Describe the Relationship Between the Family Members in Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is set in the Yorkshire moors and deals with complex emotional relationships in a Victorian household - Describe the Relationship Between the Family Members in Wuthering Heights introduction. Tensions arise when Mr Earnshaw returns from Liverpool with a street orphan whom he decides to adopt and name Heathcliff: this is initially unpopular with his wife and 2 children. Although Heathcliff forms a strong bond with Catherine, hatred builds up between him and Hindley who feels he’s classless yet poses a threat to his inheritance so seeks revenge. Whilst roaming the moors with Heathcliff, Catherine becomes aquatinted with the Lintons, a fellow family of the gentry, when she is attacked by dogs outside the Grange.
The son, Edgar, falls in love with her and proposes. In spite of her love for Heathcliff she decides to marry Edgar as it’s what’s expected of her. This causes Heathcliff to disappear for years and return a changed man. When we compare the Grange to Wuthering Heights we see the vast contrast in social classes. The former is a haven of respect and civility whereas the latter is a household of disorder. However both families were members of the gentry. Therefore it’s assumed Catherine would marry someone of similar social class and when Edgar proposes, both families feel it’s a good match.
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At that time, a person’s position in society was important in considerations of marriage so nobody would’ve even contemplated the chance that Catherine might love Heathcliff as he was viewed as inferior. This is similar to how society dictates Juliet’s arranged marriage to Paris as Romeo wasn’t seen as suitable for her, based on his family. Catherine and Juliet share the same pressures of the expectations children had. Victorian children were supposed to be passive and during the renaissance period, children were expected to be unquestionably docile as seen when Lord C says it’s by his “decree” that Juliet marry.
Both had an upbringing based on fear but the servant Joseph encourages Earnshaw to instil strict religious values into the children which Juliet isn’t subject to at all. Despite a member of the gentry being expected to be acceptant of their parent’s authority, Cathy refuses to conform. Nelly describes her as a “wild wick slip” who doesn’t match the stereotype of a typical wealthy lady because she always has “ready words” to defy them with. Juliet is also intelligent and as equally unconventional because both have a rebellious streak which causes them to fall in love with someone deemed unsuitable by society.
Catherine represents a wild nature in both her lively spirits and occasional cruelty. She violates social conventions by loving Heathcliff and also through her behaviour – she often throws tantrums and “pinched” Nelly often. This causes tensions within the family. Juliet is less vindictive and her actions are mostly done due to her love for Romeo but this also causes an upset within the family. The male had the dominant role in society which is proven when Earnshaw remains steadfast in his decision that Heathcliff remain.
The rest of the family have no say despite his wife being appalled. Lord C is similar in his refusal to accept his daughter’s wishes when planning her wedding or consult his wife. Therefore the presentation of male authority in the form of Earnshaw can be linked into Lord C’s control. Both novels are set in a patriarchal society and to some extent Earnshaw is a typical authoritarian Victorian father as he “had always been strict. ” Both he and Lord C strike their daughters, yet as Cathy grows older he “never laid a hand” on her, allowing her freedom to express her personality.
This tolerance contrasts with Lord C’s threat to disown Juliet at the slightest sign of disobedience. Catherine is clearly her father’s favourite as Earnshaw felt “Hindley was naught. ” She reciprocates this love by singing him to sleep. This closeness meant he accepts her rebellious ways, in fact “it pleased him rarely to see her gentle” which shows he embraces her individuality. Lord C doesn’t extend the same compassion as he allows Juliet little choice. Both lead females are defiant however Cathy is under less constraint from her father.
At first, Cathy is hostile towards Heathcliff but they grow “very thick. ” She looks to him for comfort when Earnshaw dies and they’re united in grief. However, Hindley resents his presence. In Victorian times all wealth and property passed to the male, therefore Heathcliff is viewed as an “usurper of his parent’s affections” as he will prevent Hindley from getting the full inheritance. This leads to jealousy within the family. Cathy and Heathcliff show the utmost contempt for society’s restrictions and decide to explore the moors to escape Hindley’s tyrannical behaviour.
Outside the Lintons’ house, Cathy is attacked by a dog so she stays until they’ve nursed her back to health. It’s several weeks until she sees Heathcliff again and when they’re reunited, Cathy’s “much improved” manners make her appear haughty in Heathcliff’s eyes. He feels insulted and misses her outward wildness. Hindley has become an inhumane dictator so is delighted that their relationship is falling apart. Catherine’s change into a “very dignified” lady reflects the serene atmosphere in the Linton household, stark in contrast to the volatile relationships between the Earnshaws.
