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The Pursuits and Compromises of Happiness in Wuthering Heights



There have been many studies and cases over the years where groups have analyzed the ways in
which individuals pursue or compromise their happiness. Wuthering Heights, a novel written by
Emily Brnte, exemplifies this fact through the actions and decisions made by the individuals in
the narrative. The story that the author illustrates is very convoluted, with several characters
interacting with each other, sometimes in both intentional and unintentional situations. The word
pursue, as defined by the Collins Canadian English Dictionary, means to chase, or to follow a
goal. The word compromise is defined as to be put in a dishonourable position. Happiness is
defined as to be lucky or fortunate. There are many directions that individuals can go about in
order to pursue and compromise their happiness. Emily Brnte illustrates the idea that
individuals pursue or compromise their happiness through their actions and decisions in her
novel, Wuthering Heights.
There are many thoroughly-developed characters permeating the pages of Wuthering Heights,
each attempting to achieve happiness through their own means. The most prominent of these
characters is Heathcliff; a surly, dark, brooding man who is very violent and dangerous. Emily
Brnte created Heathcliff as the main character of Wuthering Heights, although it is uncertain
whether she intended to have him as the protagonist or the antagonist of the plot. Heathcliff is,
for the majority of the story, the master of Wuthering Heights. His eternal love, Catherine
Earnshaw, is Heathcliffs source of passion. When Heathcliff hears Catherine speaking to Nelly
Dean, the caretaker, in private, he discovers that although Catherine loves him with all her heart,
Catherine is going to be betrothed to Edgar Linton. Edgar is a man from a wealthy family that
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lives at Thrushcross Grange, which is a large estate not too far from Wuthering Heights.
Catherine iterates that she is making this choice because of social status and wealth; to marry
Heathcliff, someone with little status or money, would be degrading to Catherine. In response,
Heathcliff runs away from Wuthering Heights for several years, much to the dismay of Catherine
Earnshaw. However, Heathcliff returns as a new man, with wealth and standing that Catherine
has never seen in him before. Catherine is now Catherine Linton, married to Edgar Linton.
Heathcliff, although a changed man, still possesses the wild, dangerous quality he had when he
was younger, but is now more powerful and malicious than before. Heathcliff decides to pursue
his own happiness by exacting revenge against all of the people who surrounded and treated him
cruelly before. Heathcliff begins by loaning copious amounts money to Hindley Earnshaw, a
drunk, despondent man who is the current owner of Wuthering Heights, knowing that Hindley
will never repay him. However, Heathcliffs angle is that Hindley will have to repay him with
Wuthering Heights, which Heathcliff ultimately attains after Hindleys death. He also is now the
master of Hindleys son, Hareton, who Heathcliff constantly abuses. Thus, Heathcliff is on his
way to pursuing his own form of happiness, at the compromise of the happiness of the other
individuals.
Brnte continues to display Heathcliffs peculiar idea of happiness throughout the novel. After
visiting Catherine and expressing his love, Heathcliff decides to take revenge against Edgar
Linton, who robbed Heathcliff of Catherine. Heathcliff marries Edgars sister, Isabella Linton,
with the thought that Heathcliff will be able to attain Thrushcross Grange, as it will become his
inheritance. Sadly, Catherine becomes ill, and Heathcliff rushes to her side. He becomes
frustrated that she is dying and says, You say you love me; haunt me, then! Heathcliff wants
Catherine to come back as a ghost and continue to be near him, even in death. Catherine dies in
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his arms, and Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights. Through more acts of revenge, including
marrying Heathcliffs own son Linton Heathcliff with Catherine and Edgars daughter Cathy
Linton, Heathcliff is able to attain Thrushcross Grange once Edgar dies. Heathcliff constantly
abuses Cathy, Linton, and Hareton, and as a result, his revenge is almost complete. As Heathcliff
progresses throughout the story, he begins to view the ghost of his love, Catherine Earnshaw,
more frequently. These factors, presented to the reader, convey ideas leading to the fact that
Emily Brnte supports the strong, masculine characters who take swift and purposeful action
over the weak, spineless characters in her novel. Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are the most
driven characters in Wuthering Heights, and their confidence conveys purpose. The weak
characters, such as Edgar Linton and Linton Heathcliff, are spineless and sickly, and do not have
the motivation or the courage to take action. Thus, Heathcliff is one of the few characters in the
novel who is able to pursue his vision of happiness.
Towards the conclusion of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff continues to witness visions of
Catherine Earnshaws ghost. Heathcliff begins to react more and more strangely, ultimately
losing his violent nature because he is so preoccupied and obsessive with his love for Catherine.
Meanwhile, Nelly, Hareton, and Cathy notice that Heathcliff is acting strangely, but only Nelly is
inquisitive. Nelly discovers that Heathcliff no longer eats nor sleeps, driving himself into a fit.
Heathcliff, according to Nelly, is becoming more frightening, and she believes he has become,
possessed by some demon. Heathcliff suddenly starts taking extended walks through the moors
outside of Wuthering Heights in the dead of night, pursuing and searching for Catherine. He
relates to Nelly that he sees Catherine more and more often, and even went to such lengths as to
dig up her grave in order to be closer to her. Heathcliff paid a grave-digger to remove a board on
the side of Catherines coffin, so that when he died and was buried beside her, his coffin would
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have a missing board as well, and then Heathcliff and Catherine would be finally reunited
together in death. One night, after continuous lack of eating or sleeping, Heathcliff is found dead
in his room by Nelly Dean. She acknowledges that, He had a terrible grin on his face, like a
goblin!... His teeth had become sharpened points, and his eyes were fixed in a terrible glare!
Emily Brnte displays now in Wuthering Heights that Heathcliff has finally been possessed
completely by his love, Catherine Earnshaw, and is now joined to her in death. Heathcliff is
buried beside Catherine, as he requested. Ironically, Heathcliff has pursued, and finally attained,
his happiness at the expense of his life.
In conclusion, Emily Brnte displays the idea that individuals are able to pursue or compromise
their happiness through their actions and decisions. She illustrates the fact that in Wuthering
Heights, there are only a few characters that have the ability to pursue happiness; the rest
compromise their happiness by being weak and not taking action when they should have.
Heathcliff is the best example of an individual who is driven and motivated to succeed. He
executed his plan of revenge with purpose and relentlessness, and through these means,
Heathcliff was able to attain his version of happiness. Heathcliff relays this to Nelly Dean shortly
before he dies: Yesterday I was in hell; to-day, my heaven is before me!