Nelly what she might have said that could have caused him to run away. I think maybe in her head she did think and perhaps even convince herself of that she was marrying Edgar to help Heathcliff, although in her heart I don't think it was truly the case as she would surelay have known the greatest thing she could do to hurt Heathcliff, more so than to neglect his will to seek revenge on Hindley, would be to marry a Linton over himself. Catherine says "I AM Heathcliff", indicating that their souls are the same and perfectly matched. Surely she should have known what her union would do to Heathcliff? It does show an element of selfishness which is repeatedly illustrated throught the novel, such as when Nelly describes how harmony was within the Linton household as Edgar and Isabella would always "bend" to Catherine's needs before Heathcliff's return, or how Catherine desired to break both Heathcliff's and Edgar's hearts for doing so to her.

    I also think it's an interesting point that Vash has brought up about Cathy and Hareton. Indeed, they are similar in many ways to Catherine and Heathcliff but simutaneously they differ a great deal, too. As a Gothic novel, Bronte has taken binary opposites, such as love and hate, life and death etc., to and merged them together so that they sometimes cross over or are indistinct now. The same is reflected in characters down the generations. Although Hareton and Cathy resemble or parallel with other characters they are still very different from them in some aspects and therefore it is difficult to judge Catherine and Heathcliff wholly through actions, events and characteristics of Hareton and Cathy.

    However, Vash makes several very valid points and argues them very well, and should be greatly commended for that Great work!

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    Thanks for the kind words saperelli! But onward and upward...

    I'm not entirely convinced that Catherine was selfish per se - more absent-minded. Hence her asking, as you say, what she could have said to upset Heathcliff...if you read it exactly, she says: "What did I say Nelly? I've forgotten. Was he vexed at my bad humour this afternoon? Dear! tell me what I've said to grieve him?" Selective memory...maybe. But I think there is another reason.

    Her whole demeanor was one of mood swings, unpredictablity...to the point where I think she just wasn't aware of how her actions affected the people around her. So yes, she was selfish to a point, but not a calculated selfishness. I'm leaning towards the idea that she was planning to marry Edgar in name only, and continue her relationship with Heathcliff at the Grange. Which, I suspect, Elly also believed, which is why she said, and I quote: "It only goes to convince me that you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in marrying; or else, that you are a wicked, unprincipled girl."

    As for Cathy and Hareton, it would have been a contrived plot device if they had been exactly the same as Catherine and Heathcliff - and very poor writing. But I believe the differences only highlight the similarities even more. Kind of looking at a distorted mirror, as it were.

    But then again, I've been wrong before...and will be wrong again
    Last edited by Vash; 01-15-2008 at 04:21 PM.

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    Yes, I agree that Catherine not necessary being as calculated in her selfishness as might have been implied from my earlier post My error if I sounded so dogmatic. I must admit I still consider Catherine to be slightly more conceited than perhaps you think, Vash, but then I don't think it's bad to disagree a little You present your arguments very professionally and it's a pleasure to debate the subject with you

    It's also true that for Cathy and Hareton to entirely mimic Catherine and Heathcliff would make very poor writing and it livens the novel up to use the "distorted mirror" approach

    And I know I'm often wrong too, don't worry!

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    Oh, I think she's conceited too - I believe she wanted to have her cake and eat it too, as it were. Most likely her attitude came from the fact that although she was so much like Heathcliff, she still WAS born into a 'noble' family. So it would stand to reason that her attitude to getting her own way had become somewhat warped. Both Edgar and Isabella Linton were also presented in that same light - if things didn't go there way, it was beyond comprehension. I think that's why Heathcliff hated them so - since nothing went his way, yet he had to learn to deal with it because he was so low. Class distinction was a prevalent theme in the book.

    Speaking of being wrong - since I HAVE finished this book and do like to keep my mind occupied, any suggestions as to where I should read next? The world is filled with stories, but not necessarily great ones...

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    Well, although it's moving away from Bronte and so I'll probably get a slap on the wrist for it, I'd suggest something by Thomas Hardy, such as The Return of the Native (which parallels very well with "Wuthering Heights", incidentally), or my favourite author, George Orwell (1984 is my favourite novel ever). Margaret Atwood can be quite an interesting read as well, although she's a more contemporary writer... in the genre of "modern classic", as it were. "The Handmaid's Tale", by Atwood, is very good and concentrates on a patriarchal society which is also fundimentalist: the men use Biblical teachings/events to condone their own sordid ways. Very pro-feminist, as Atwood is herself. Worth a read. Or her more recent novel, "Oryx and Crake", is worth a read. Both are very good.

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