Bella and Edward - Cathy and Heathcliff?
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Much like in New Moon, Bella uses a favorite work of literature to understand her own life. While in New Moon she chooses Romeo and Juliet (check out "The Parallel of Romeo and Juliet" in our guide to New Moon), in Eclipse Bella examines her troubles through the filter of Emily Brontë's classic Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights tells the story of the passionate, obsessive, and yet thwarted love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. When the book was first published, it raised some eyebrows due to the mental and physical pain the characters inflict on each other. Later, it became a classic. Go figure…
Bella uses the story of Wuthering Heights mainly to compare herself to Cathy and Edward to Heathcliff, so we're going not going to lay out the whole tragic story for you here (although it's certainly worth a read if you care to learn about messed-up human psychology and the insanity of love).
Here's the quick version (you can learn more in our guide to Wuthering Heights): Cathy and Heathcliff first meet as children when Cathy's father brings Heathcliff, an orphaned boy, to live with them at Wuthering Heights. Cathy and Heathcliff grow very close. They're both wild. When Cathy is sent away to learn to be a proper lady, she meets proper and nice guy Edgar Linton and develops a liking for him. She marries Edgar Linton, despite her overpowering love for Heathcliff. Of course, Heathcliff grows incredibly jealous and vengeful, yet he doesn't harm Edgar out of respect for Cathy's feelings for him. Cathy and Heathcliff's unresolved passion causes them lots of physical and mental suffering and eventually destroys both their lives. Shortly before Cathy dies, they share a last passionate moment in which they declare their love for each other. Cathy's ghost haunts Heathcliff until his death. The tragic end.
As Edward says to Bella, "The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others lives… It isn't a love story, it's a hate story" (1.252). Bella, however, feels attracted to the inevitability of Cathy and Heathcliff's love and believes that the whole point of the story is that their love is their only redeeming characteristic. "How nothing can keep them apart – not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end…" (1.257).
Yet, like Cathy, Bella struggles to let go of Jacob, a.k.a. Edgar Linton. Passionate and stubborn, she wants to have both Edward and Jacob, even if that's selfish. Cathy certainly is a very selfish person, also wanting two men. As Eclipse progresses, Bella discovers more and more of Cathy's selfishness in herself. She realizes the pain she's caused the people she cares about:
I was selfish. I was hurtful. I tortured the ones I loved. I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither weak. I couldn't allow what hurt me to influence my decisions anymore." (23.158-159)
Unlike Cathy, Bella makes a decision for Edward against Jacob. Yet, when she breaks up with Jacob, she experiences an emotional breakdown. When Edward worries that she made the wrong choice, she again refers to Wuthering Heights: "Cathy's a monster, but there were a few things she got right… If all else perished, and he [Edward] remained, I should still continue to be (27.64).
Edward overcomes his initial dislike of Wuthering Heights and the characters in the story when Jacob develops into a real rival for him. He tells Bella, "I'm discovering that I can sympathize with Heathcliff in ways I didn't think possible before" (11.186). The next morning Bella finds the book opened to the quote where Heathcliff reveals his feeling toward Edgar:
And there you see the distinction between our feelings: had he been in my place and I in his, though I hated him with a hatred that turned my life to gall, I never would have raised a hand against him… as long as she desired his. The moment her regard ceased, I would have torn his heart out, and drank his blood! But till then… I would have died by inches before I touched a single hair of his head. (11.294)
Heathcliff's words about Edgar reflect Edward's feelings toward Jacob. This passage from Wuthering Heights gives us a nice peek into the bad side of Edward's nature that he keeps hidden from Bella. And the blood-drinking thing…what a perfect fit! Unlike Heathcliff, though, Edward tries very hard to consider Bella's needs before his own, even if he isn't perfect.
Despite the rivalry with Heathcliff/Edward, Jacob and Edgar Linton don't have much in common because, as Bella puts it, Jacob is a good choice, not a weakling, like Edgar.
At the end of Wuthering Heights, Cathy dies. Bella doesn't die. Yet. She chooses Edward and transformation into a vampire over mortality. So taking stock here, do you think interweaving Wuthering Heights into Eclipse added another layer to the story, or distracted from the good stuff?