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PSYCHOANALYTIC CRITICISM 1

Abstract

Literature and psychological theories, even if developed in different time periods or one before

the other, may parallel because of both an author and psychologist’s ability to understand the

human condition. For this reason, it is possible to take psychoanalytic approaches to texts that

may have been written long before more popular psychological theories were introduced. Some of

the characters of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, reflect the personality theory of

Sigmund Freud. This novel presents a portrayal of Heathcliff, Catherine and Isabella from a

psychoanalytical perspective with regard to four defense mechanisms; namely, repression, denial,

sublimation and projection in order to see how these defense mechanisms have affected the

characters’ decisions and behavior, and led them to their destinations in life.In this paper, an

attempt is made to analyze the main characters' emotional world and dig out the nature deep in

their consciousness from a Freudian psychoanalytic perspective.

Keywords: psychoanalysis, defense mechanism, denial, repression


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Introduction

Psychoanalytic criticism adopts the methods of "reading" employed by Freud and later

theorists to interpret texts. Freudian Psychoanalysis is one of the most important theories of literary

criticism, which provides readers with a novel method to interpret literary works. It argues that

literary texts, like dreams, express the secret unconscious desires and anxieties of the author, that

a literary work is a manifestation of the author's own neuroses. Some of the characters of Emily

Brontë’s 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, reflect the personality theory of Sigmund Freud.

Freud’s personality theories because Heathcliff reflects the id, Edgar represents the super ego, and

Catherine attempts to act as the ego.

Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847 under her pseudonym

"Ellis Bell". Brontë's only finished novel, it was written between October 1845 and June

1846.[1] Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë's Agnes Grey were accepted by publisher Thomas

Newby before the success of their sister Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre. After Emily's death, Charlotte

edited the manuscript of Wuthering Heights and arranged for the edited version to be published as

a posthumous second edition in 1850. American writer Sue Grafton once said, “We all need to

look into the dark side of our nature - that's where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of

that because it holds pieces of us we're busy denying.” Her words couldn't represent the novel

Wuthering Heights more perfectly. Written by Emily Brontë, the novel explores the idea of “dark

sides” and the struggle within a person who cannot choose between their dark side and their light

side. In the novel, this struggle takes shape through three separate characters, who, through

Freudian analysis, can be argued as three parts of one single personality. Sigmund Freud's second

topography of the human mind is an accurate map of the relationship between three key figures in

the novel: Heathcliff, Edgar, and Catherine. This map is made up of three parts, the id, superego,
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and ego. The id focuses on all basic wants, the superego revolves around morality, and the ego

represents the mediator between the two.

Literature Review

Psychoanalytic readings of Wuthering Heights have offered some very rich insights into

the novel. Several Victorian critics, perhaps most famously Sydney Dobell (1850), saw the

exciting possibilities of considering the text as a study in abnormal psychology. Freudian

psychoanalytic theory has offered critics a more precise vocabulary and a more robust

explanation for the obsessive and divided mentalities we see in Heathcliff and Catherine.

Because of its nature, the unconscious is normally inaccessible to the conscious mind.

Therefore we must pay attention to the secret ways in which it might reveal itself. One of these

ways is through dreams, and one of Freud’s earliest published works was The Interpretation of

Dreams (1900). With its emphasis upon dreams that disrupt the smooth flowing of the narrative,

and which are hard to assimilate into the main body of the text, Wuthering Heights has proved

rich territory for dream interpretation, with Lockwood’s dreams in Volume I, Chapter III,

providing clues to both the plot and the emotions of the characters.
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Methodology

The work has been done based on qualitative method from context analysis approach. The

text Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë , is the primary source; other books, journals and internet

archive are the secondary sources.

Discussion

As Emily Bronte's only novel, Wuthering Heights has been controversial since its

publication. Time has proven Wuthering Heights to be a true masterpiece and Emily Bronte is

regarded as a genius of English literature. For more than one hundred and fifty years, Wuthering

Heights has been interpreted from various angles. Some of the characters of Emily Brontë’s 1847

novel, Wuthering Heights, reflect the personality theory of Sigmund Freud. Wuthering Heights is

the story of two diametrically opposed households, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange,

starting from the time that a young boy named Heathcliff is adopted and arrives at Wuthering

Heights. The novel describes the emotional story of Heathcliff, Catherine, Edgar, and others as

they grow from young children, through adulthood, and many to their final demise. Sigmund

Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, developed the psyche theory of the id, super ego,

and ego in the early 1920s. Simply stated, the id controls basic and mostly subconscious impulses,

the super ego controls adherence to social values and morals as part of the conscious, and the ego

balances the two by understanding the demands of reality.

