[These materials have been excerpted with permission of the author from Terence Dawson, "The Struggle for Deliverance from the Father: The Structural Principle of Wuthering Heights." Modern Language Review 84 (1989): 289-304.]

Decorative Initial One notes how simple the Cathy plot is when compared to the Catherine plot. Cathy's "history" is unforgettable, but essentially uncomplicated: a young woman marries, but remains strongly, perhaps over-strongly, attached to her childhood companion. Catherines "history" may be less memorable, but it is to her that the novel's tightly-knit symmetries pertain.

The main characters in Catherine's history fall into two categories: the "father-figures" and the "cousins." Edgar is Catherine's father and the centre of her world. She looks like him, he dotes on her, and her history stems from her over-attachment to him. Mr Heathcliff returns to the vicinity of Gimmerton after his three year absence in September 1783. Catherine is born on the night of March 19th-20th, 1784. As she is "a puny, seven months' child" (p. 164), the events following his return correspond to Cathy's pregnancy. In this sense — i.e. symbolically — he is also Catherine's father, a suggestion confirmed by later events. When he kidnaps her in order to force her to marry Linton, he tells her "I shall be your father to-morrow — all the father you'll have in a few days" (p.271). After Edgar's funeral, Nelly refers to him as Catherine's "new father" (p. 291). . . .

Catherine's history has the characteristics of a Bildungsroman. It begins with a brief account of her early childhood, concentrates on the crucial episodes in her adolescence, and ends with her engagement. In contrast, Cathy's history belongs, in the words of Dorothy Van Ghent, "to that realm of the imagination where myths are created" [155]. This qualitative difference between the two histories suggests that they operate on different levels of fictional representation; in other words, that they belong to different levels of imaginal experience. Thus, repetition may not be the only way to define the parallels between the two stories. One can also superimpose one on the other. Because the events in the second generation have the characteristics of a Bildungsroman, whilst those in the first generation have an archetypal power and simplicity (= pertain to a deeper level of experience), I place Catherine's history "over" Cathy's history


Dorothy Van Ghent. The English Novel: Form and Function. New York, 1961.

Emily Brontë Science and Technology

Last modified 25 November 2004