The way Wuthering Heights panned out with Heathcliff on an avenging mission, I have often wondered that who had a major role in advancing Heathcliff’s schemes(knowingly or unknowingly) on both the families.Was it Hindley’s alcoholism cum gambling mania that made him a debtor to Heathcliff or Isabella’s attraction towards Heathcliff?If it had been only Hindley,the scene of action would have been only Wuthering Heights .But Isabella too comes in and Thrushcross Grange-the Lintons’ happy and normal home becomes a setting for the climax-the climax that preceded the story of avenging one’s love .There is one person who connects both the houses-Catherine Earnshaw,the ‘tragic’ heroine of the novel. Throughout the entire first half of the novel, there is ample evidence that Catherine Earnshaw’ s actions and words played a major role in setting up Heathcliff in his avenging mission.
Firstly,there was nobody to hinder Catherine from choosing Heathcliff over Edgar Linton-a proud (and definitely uncaring) brother definitely did not stand a chance against Catherine’s strong-willed nature. It was only Catherine’s pride and fear of poverty that made her choose Linton over Heathcliff. She could comprehend her feelings towards Heathcliff even then when she says-
“This [the acceptance of Linton’s proposal] is for one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself.[…]my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained ,and he were annihilated ,the universe, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger;[…]My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware; as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight but necessary.
This alone says it all-her marriage to Linton is chiefly out of selfish motives for herself primarily despite her saying “The others [motives] were for the satisfaction of my whims and for Edgar’s sake,too,to satisfy him” and for Heathcliff chiefly.The only thing that sets apart Catherine (who caps even all the Brontes’ unconventional heroines) from the rest of the Victorian heroines is that she is very vocal about her factors(however despicable) that influenced her course of action.With the Lintons pandering to every whim of hers, she soon forgot about the only living person “who was her great thought in living” until the day he made his reappearance.While Heathcliff had come only to pay back Hindley, Catherine’s rapturous welcome of him showed him plainly that he had not lost Catherine’s love. Edgar Linton’s evident discomfort at his wife’s attachment towards Heathcliff, made it a sport for Heathcliff to repeat his visits to the Grange.
When Isabella confesses her admiration for somebody whom she perceived Heathcliff to be, Catherine plainly puts forth Heathcliff’s failings to make Isabella see sense.
He’s not a rough diamond___[…] he’s a fierce,pitiless,wolfish man.[….]I say ‘Let them alone, because I should hate them to be wronged’; and he’d crush you like a sparrow’s egg,Isabella,if he found you a troublesome charge. I know he couldn’t love a Linton, and yet he’d be quite capable of marrying your fortunes and expectations___avarice is growing with him a besetting sin. There’s my picture; and I’m his friend -so much so that had he thought seriously to catch you, I should, perhaps, have held my tongue, and let you fall into his trap”
Despite knowing enough about the Heathcliff who had returned [no guesses there-Heathcliff laid bare his desire for revenging himself upon Hindley during their long rambles], she still reveals the girl’s fancy to him “to punish her for her sauciness” which seals Isabella Linton’s fate. Heathcliff had to just step up his revenge on Edgar with his marriage to Isabella Linton.Catherine Earnshaw knowingly not only betrayed her husband but also his beloved sister despite declaring that her intentions were otherwise.Even if she was honest in her intentions towards Isabella Linton,her betrayal towards Edgar Linton gives her fallacies that would make her an “anti-heroine” just like Heathcliff becomes an “anti-hero”.
I can go so far as to say that Catherine Earnshaw’s presence in the Lintons’ home was a luckless one. And Ellen Dean says that it was Heathcliff who was the “luckless presence”, a bird of bad omens”(Duh!!) .She does get very good adjectives but she did not use it to describe the correct person.
Catherine kept her word assiduously when she said
“I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.That will be a prompt way of finishing all when I am pushed to extremity!”
If Catherine, alive and headstrong could inflict only this much damage, a delirious Catherine Earnshaw in her deathbed, with her words, destroyed any happiness that everybody could have had, if Heathcliff had been given a chance to move on.
“I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings […] Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, ‘That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her: but it is past. I’ve loved many others since; my children are dearer to me than she was, and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her. I shall be sorry that I must leave them! ‘Will you say so, Heathcliff?“
Even when Heathcliff for once speaks his heart at the very moment when he says “Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? [..]Catherine, you know that I could as soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?”. But this anguished plea falls on deaf ears and she again wishes to never be parted from Heathcliff and rambles on about how she expected Heathcliff to wish to be near her always.Knowing Heathcliff unlike any other person,and her hold on his heart,if her marriage was a betrayal,her confession about her undying love for Heathcliff during her final moments was even worse.
That day,the “anti-hero” Heathcliff emerged when he says-“I forgive what you have done to me.I love my murderer-but yours!How can I?“Although he clearly perceived Catherine’s fallacies,the intense grief totally eclipsed every other notion of reason/moving on-and The Hate Story started from there.