Three characters of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë represent Sigmund Freud’s

personality theories because Heathcliff reflects the id, Edgar represents the super ego, and
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Catherine attempts to act as the ego. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights represents the id of

Sigmund Freud’s personality theory. Freud characterized the id as primitive and instinctual,

existing in the subconscious part of the mind. The id drives someone to seek immediate

gratification of an impulse and is unaffected by logic or morals. Heathcliff as a character is highly

aggressive, impulsive, and neglects to account for any type of ethics. After Heathcliff runs away,

he returns years later with a single goal: to seek revenge on his stepbrother, Hindley, and to be

with Catherine. He tells Catherine about his return by saying, “… I mediated this plan;—just to

have one glimpse of your face: a stare of surprise, perhaps, and pretended pleasure; afterwards,

settle my score with Hindley; and then prevent the law by doing execution on myself” (91).

Heathcliff left Wuthering Heights and has no real reason to return after being gone for three years.

He is id driven, so he only wants to satisfy his impulses by seeking revenge and being with

Catherine. Heathcliff doesn’t account for his super ego, for he doesn’t care that Catherine is

married and that trying to be with her would be socially unacceptable.

Isabella’s innocence in Catherine’s illness is irrelevant to Heathcliff; his aggression instinct

and lack of interest in rational thinking drives him to abuse anyone he pleases. Whether it is

announcing his thirst for revenge, saying he would perform a vivisection for amusement, abusing

innocent people, or killing small animals, Heathcliff’s id driven personality is his most

distinguishing characteristic. Edgar Linton from Wuthering Heights reflects the super ego of

Sigmund Freud’s three component personality model. The super ego emphasizes the importance

of moral values, the internalization of cultural rules, and adherence to socially appropriate customs.

In this situation, Edgar, the super ego, is literally conflicting with Heathcliff, the id, just as

Sigmund Freud described them to.


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Sigmund Freud, known as the father of psychoanalysis, developed a three-component

personality theory of the id, ego, and super ego. This psychological theory, despite being

developed decades after the novel was published, is applicable to Wuthering Heights by Emily

Brontë. Three of the central characters, Heathcliff, Edgar, and Catherine, represent the id, ego, and

super ego of Freud’s theory. The id controls instinct and impulse and is unaffected by reality, logic

or morals, and Heathcliff’s actions are dominated by impulse and are unaffected by ethics. The

super ego controls the internalization of cultural standards and adherence to a moral code, and

Edgar is obsessed with acting in a socially appropriate manner and ensuring moral decisions are

made. Finally, the ego is responsible for maintain balance with the other components by

considering reality, and Catherine attempts to do this in the novel, but fails and ultimately dies as

a result. Heathcliff, Edgar, and Catherine of Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë represent

Sigmund Freud’s personality theory of the id, super ego, and ego. As a psychologist, Sigmund

Freud analyzed human behavior and created theories accordingly. Emily Brontë was not a

psychologist and wrote Wuthering Heights decades before Freud’s theories were published, yet

her ability to capture the human condition as a writer lead to her novel mirroring the ideas of one

of the most famous psychoanalysts in history.


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Conclusion

This novel presents a portrayal of Heathcliff, Catherine and Isabella from a

psychoanalytical perspective with regard to four defense mechanisms; namely, repression, denial,

sublimation and projection in order to see how these defense mechanisms have affected the

characters’ decisions and behavior, and led them to their destinations in life. It reflects the

personality theory of Sigmund Freud. Wuthering Heights is the story of two diametrically opposed

households, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, starting from the time that a young boy

named Heathcliff is adopted and arrives at Wuthering Heights. The novel describes the emotional

story of Heathcliff, Catherine, Edgar, and others as they grow from young children, through

adulthood, and many to their final demise


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References

Abrams, M.H. "Psychological and Psychoanalytic Criticism." A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th

ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999. 247-253.

Biddle, Arthur W., and Toby Fulwiler. Reading, Writing, and the Study of Literature. NY: Random

House, 1989.

Freud, Sigmund. "On Dreams." Excerpts. Art in Theory 1900-1990. Ed. Charles Harrison and Paul

Wood. Cambridge: Blackwell Pub., Inc., 1993. 26-34.

Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts: Writing About Literature with Critical Theory. 2nd ed. NY:

Longman, 1998.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston:

Bedford Books, 1997.

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