syllabus hotspot syllabus hotspot syllabus hotspot austen hotspot austen hotspot austen hotspot dickens hotspot dickens hotspot dickens hotspot dickens hotspot dickens hotspot eliot hotspot eliot hotspot eliot hotspot hardy hotspot thackeray hotspot thackeray hotspot thackeray hotspot thackeray hotspot thackeray hotspot novel page hotspot novel page hotspot novel page hotspot novel page hotspot



A Freudian interpretation
A Jungian interpretation
Monomania: a nineteenth century interpretation

Psychological analyses of Wuthering Heights abound as critics apply modern psychological theories to the characters and their relationships,

The most common psychological readings are Freudian interpretations. Typical of Freudian readings of the novel is Linda Gold's interpretation. She sees in the symbiosis of Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar the relationship of Freud's id, ego, and superego. At a psychological level, they merge into one personality with Heathcliff's image of the three of them buried (the unconscious) in what is essentially one coffin. Heathcliff, the id, expresses the most primitive drives (like sex), seeks pleasure, and avoids pain; the id is not affected by time and remains in the unconscious (appropriately, Heathcliff's origins are unknown, he is dark, he runs wild and is primitive as a child, and his three year absence remains a mystery). Catherine, the ego, relates to other people and society, tests the impulses of the id against reality, and controls the energetic id until there is a reasonable chance of its urges being fulfilled. Edgar, the superego, represents the rules of proper behavior and morality inculcated by teachers, family, and society; he is civilized and cultured. As conscience, he compels Catherine to choose between Heathcliff and himself.

In Freud's analysis, the ego must be male to deal successfully with the world; to survive, a female ego would have to live through males. This Catherine does by identifying egotistically with Heathcliff and Edgar, according to Gold. Catherine rejects Heathcliff because a realistic assessment of her future with him makes clear the material and social advantages of marrying Edgar and the degradation of yielding to her unconscious self. Her stay at Thrushcross Grange occurs at a crucial stage in her development; she is moving through puberty toward womanhood. She expects Edgar to accept Heathcliff in their household and to raise him from his degraded state; this would result in the integration of the disparate parts of her personality–id, ego, and superego–into one unified personality. Confronted by the hopelessness of psychological integration or wholeness and agonized by her fragmentation, she dies.

Gold carries her Freudian scrutiny to the second generation; the whole history of both generations of Earnshaws, Lintons, and Heathcliffs may be read as the development of one personality, beginning with Catherine Earnshaw and ending with Catherine Linton Heathcliff Earnshaw. The second Cathy has assimilated and consolidated the id/Heathcliff and the superego/Edgar through marriages with Hareton and Linton.

Jungian readings also interpret the relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff as aspects of one person; those aspects may be the archetype of the shadow and the individual or the archetypes of the animus/anima and the persona. These interpretations are derived from Jung's distinction between the collective unconscious and the personal unconscious. The collective unconscious is inherited, impersonal, and universal. The content of the collective unconscious is mainly archetypes; some archetypes occur in a particular society or time period, others are the same in all societies and times. The archetypes may find expression in myth and fairy tales. The most common and influential archetypes are the shadow, the animus, and the anima. Every human being also has a personal unconscious, in which material is stored that was once conscious but has been forgotten or repressed. The personal unconscious adapts archetypes based on the individual's experiences. The personal unconscious finds expression in dreams and metaphor.

The shadow. In the collective unconscious, the shadow is absolute evil. In the personal unconscious, the shadow consists of those desires, feelings, etc. which are unacceptable, perhaps for emotional or for moral reasons. The shadow is generally equated with the dark side of human nature. The shadow is emotional, seems autonomous because uncontrollable, and hence becomes obsessive or possessive. Heathcliff, then, can be seen as Catherine's shadow–he represents the darkest side of her, with his vindictiveness, his sullenness, his wildness, and his detachment from social connections. She rejects this part of herself by marrying Edgar, thereby explaining Heathcliff's mysterious disappearance. But Heathcliff, the shadow, refuses to be suppressed permanently; Jung explains that even if self-knowledge or insight enables the individual to integrate the shadow, the shadow still resists moral control and can rarely be changed. Cathy's efforts to integrate Heathcliff into her life with Edgar are doomed; her inability to affect Heathcliff's behavior can be seen in his ignoring her prohibition about Isabella. The resurfaced Heathcliff obsessively seeks possession of Catherine to insure his own survival.

