by Emily Brontë
Doubles and Opposites
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
What's with all of the doubles and opposites in the novel? Wuthering Heights versus Thrushcross Grange, civilization versus nature, Edgar Linton versus Heathcliff are just some of the oppositions. The family tree is very symmetrical, but the families blend and the opposition between the houses becomes less clearly distinct. Among the novel's many doubles, Catherine and Heathcliff are the most important. Their love is based on being spiritual twins. Recall Catherine's confession to Nelly Dean that she can't marry Heathcliff because, as she explains, "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" (9.92). She concludes with one of the most memorable lines in the novel: "Nelly, I am Heathcliff" (9.101).
Heathcliff is not Catherine's only double – there's also her daughter, the other Catherine, better known as Cathy. All of these names can get really confusing, leading you to wonder – couldn't they come up with any new names?! There are many Lintons and Earnshaws, even several characters with the name Heathcliff, though only one goes exclusively by Heathcliff (like Prince or Madonna). There are two Hareton Earnshaws, though one from way back in 1500.
Heathcliff has another double too: Hareton Earnshaw. Both were placed into a servile position and deprived of an education by the ruthless master of the house. Just how vengeful Heathcliff is comes out with Hareton, because rather than feeling compassion that the young man has no sympathetic father figure, Heathcliff repeats the same crummy treatment on Hareton that he received from Hareton's father, Hindley.
Among the many examples of repetition in the plot, the scenes with the two Catherines and their respective suitors, Edgar Linton and Linton Heathcliff, reveal that mother and daughter are both feisty and self-indulgent. Let's briefly look at the repetition in two scenes.
In the first, Catherine boxes Edgar Linton on the ear. When he tries to leave Wuthering Heights, she becomes a master manipulator, shouting, "No . . . not yet, Edgar Linton – sit down; you shall not leave me in that temper. I should be miserable all night, and I won't be miserable for you!"(8.77). Moments later, Edgar proposes marriage and Catherine accepts.
Roughly twenty years later, Cathy pushes Linton Heathcliff after a fight about their parents. Though Cathy apologizes, she also blames him, just like her mother blamed Edgar. She does not want to leave Wuthering Heights carrying the blame for the scene: "Don't let me go home thinking I've done you harm!" (23.49). Daughter, like mother, cannot control her temper and yet does not want to bear any of the responsibility.