Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, is the only prose work written by Emily Bronte, middle of the three famous Bronte sisters. She was 29 at the time and her life should have only been beginning, but sadly it would end a year later (Gaskill 433). The one and only novel that she wrote was a complex story that used two separate houses in an isolated setting as a vehicle to explore the dichotomy of the social class system in nineteenth century England and the impracticalities of the mixing of the two social classes.
And in the end we find that the woman who attempts to better her social standing by marrying outside of love is befallen by misfortune, suffers from mental disorders, and dies from depression induced anorexia. The two households that supply the setting for the novel are as different in nature as their names suggest. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange... even to say the names without allowing the least of meanings to cross the mind is to notice a stark difference in connotation, and in environment.
One does not need know the stormy, cloud lingering, and damp stench of the word wuthering to know that this is a house plagued by dysfunction, abuse, and solitude. And to say the words thrushcross grange is to feel the sophisticated warmth of far spread green fields with grazing livestock, white pillars, friendly brick facade, and glorious Crystal chandeliers. It is said that misery loves company, but wouldnt it be more fitted to say that lack of company causes misery, at least in some cases?
It seems that the lead character; Heathcliff who desires the impossible, his child and adulthood love Catherines company, is stricken with mental health problems and is left to die because of misery without her. As a young child, Heathcliff was found on the streets of Liverpool and taken to Wuthering Heights by a very generous man by the name of Earnshaw. Mr. Earnshaw was the master of Wuthering Heights at that time, and he had two young children by the names of Catherine and Hindley. There, Heathcliff was treated like one of the family.
He was perhaps even Mister Earnshaws favorite of his three children. But, sadly, not too many years later Mister Earnshaw would pass, and Hindley being his only son would take charge of the Heights. Hindley immediately took a painful revenge out on the dirty street rat that came into his house and took his father away from him. Bitterness ran wild through Hindleys veins like blood through any person with a heart, and this bitterness would begin a long chain of verbal, and emotional abuse toward poor Heathcliff.
Heathcliff was forced to live as a lowly slave and referred by such hollow names a it and that thing(Bronte 40-51). Such abuse and sudden, perhaps even traumatic change in environment could seriously fowl the development of a teenage child, and it did. Clearly as an adult Heathcliff suffered from at least one if not multiple psychological disorders, and perhaps the most obvious of these clinical diseases is Adjustment Disorder.
Adjustment Disorder is characterized by a maladaptive response to a psychological stressor (Costello 186), and its symptoms include: notable impairment in social functioning, depression, feelings of loneliness or hopelessness, apprehensiveness, and restless behavior. In some cases it also causes erratic behavior, which means that the individual ignores the rights of others, and is combative with others as well (Laughlin 637). Clearly Heathcliff displays these symptoms on an alarming red flag that even the most blind of the blind can see without squint or strain.
Perhaps the timeliest of places to observe Heathcliffs personality disorder is after the most traumatic event in his life, Catherines death, occurs. Through his son’s marriage and death Heathcliff acquired Thrushcross Grange and was renting it out while young Cathy, Hareton, Joseph, his other servant Zilla, and himself were staying at Wuthering Heights. His tenant during this particular period happened to be a fellow named Lockwood.
Lockwood was a decent man, of decent social standing and he wanted to discover the demeanor of his new landlord and neighbor, Heathcliff. Upon his first arrival at the Heights Lockwood is quoted as saying, … his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure… (Bronte 10). And later during the same visit while trying to explain his dogs cold behavior towards Lockwood Heathcliff is quoted as saying, Guests are so exceedingly rare in this house that I and my dogs hardly know how to receive them (13).
With these two extremely revealing quotes we learn that not only is Heathcliffs inability to function positively in a social manner recognizable to a complete stranger, but that he is also willing to face the fact that he is not accustomed to having conversation with someone that is to be considered his equal. The next time that Lockwood would attempt to trek the moors to pay his neighbors what turns out to be an untimely visit would be not long after the first, and in the onset of a violently tormenting snowstorm. Upon his second arrival Mr.
Lockwood discovers that Heathcliff leaves the gate surrounding the perimeter of the Heights locked like a cell, and after climbing the fence finds that no one will let him in to have a meeting with the warden. After much convincing Lockwood finally gets into the house and out of the blustering wind and blistering snow, and all seems to go well until, with a slip of the tongue, Lockwood sets of a neurotic trigger inside of Heathcliffs mind. Mistaking that Young Cathy is Heathcliffs wife instead of prisoner, he mentions how nice it must be to have such an amiable lady.