Their “beautiful” house highlights the wildness and disorder of the Heights. Its external appearance of neglect mirrors the spiritual disintegration of the characters within it. This is similar to the Capulets’ relationships as there is also a break down when Juliet refuses to marry Paris. Hindley falls into unrelenting grief due to the death of his wife after childbirth. His “savage sullenness” becomes more noticeable and Heathcliff also suffers from his anger as he wants to degrade him.
Hindley takes over the patriarchal role assumed by his father but his “tyrannical and evil conduct” makes him more similar to Lord C than his father as the way in which he controls the household with an iron rod is comparable to Lord C’s aggressive power over his family. Nelly shows motherly affection and is an established part of the family. All wealthy families had servants so she has a similar role to the nurse in R&J. Nelly tends to them when they’re sick and enquires anxiously “where is Miss Catherine? ” when she is missing.
Fondness is also shown by the nurse when she “weaned” Juliet. This shows both perform the role of a surrogate mother. Like the nurse, Nelly is a strong matriarchal figure as she instils discipline in Catherine. She also isn’t afraid to “angrily” defend herself when Hindley wrongly blames her or reprimand him for treating his own “flesh and blood” in a cruel manner. This would’ve been unheard of at this time. The nurse isn’t as dominant and doesn’t intervene to the same extent as Nelly but expresses concern when she sees Juliet with Romeo the “son of your greatest enemy. Catherine seeks Nelly’s approval about the biggest decision in her life. It’s important that she knows which it “ought to have been. ”
This respect is similar to how Juliet trusts her nurse and tells her of her love for Romeo just as Catherine expresses her true albeit complicated feelings. On the other hand Nelly has a higher level of authority or influence. Nelly is used as a confidante and possesses important information. During the conversation in which Catherine explains her reasons for marrying Linton, she states, it would “degrade me to marry Heathcliff. Nelly doesn’t reveal that she knows he heard this but not Cathy’s declaration of deep love for him.
This can be likened to how the nurse knows of Romeo and Juliet’s secret marriage. The bond between Catherine and Edgar is based on loyalty. Her true passion lies with Heathcliff as their souls “are the same” so share a connection. Also she loves him “not because he’s handsome” which shows that in his case she looks further than appearance and loves him for who he is, unlike Edgar who she judges according to social class – a thing very common amongst noble families of that time.
Nelly acts as a go-between for the 2 houses when Edgar begins courting Cathy. Her link with the grange is needed as Edgar “seldom mustered the courage to visit. ” Similarly the nurse is sent to find out about Romeo’s intentions and warns him not to lead her into a “fool’s paradise”. Nelly shares the same role of the protector as she directs a barrage of questions at Cathy challenging her decision to marry, not out of spite but to make sure she made the right choice. The nurse isn’t as forthright or judgemental but does advise Juliet to marry Paris.
Catherine marries Edgar despite professing her love for Heathcliff. This is because both families are members of the gentry and considerations of class crucially inform her actions. Love is irrelevant, she accepts his proposal to enhance her social position and be “the greatest woman in the neighbourhood. ” For such a wilful character, she resists her defiant nature and accepts social conventions; alternatively Juliet ignores her parents’ wishes that she marry Paris, a man of “noble parentage”.
Therefore although Catherine and Juliet share a rebellious streak, Catherine succumbs to social pressures (to Hindley’s delight), unlike Juliet who stays true to her heart and marries Romeo. By marrying Edgar, she makes a cold calculated choice and, in her view, sacrifices herself for Heathcliff. Her utter devotion to him causes her to believes that this way she can “aid Heathcliff to rise” out of poverty and Hindley’s jurisdiction. Likewise, Juliet is prepared to sacrifice her family name so that she can be with Romeo. Cathy’s twisted way of forming a family will have repercussions.
Both Catherine and Juliet lived in a patriarchal society. Both were expected to be unquestionably obedient to their fathers. Both ignored these conventions. For Catherine, it has little impact on her relationship with her father as although her wilful behaviour tried her father’s patience, he accepts this and loves her nonetheless. Contrastingly Juliet’s father threatens to abandon her at the first sign of defiance. This can be likened to Hindley’s attitude towards Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship as he also lacks tolerance and tries to tear them apart.
Wuthering Heights was also set during a time in which a person’s position in society was everything. In the same way, Juliet was brought up in a family who arranged marriages based on power. However, Cathy decides to conform and marry Edgar, as opposed to Juliet who marries due to passionate love, not so that it would be socially advantageous. Therefore also both the female protagonists are united in their rebellious nature, one is tamed by social conventions; the other takes her life into her own hands.