English: Behaviour in Wuthering Heights

Discuss the effects of the social mores and values of the time upon the characters’ behaviour, actions and emotional turmoil in Wuthering Heights.

Class, status and background evidently have a wide range of effects on the characters living at Wuthering Heights and the Grange. The social values of the time do affect the characters. The power and severity of the conflict between characters are commonly reinforced with the presence of Heathcliff. Stereotype, prejudice, jealousy and conflict between the classes are clearly shown when the forceful lower class character, Heathcliff, returns to the Grange. These attitudes between classes were unusual at the time. The obsession of revenge in Heathcliff is due to Catherine who told Nelly it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff.

Catherine gave news of marrying Edgar to Nelly, meanwhile Heathcliff, listened quietly and out of sight. Catherine knows she can trust Nelly so she tells her true feelings towards Edgar and Heathcliff. Nelly realises Edgar and Catherine are not ideally suited to one another. Catherine gave poor excuses for why she wished to marry Edgar. Nelly persisted in asking why she loves Edgar, the answers given made it plain there was no reason other than class.

“…he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband.”
“Worst of all. And now say how you love him?”
“As everybody loves – you’re silly, Nelly.”

Catherine, Nelly, Catherine, page 71

Class, status and background clearly have affected the decision of marriage. This attitude was common at the time. Other reasons were not required or expected, the class and status of the opposite partner were always important. Heathcliff would not have been too offended by Catherine’s affection towards Edgar, he has seen it progress and her wild nature being replaced by middle class manners.

Heathcliff loves Catherine, the thought that kept him sane is in him knowing Catherine feels the same. He felt close to Catherine as they grew up together, they had the same mutual feeling for one-another. Mr. Linton did not effect him as Heathcliff’s love for Catherine was so considerable. Catherine shatters Heathcliff hopes when she confided to Nelly her thoughts towards Heathcliff. There is no reason for Heathcliff to doubt she is falsifying as both Catherine and Nelly do not know of Heathcliff’s presence.

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff…”

Catherine, page 73

The struggle between Mr. Linton and Heathcliff seemed pointless for Heathcliff as he had no reason for doing so now that he did not have love from Catherine. He now had no-one. Understandably Heathcliff left as he could bear not more degradation from the person he loved and trusted most. He left quickly as he didn’t hear the following confessions of Catherine. This showed how seriously the issue effected Heathcliff. Consequently, not all is what it seems as this text has been ripped from Nahoo at nahoo.net. Over a long period of time Heathcliff tried to make up to the status he thought Catherine needed to love him. Catherine subsequently admitted she loved Heathcliff far more than she would ever love Edgar but the words never reached Heathcliff.

“…he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”

Catherine, page 73

“My love for Heathcliff resembles eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”

Catherine, page 75

Catherine knew she loved Heathcliff but the social mores and values of the time were the significant restraint that prevented her from following her heart. The thoughts of other characters also had an effect on her marriage decision.

Edgar thought of Heathcliff as a dirty gypsy boy. His attitude had not change from the time when Heathcliff was first caught in the grounds of Trushcross Grange to the time when Heathcliff returned. On his return Edgar uttered Heathcliff’s name in disgust, not knowing how his appearance and manners have changed.

“What, the gypsy – the plough-boy?”

Edgar, page 86

Catherine is naturally delighted when she knew Heathcliff returned. She could not understand his strange absence. Catherine had not known Heathcliff was listening to her conversation with Nelly. Edgar felt jealous because he had not realised how much Catherine loved Heathcliff. The true childish, incompetent nature of Edgar is shown when Catherine, who had been brought up in a lower class, hard natured way, reported the situation of Edgar to Nelly.

“I gave a few sentences of commendation to Heathcliff, and he, either for a pang of envy, began to cry: so I got up and left him.”

Catherine, page 89

Edgar is continually shown to be immature both by the language of the narrator and the comments from Catherine. This may indicate the author’s view of the higher classes.

The appearance of Heathcliff appears to be very important factor in Edgar’s view of class. When he realises how Heathcliff has changed he strives to converse with him in the same manner as with other people of his class. Underneath Heathcliff is still unchanged, both he and Catherine endeavour to keep their true feelings from escaping, a restraint that separates the higher classes from the lower classes. Edgar senses that Catherine might have more than one lover besides himself. Consequently, not all is what it seems as this text has been ripped from Nahoo at nahoo.net. He blocks the conversation from going to far with a very separate line of conversation.

“Catherine unless we are to have cold tea, please come to the table,” interrupted Linton, striving to preserve his ordinary tone, and a due measure of politeness.

Edgar, page 89

The arrival of Heathcliff had different effects on the characters appetite. Catherine was over exited, Edgar felt uneasy in the presence of a new danger, Heathcliff. Heathcliff tactfully left for Wuthering Heights careful to avoid future clashes between Edgar and himself.

A few small instances have had great effects on all the characters in both classes. Heathcliff’s return to the Grange proved appearances and manners cannot hide the sinister lower class background in which he was brought up. Clashes between the classes often result in much tension, prejudice and jealousy. Attitudes and social mores of the higher classes are often the cause misery in themselves and other people around them as shown by Heathcliff, when Catherine decides to marry Edgar.


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