This page is under construction.
Because of time constraints, I have only been able to jot down
some notes on this topic.
SEX IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS
- Is the religious fervor of their love a sublimation
of sexual passion? The Spanish director Luis Buñuel
focuses on the conflict between religious belief and sexual passion in
his adaptation Los abismos de pasion.
- Is the love of Catherine and Heathcliff sexual? Is
it true that even when Catherine is clasped to Heathcliff's breast "we
dare not doubt her purity" (Sidney Dobell, 1840); Swinburne agrees with
Dobell because theirs is a "passionate and ardent chastity."
3. Is Cathy really Heathcliff's child, so that Cathy and Linton are
half brother and sister?
1. Is Heathcliff really Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son?
2. If not, are Catherine and Heathcliff raised so like brother and
sister that there is emotional incest? or the hint of incest? English
law did not allow the marriage of siblings by adoption and of
non-related/non-adopted children raised in the same household; this
prohibition would seem to apply to Catherine and Heathcliff.
Christopher Heywood suggests that by using the name of a
son who had died, the Earnshaws precluded his marrying Catherine. Does
this legal prohibition reinforce the implication of
incest in their love?
- If the marriage of Linton and Cathy is
unconsummated, it could be declared void, if challenged.
- Richard Chase sees Emily, like her sisters,
presenting a masculine universe informed by sexual energy or élan.
Catherine seems to fear Heathcliff, presumably because, as the
embodiment of the spirit of the wild Yorkshire moors and the universal élan,
he cannot be tamed:
We realize that with a few readjustments of the
plot he need not have entered the story as a human being at all. His
part might have been played by Fate or Nature or God
or the Devil. He is sheer dazzling sexual and intellectual force. As
Heathcliff expires at the end of the book, we
feel, not so much that a man is dying, as that an intolerable
energy is flagging. And we see that Heathcliff without energy
cannot possibly survive in human form.... The two novels Wuthering
Height and Jane Eyre end similarly:
a relatively mild and ordinary marriage is made after the
spirit of the masculine universe is controlled or extinguished.
- The point about Heathcliff's impersonality or
non-humanness has been made repeatedly by critics. According to Chase,
both Emily and Charlotte Brontë suffered from a failure
in nerve; in different ways, both backed off from uniting
their heroines and their demonic lovers. Thus, in his reading,
explore the neuroses of women in a patriarchal society.
- Is Catherine's marrying Edgar is an attempt to escape
the adult sexuality of Heathcliff? If so, then how do we
account for her emphatic hope to produce several heirs for
Edgar? And is there any reason to assume that Edgar is not
capable of healthy or normal sexual relations?
Brontë: Table of Contents
March 22, 2011