Doubles and Opposites
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Two Cathys are Better than One
What is with all of the doubles and opposites in the novel? Wuthering Heights vs. Thrushcross Grange. Civilization vs. nature. Edgar Linton vs. Heathcliff. And let's not forget Cathy vs. Cathy.
The family tree is very symmetrical, but the families blend and the opposition between the houses becomes less distinct. Among the novel's many doubles, Catherine and Heathcliff are the most important. Their love is based on being spiritual twins. Remember 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).
Sheesh. Whatever happened to the whole "opposites attract" thing?
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 dates from way back to 1500.
So Many H-Names
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—as you do when someone clocks you, right?—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... but doesn't want to bear any of the responsibility.