The animus and the anima. What Jung calls the persona is the outer or social self that faces the world. The animus is the archetype that completes women, that is, it contains the male qualities which the female persona lacks. The animus generally represents reflection, deliberation, and ability for self-knowledge and is male. Similarly, the anima represents the female traits that a man's persona lacks, generally the ability to form relationships and be related, and it is female. The relationship of the anima/animus to the individual is always emotional and has its own dynamic, because, as archetypes, the anima and animus are impersonal forces. The individual is rarely aware of his anima/her animus. In some of its aspects, Jung says, the animus is the "demon-familiar." The animus of a woman and the anima of a man take the form of a "soul-image" in the personal unconscious; this soul-image may be transferred to a real person who naturally becomes the object of intense feeling, which may be passionate love or passionate hate. "Wherever an impassioned, almost magical, relationship exists between the sexes, it is invariably a question of a projected soul-image." When a man projects his anima onto a real women or a woman projects her animus onto a man, a triad arises, which includes a transcendent part. The triad consists of the man, the woman, and the transcendent anima/animus. Not surprisingly, the object of the projection will be unable to live out the lover's animus or anima permanently.

Now to apply Jung's theory to Catherine, for whom Heathcliff is the animus, and to Heathcliff, for whom Catherine is the anima. For Catherine, Heathcliff expresses anger and hostility, freedom, command, irresponsibility, rebellion, and spontaneity. For Heathcliff, Catherine is beauty, love, status, and belonging. The projection of their soul-images explains their profound sense of connection or identity with each other, e.g., Catherine's "I am Heathcliff" speech and Heathcliff's references to Catherine as his soul and his life. The element of transcendence in the projection is expressed in Catherine's vision of something, some life, beyond this one, in her view of existence after death, in Heathcliff's longing to see Catherine's ghost, and their life together after death. And is there any question about Heathcliff's being a "demon-familiar"?

An entirely different approach is taken by Graeme Tytler, who applies nineteenth-century psychological theory to the novel. In Brontë's day, an obvious label for Heathcliff would have been monomaniac, a term which is today equated with obsession but was in the nineteenth century a specific disorder with clearly defined symptoms and progression. Graeme Tytler theorizes that Heathcliff fits the contemporary medical diagnosis of monomania, as defined by Jean Etienne Dominique Esquirol, one of the founders of modern psychiatry. Esquirol defined monomania as "the disease of going to extremes, of singularization, of one-sidedness." The application of this definition to Heathcliff is too obvious to need further comment; equally relevant to a diagnosis of Heathcliff is Esquirol's listing of the causes of monomania:
Monomania is essentially a disease of the sensibility. It reposes altogether upon the affections, and its study is inseparable from a knowledge of the passions. Its seat is in the heart of man, and it is there that we must search for it, in order to possess ourselves of all its peculiarities. How many are the cases of monomania caused by thwarted love, by fear, vanity, wounded self-love, or disappointed ambition.

Tytler distinguishes stages in the development of Heathcliff's monomania. Heathcliff shows a predisposition to monomania up to and slightly after Catherine's death in such behavior as his single-minded determination to be connected to her after her death. It is, however, not until eighteen years or so after her death that he shows signs of insanity. Much of what he says and does after Chapter 29 is symptomatic of monomania–hallucinations, insomnia, talking to himself or to Catherine's ghost, his preoccupation at meals and in conversation, his sighs and moans, his harsh treatment of Cathy and Hareton, and his being haunted by Catherine's image.

Brontë: Table of Contents

Day 1

Overview of Emily Brontë
Publication of Wuthering Heights & Contemporary Critics
Later Critical response to Wuthering Heights
Film Versions of Wuthering Heights

Day 2 Themes in Wuthering Heights
The Narrator
Day 3 Wuthering Heights as Socio-Economic Novel
Psychological Interpretations of Wuthering Heights
Religion, Metaphysics, Mysticism and Wuthering Heights
The Gothic and Wuthering Heights
Romanticism and Wuthering Heights
Day 4

"I am Heathcliff"
Emily Bronte's Poetry


October 13, 2011