Catherine Earnshaw as a Typical Nineteenth Century Heroine

March 20, 2017 General Studies

“Cathy is a typical 19th century heroine. ” With reference to appropriately selected parts of the novel and relevant contextual information, give your response to the above view. Nineteenth century English heroines acted within their social environment as their roles within civilisation saw them becoming a good wives and mothers and before that, kind and caring daughters. Their path in life was to care for their family and to provide support for the head of the household. A typical woman in Victorian times would have been completely dependent on the men in their lives, their father in childhood and husband in marriage.

They needed the financial support as they could not work for themselves and all inheritance went to their husband. The women would also marry for convenience and class and in this sense Cathy is a typical 19th century heroine as she married Edgar Linton because he was “handsome … and he will be rich” she also said that Edgar would make her “the greatest woman of the neighbourhood” which proves that Cathy married him, not out of love but because of the social benefits he would bring her.

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Women in Victorian novels and real-life society were always physically weak, controlled and looked after by men and not passionate but, while Cathy did marry Edgar to look after her, she is not portrayed as a physically weak character as she can assert her authority and she was a very wild and untamed as a child and she is certainly not impassionate. All throughout the novel, passion is one of the strongest things that strike us in Cathy and Heathcliffs love and this is probably one of the reasons 19th century critics found it very shocking.

As the ‘Atlas’ said “Wuthering Heights is a strange, inartistic story. We know nothing in the whole range of our fictitious literature which presents such shocking pictures of the worst forms of humanity. ” A typical Victorian woman would generally been seen as strong if she had strong maternal feelings and a lot of Dickens’ heroines portrayed this but Cathy is not maternal at all, or at least we never know she is as we never see her as a mother. But the fact that she had a child shows that she is obeying the rules of society as it was what was expected from a married woman.

However, when Edgar and Heathcliff fight, Cathy faints which does show weakness and her dramatic outbursts and illness is typical of a 19th century heroine. Cathy is not typical in that she allows her impulses and passions and violent nature to violate the social conventions of the time. The fact that Cathy spends a lot of time on her own with Heathcliff even though she married is not something that woman would have even thought of doing in Victorian times. Once a woman got married she was totally dedicated and faithful to her husband. Cathy and Heathcliffs wild, untamed passions allow them to ignore the rules of society.

In the 19th century, a woman would get buried with her husband and his family but Cathy defies this rule as she didn’t get buried with the Lintons or the Earnshaws, but up in the wild moors where she spent most of her childhood. This shows her love for Wuthering Heights and her uncontrolled nature. She was also buried in the middle of Edgar and Heathcliff which symbolises the conflict she had between them that was never resolved. When compared to a character such as Isabella Linton or a female from a different novel such as Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, we can immediately see how different Cathy actually is.

Cathy is bold and feisty and it shows in her high spirits, cruelty and passion for Heathcliff whereas, Isabella is weak and refined and a controlled, respectable young woman. Even though she runs away with Heathcliff which breaks social conventions, we can still see the differences. Overall, Catherine Linton probably isn’t very typical of a 19th century heroine because, although in some cases she followed social conventions, it was never where her heart really was. She followed her head and the pressures of society in marrying Edgar but she always loved Heathcliff more.


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