Catherine Earnshaw Quotes: Examples & Analysis

Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

Catherine Earnshaw is one of the most complex and interesting characters in Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights'. Catherine's own words in the novel reveal the conflict between her love for Heathcliff and her own self interest.

Who Is Catherine Earnshaw?

Catherine Earnshaw is a major character in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights; in fact, Catherine is such a central figure in the novel that she continues to affect the other characters long after she is dead. Heathcliff's enduring love for Catherine drives the plot, and readers often find that his passionate and often strange response to her death makes for riveting reading.

Catherine and Heathcliff

Catherine Earnshaw loves Heathcliff, the orphan who has grown up in her father's house. As a young woman, however, she chooses the social status and financial stability offered by Edgar Linton over the man she loves.

Catherine explains her other reasons for marrying Linton to Ellen (Nelly) Dean. 'Nelly, I see now you think me a selfish wretch; but did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power.'

With this statement, Catherine proves that she is not simply a young girl whose head has been turned by a wealthy, handsome man. She uses Linton for her own purposes, and this marriage of convenience has disastrous results.

Edgar Linton is a well-bred gentleman, powerless to overcome the love between Catherine and Heathcliff, and Catherine's loyalties are clear. 'Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing before I could consent to forsake Heathcliff,' Catherine says.

Catherine and Heathcliff see themselves as twin souls in different bodies. Catherine is also aware of how different she and Linton are. 'It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am,' Catherine says. '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.'

Catherine's Narcissism

Does Catherine's desire to 'aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power', as she claims, compel her to marry a man she doesn't love? Or does Catherine marry Linton out of self-interest?

Several passages in the novel show Catherine as self-absorbed and unaware or unconcerned for the effect of her actions on others. In one instance before Catherine's marriage, Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella are coming to visit. Heathcliff implores Catherine to spend time with him rather than her 'pitiful, silly friends'; he has even noted on a calendar the amount of time she spends with the Lintons.

While Heathcliff is baring his heart to her, Catherine interrupts his emotional plea to reprimand Nelly. 'Oh, Nelly,' Catherine says, 'you've combed my hair quite out of curl!' Catherine's statement is powerful evidence that she is shallow and self-absorbed.

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