February : A Jungian Look at Heathcliff and Gender (part two)

(missed the first part of this conversation? find it HERE)

maybe it’s not about romance at all….

Perhaps Heathcliff, as I said, is not really a man at all. In general, men don’t sympathize with him—women do. Sometimes the sympathy comes from romantic feeling, or because we identify with him, but there is a connection

What I now think is that Cathy’s love for Edgar is perhaps Emily Brontë’s statement on all romantic love; it will change, it will have seasons, etc. Cathy and Edgar are two very different, highly imperfect people. Although they loved each other (and, as Nelly thought, were actually on their way to happiness before Heathcliff came back and stepped into their marriage), they didn’t have that wild, transcendental attachment of Heathcliff and Cathy that leave so many fans swooning. 

But perhaps Heathcliff and Cathy’s love is not romantic at all. Perhaps it is, instead, the deeper relationship that Brontë seems to value above that of marriage—the relationship between a woman and her inner man (or vice versa). 

When looked at in this way, Cathy’s speech makes complete sense. Let’s look at part of this passage again: 

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees.” Although rather unromantic, this could be Brontë’s overall statement on romantic love. Seeing as she never married and seemed content in herself, it’s not that surprising that she might see it in a more removed and secondary way. And it is pretty realistic—long-term relationships do change like the seasons. “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary.” Just as one’s relationship with one’s self would be. “Nelly, I am Heathcliff!” Heathcliff is her Animus! He is a part of her. “He’s always, always in my mind:” because he’s a part of her. “not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable;” it is impracticable, because he is contained within her. 

Now this is just one interpretation of many, I am well aware, and it is one I personally did not buy a few months ago. But keep it in the back of your mind! Think about it! It’s pretty interesting. 

Part of Jung’s theory is that if a person is not in touch with their Anima/Animus, or if they are letting problems with this other part of themselves fester, that this part of a person becomes destructive and sabotages their relationships, that it holds them back from their full potential in all areas of life. Heathcliff certainly becomes a destructive force.

Now this is a concept I find pretty complex and do not yet completely understand. So let me just talk about this in the simpler terms I am currently more comfortable with—as the masculine and the feminine.

two halves of one whole

I think every person has a mix of both genders within them; some people’s are suppressed, or they’re afraid of or not in touch with one part of themselves. Emily Brontë (as far as we know; there isn’t as much information on her as many would like) did not have any romantic relationships; she hated teaching, and was most happy alone on the moors. Talk about someone who would be very comfortable with themselves—both sides of themselves. 

Heathcliff is intense emotion, and intense pain. He is left without the one source of love he enjoyed, Cathy, and is not able to change or break free from his painful feelings and can do nothing but destruct. 

At the end, as we know, Heathcliff does change. He tells Nelly he feels some kind of change on the horizon; he feels he has nearly attained his heaven, that of being united to Cathy, and at the end, when their gravestones are alongside Edgar’s, peace can be restored.

All in all, Wuthering Heights has recently been making me think about one’s relationship to one’s self. Perhaps, the idea that, by acknowledging and coming up against the uglier sides within you, you can achieve a greater synthesis of your entirety. How about you guys? 

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