Heathcliff responds with a restless cry of, My amiable lady! Where is she- my amiable lady (Bronte 18). To Heathcliff, although Catherine was never Heathcliffs wife, he still considers her his one and only amiable lady and will live a restless and vacant life until he dies and can live a long abundant death with his Catherine. From that point on Heathcliffs demeanor changes for the whole rest of the night from that of somewhat calm and friendly, at least for Heathcliff, to stone cold and rock hard.
All empathetic feelings characteristic of human beings flee his heart in one last final charge like lifeboats escaping the drowning Titanic. At one point in the evening he pauses his cold conversation and asks Catherine to fetch some tea, and Mr. Lockwood describes the cold stare that he deposited in her as a look of hatred. Why this cold heated stare? Cathy is the lone soul on whom Heathcliff can take out his anger for Catherines death, since he holds her responsible because Catherine died while giving birth to Cathy.
These thoughts of Catherine seem to peek Heathcliffs dementia and he becomes more unreasonable, and more antisocial as the night goes on. With the storm outside culminating into a catharsis of fierce winds and slicing snow, Heathcliff shares his thoughts on Lockwoods poor judgment for choosing such a dangerous time to journey to the Heights. Lockwood also expresses his concern and asks Heathcliff for a guide to show him how to get back to his abode. When Heathcliff denies, Lockwood asks Cathy for help getting home, and she responds with, I cannot escort you.
They wouldnt let me go to the end of the garden wall (21). It is saddening to see that a young girl of Cathys age would make such a horrendous statement. It shows Heathcliffs lack of respect for the rights of others, and the bounds to which he will go to make sure that theirs are not outside of the grounds. After realizing that he is not going to get any assistance on a trek back across the moors and to Thrushcross Grange, Lockwood suggests that he might stay the night at Wuthering Heights and return to the Grange upon daylight.
Heathcliff starkly declares that he has no accommodations for guests and that this is not possible. Mr. Lockwood replies with, I can sleep on a chair in this room. No, no! demanded Heathcliff, on the contrary, A stranger is a stranger be he rich or poor: it will not suit me to permit anyone the range of the place while I am off guard (22). This statement declares Heathcliffs apprehension toward any one of a number of possible things. It could be taken literally, meaning that he does not trust anyone in the house when he is not around. It could be taken less literally as well.
Possibly, Heathcliff is afraid to let any guests spend the night because he does not want anyone thinking that they are welcome in the Heights for more than just a short visit. Maybe he doesnt want Mr. Lockwood to get to comfortable in with the house. Whatever Heathcliffs reasons are for not wanting Lockwood to stay the night during the wretched storm, one can rest assured knowing that that is not the normal response of a normal person of sound mind. The actions taken and words spoken by Heathcliff that night are the words of a man not of sound mind, and perhaps soon to be of no mind.
The symptoms of Adjustment Disorder are clearly apparent in Heathcliffs behavior, but what really caused Heathcliffs mental and emotional deterioration, and eventually his physical deterioration was the depression that it caused. Adjustment Disorder is known, in some cases, to cause depression. Depression can be defined as, a state of mind and body which is characterized by a change in mood towards being miserable, worried, discouraged, irritable, unable to feel emotion, fearful, despondent, hopeless…
Winokur 3). And to site text to exemplify Heathcliffs depression would be like trying to pick the two best leaves off of an oak tree in mid summer. Some of the symptoms for diagnosis of clinical depression that Heathcliff displays are; poor appetite or weight loss, trouble sleeping, agitation, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and thoughts of death (4): When day breaks Ill send for Green, I wish to make some legal inquiries of him while I can bestow a thought on those matters, and while I can act calmly.
I have not written my will yet, and how to leave my property I cannot determine… It is not my fault that I cannot eat or rest. I assure you it is through no settled designs. Ill do both as soon as I possibly can. But you might as well bid a man struggling in the water rest within arms length of the shore (Bronte 315). These are clearly the words of a man who is welcoming death and considers it relief from a daunting life. fortunately for him he would get his break within an arms reach. death came to Heathcliff soon after he made this speech to Nelly.
It could be said that he may have died from malnutrition, or even perhaps Anorexia. According to Comprehensive Psychiatry, the third most prevalent symptom occurring in hospitalized depressed patients is Anorexia, with 80% of all patients showing it. No one will ever know whether Emily displayed these diseases in her character on purpose, or if she just happened to create a character that fit into the mold of two mental illnesses almost without flaw by accident. But, one thing is clear, the character known as Heathcliff in her novel is mentally ill, and not just slightly twisted.