WH: Catherine's Character

Key characteristics of the character Catherine in Wuthering Heights 

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  • Created by: T Baker
  • Created on: 18-03-13 19:00

First Introduction

Catherine is introduced through Lockwood's ghostly encounter 

"a child's face" - she is presented to Lockwood as a child, this exacerbates his reaction and leads to some pretty gothic violent actions involving scraping her wrist across the broken window pane. 

"looking through the window" - the idea of liminal spacing is used when first introducing Catherine. Not only does this represent the difference between the wilderness of the moors and the civilisation of the house, but it also prophesises Catherine's dream later in the novel of not being allowed into the Heights once she is dead. This idea of Catherine's ephemeral, wild character is continued throughout the novel. 

This idea of a ghostly character continues on through to the end of the text. She is as elusive and forbidden to Heathcliff as she is incomprehensible to Lockwood. 

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Catherine is an enigma to both the reader and other characters. 

Her character leaves only ghostly signs behind, and more often than not she is mentioned only through her absence rather than her presence. 

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Fractured Social Identity

Catherine struggles with conflicting options for selfhood. She decides between a life of passion and experience with Heathcliff or a life of convention with Edgar. 

"Catherine Earnshaw" "Catherine Heathcliff" "Catherine Linton" - These are the three names that Lockwood finds on the window pane when he is staying at The Heights. These refer to the cyclic nature of Catherine's identity as well as providing a physical representation of her search for her identity 

"I am Heathcliff" - This dramatic and memorable line suggests that Catherine has become so at one with Heathcliff that she cannot stabilise her own identity 

This fractured social identity plays a key role within the general themes of the novel which revolve around social convention in the 19th century. For Catherine, however, it means that she can never fully let Heathcliff go. This proves especially painful for Heathcliff, who doesn't understand that Catherine does not see marrying Edgar as betraying Heathcliff because she believes she is doing it for Heathcliff and they can never be fully parted. Beef. The idea of culture vs. nature is the essence of Catherine's fractured identity, as this is the central choice she has to make. Not only is this a key theme of the novel, but it also reflects an opposite to the decision made by her daughter later in the novel. 

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Unpredictable and Surprising

The reader expects Catherine to make unpredictable choices in her life because of the way her character is set up by Nelly Dean. 

"Mischevious and wayward" - This is Nelly Dean's description of Catherine. This wildness can be seen throughout Catherine's life, supporting the idea that she is the true match for Heathcliff. 

Even though she is mischevious in this way, she is capable of both great love and fidelity and also ruthless destruction 

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