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Although Bronte’s initial characterisation of Catherine presents her as a rebelling child, she inevitably conforms to society’s expectations which

suggests, as Marxist theory argues, that ‘Humans are not free and independent agents’. It could be argued that in her early childhood Cathy’s friendship with Heathcliff offers her the relative freedom of being ‘outside’ the social structure of her family and class; as Nelly Dean describes, ‘they both promised to grow up as rude as savages’. This argument is furthered by critic Terry Eagleton who suggests that Heathcliff’s lack of any defined place within the social and economic structure of the Heights makes him Catherine’ ‘natural companion’, since she, as the daughter who doesn’t expect to inherit, is ‘the least economically integral person in the family’ 1. However one could also argue that it is this position that inevitably leads her to marry Edgar Linton over Heathcliff, as he ‘will be rich’ and she should ‘like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood’.

In addition, Catherine’s transformation after her stay at Thrushcross Grange confirms the Marxist idea that ‘we are not separate from the socio-economic condition we live under’. This becomes increasingly apparent when Cathy and Heathcliff are discovered intruding at the Grange and the Lintons react, as Graham Holderness states, to an invasion from outside ‘with the instincts of property owners’2. Yet it is the way that their reactions differ to Cathy and to Heathcliff that clearly highlight the class divide between the two friends. Whilst Heathcliff is immediately recognised as a ‘criminal type’ (the villain scowls so

The English Novel: An Introduction Terry Eagleton (Blackwell) Wuthering Heights Graham Holderness (Open guides to literature)


This is also evident through the change of her manner. like the other servants'. after Cathy shakes Heathcliff’s hand ‘she gazed concernedly at the dusky fingers she held in her own and also at her dress. Nelly observes how ‘while her eyes sparkled joyfully when the dogs came bounding up to her. She describes how ‘instead of a wild. This is also emphasises when. Hindley’ exclamation ‘I should scarcely recognise you: you look like a lady now’ emphasises Catherine’ acceptance of her determined position in society. she dared hardly touch them lest they should fawn upon her splendid garments’. . which becomes more influenced by materialistic desires. When she finally returns to the Heights. with long brown ringlets falling from the cover of a feathered beaver.plainly in his face would it not be a kindness to hang him at once. Bronte describes the extent of Catherine’s transformation through Nelly’s narration. after her transformation it serves as a reminder of the class boundaries that ultimately she will never be able to cross. before he shows his villainy in acts as well as features’). which she feared and gained no embellishment from its contact with his’. and a long cloth habit which she was obliged to hold up with both hands’. hatless savage jumping into the house… there ’lighted from a handsome black pony a very dignified person. Rather than the relative freedom that the friendship used to offer Cathy. This idea is further suggested by the contrast between Cathy’s reaction to Heathcliff before and after her transformation. Hindley’ treatment of Heathcliff reinforces the class divisions by instructing Heathcliff to ‘come and wish Miss Catherine welcome. Cathy is eventually accepted into the Grange.

as she herself explains. which explains why ‘there was no prevailing on him to take a step in the way of moving upward. ‘in a crucial act of self-betrayal and bad faith. and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low. begun soon and concluded late. when he found he must.Furthermore it is the ‘socio-economic conditions’ that significantly influence Catherine’s decision to marry Edgar rather than Heathcliff. necessarily. As a result of Hindley’s ‘tyrannical rule’. 3 The English Novel: An Introduction Terry Eagleton (Blackwell) . and any love for books or learning’. Cathy’s freedom of choice to marry who she pleases is illusory. It is through her choice to marry Edgar through which Bronte most clearly demonstrates that view that ‘it is not the consciousness of men that determine their existence but their social existence that determines their consciousness’. During the Victorian era there was a strong correlation between education and social standing. Catherine rejects Heathcliff as a suitor because he is socially inferior to Linton’ 3. according to Marxist theory. Whilst it could be argued that. ‘I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven. so he shall never know how I love him’. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now. Nelly observes how ‘he had by that time lost the benefit of his early education: continual hard work. as Terry Eagleton argues. had extinguished any curiosity he once possessed in pursuit of knowledge. her resulting mental breakdown can perhaps be better understood through a psychoanalytical analysis. It could be argued that Heathcliff’s lack of education is a crucial factor in Cathy’s choice to marry Edgar. despite knowing that she will always love Heathcliff. Above all Catherine’s marriage to Edgar demonstrates the way in which she conforms to society’s expectations. sink beneath his former level’. I shouldn’t have thought it.

As the novel progresses it becomes evident that Cathy’s ‘Id’. ‘what Catherine. large and small – Catherine Earnshaw. and then again to Catherine Linton’. . ‘Ego’ and ‘Superego’ are represented by Earnshaw. he claimed that all three parts needed to be present in equal amounts in order to have reasonable mental health. without all three parts present her mental health begins to deteriorate. here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff. and therefore cannot know who she is or whom she is destined to be’. Heathcliff and Linton. Gilbert and Gubar suggest that the writing of the name Catherine in its various manifestations of Earnshaw. Lockwood comes across ‘a name repeated in all kinds of characters. reveals the crucial lack of identity that is common to all women under patriarchy. or any girl must learn is that she does not know her own name. which he named the ‘Id’ the ‘Ego’ and the ‘Superego’. It is clear from the first mention of Catherine in Wuthering Heights that the significance of these three parts plays an important role in the novel. as demonstrated by Heathcliff’s departure in Chapter 9 which leads to her self-determined illness. Conversely.Sigmund Freud believed that the personality was split into three different parts. Heathcliff and Linton on the windowsill.