“In Wuthering Heights, love is presented as an emotion which provokes violence rather than tenderness” To what extent do you agree with this view? In gothic literature, love can be presented as a transgressive emotion – one which crosses the boundaries of life itself, as exhibited in Wuthering Heights. There are however different interpretations of the presentation of love within this novel, whether it be love as an emotion provoking violence or love as an emotion which provokes tenderness. Although both presentations of love are arguably illustrated in Wuthering Heights, it may be fair to argue that Bronte portrays love more as an emotion which provokes tenderness rather than violence. Love as an emotion which provokes tenderness is evident right from the start of the novel when Lockwood encounters the ghost of Catherine. After Heathcliff is knowledgeable of the fact that he may have encountered Catherine’s ghost “he got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears”.
The readers immediately get a sense of some form of relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine as he bursts “into an uncontrollable passion of tears”. This sudden release of emotion allows the readers to identify that if there was love between the two, then it must have been one full of tenderness due to the affectionate emotions shown. The fact that Heathcliff “wrenched” the window open could further suggest his eagerness to be able to communicate with Catherine, further implying that Heathcliff was indeed devoted to her. At this point in the novel, the readers initial thoughts about their relationship is that it’s full of tenderness because of the excessive emotions illustrated by Heathcliff which further emphasise on his love for her. Catherine’s instant feelings for Heathcliff further suggest that love is indeed presented as an emotion which provokes tenderness rather than violence. We’re able to decipher this from when Nelly narrates “She was much too fond of Heathcliff. The greatest punishment we could invent for her was to keep her separate from him”.
Catherine’s closeness with Heathcliff from the very start of his arrival suggests that their love is tender as she immediately began to show affection towards him. Catherine’s immediate fondness for Heathcliff could arguably portray their relationship as possessing love which is tender as its nature was sincere. The notion that they were inseparable could further imply that their love is truly tender as although they haven’t occupied each other’s company for prolonged periods of time, they wish to not be parted. It is this instant connection between Catherine and Heathcliff that Bronte utilises in order to illustrate that their love is undeniably tender. The gothic element of transgression has also arguably manifested itself in the relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy. Although Wuthering Heights isn’t a gothic novel itself, it does to a significant degree employ gothic elements, and Bronte arguably utilises the concept of transgression to illustrate that Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is indeed tender.
The readers are able to identify transgression when Joseph claims “yet that old man by the kitchen fire affirms he has seen two on ‘em… on every rainy night, since his death”. Their love could also arguably be an example of the liminal as it transgresses over the boundaries of life itself, and proceeds to the after-life as exhibited by the souls of Catherine and Heathcliff being witnessed by villagers. The love presented between both characters is exists on a higher and spiritual plane – they’re soul mates. The view that their love is transgressive therefore aligns with the view that love is presented as an emotion which provokes tenderness rather than violence. As well as Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship challenging this view, to a significant extent the relationship between young Cathy and Hareton could also demonstrate that love provokes tenderness rather than violence. Although violence is involved in their relationship, through Hareton attempting to hurt Catherine by wounding Linton, the outcome of their relationship indeed portrays a love that is tender.
This is evident in Chapter 32 as Nelly relates that their “intimacy thus commenced grew rapidly… they contrived in the end to reach it”. Although initially their relationship may have portrayed love as violent, their eventual union is inevitable, as Nelly refers to it as “the crown of all my wishes”. The final outcome of their relationship therefore portrays tenderness as they result in sharing their affectionate love to each other. The fact that this relationship also occurred at the end of the novel could arguably suggest that Bronte presents love as predominantly tender rather than violent as the final presentation of love within the novel is undoubtedly tender. On the other hand, it is also debatable that love is presented as an emotion which provokes violence rather than tenderness. The readers are able to identify a ‘violent’ presentation of love when Catherine “lay dashing her head against the arm of the sofa, and grinding her teeth, so that you might fancy she would crash them to splinters!”
This violent scene occurs when Catherine is arguing with Edgar about Heathcliff, suggesting that their relationship arguably lacks a sense of humanity. The grotesque imagery aroused from words such as “dashing” assist in creating a gothic atmosphere, full of violence. The notion that Catherine is committing such violent acts could suggest that the love between her and Edgar is evitable. However, Catherine is arguing with Edgar about Heathcliff which could further portray that love provokes violence as it is Catherine’s love for Heathcliff itself which has a destructive and violent nature. It is therefore this destructive love which compels Catherine to commit such violent acts. It is therefore rational to argue that in Wuthering Heights, there are instances which present love as an emotion which simply provokes violence rather than tenderness.
Despite the fact that Wuthering Heights does possess events where love is presented as an emotion that provokes violence, Bronte’s predominant presentation of love in the novel is that it provokes tenderness. This presentation has manifested itself in instances such as the transgressive love of both Catherine and Heathcliff, as well as the excessive emotions of love portrayed through Catherine’s ghost for example. Bronte successfully portrays the more tender side of love in order to demonstrate the unbreakable bond between the characters which reside in Wuthering Heights, such as the ever-lasting love of Heathcliff and Catherine.