Sexual perversion in Wuthering Heights - Sample Essay
In reference to Wuthering Heights J. Hellis Miller once stated “This secret truth would be something formulable as a univocal principle of plantation which would account for everything in the novel. “. I aim to show that each of the titled texts do indeed have a governing principle which accounts for the eventual tragedy and demise of each set of lovers. Shakespeare’s Othello, Miller’s A View From the Bridge and Bronte’s Wuthering Heights all seem to challenge contextual boundaries.
In all three, there appears to be an underlying “principle” – whether it be religious, cultural or evolutionary – which acts as a barrier for “love”. Othello seems to be a stark commentary upon social opposition to miscegenation which is reinforced through constant references to theological superstition, whereas the conflict (internal and external) in AVFAB appears to be due to the protagonists’ repressed homosexuality emphasised through the many scenes which may be interpreted as allegorical sex scenes illustrating his subconscious (and, in the context, incongruent) desires.
Finally, in Wuthering Heights there is the possibility of consanguinity between Catherine and Heathcliff which doesn’t seem to be “reductive” in any way; it seems well-enough able to stand as the “principle”, acting as explanation for the affinity between the two. In all, certain religious or evolutionary rules forebode each relationship and show the consequences of each transgression. According to Freud those who are sexually jealous are repressing homosexual desire.
It is for this reason the psychoanalytical interpretation that a strong homosexual attraction to Othello may motivate Iago to persecute him may hold true. For example, the language Iago uses throughout the play is heavily laden with animal and plant imagery which may be a manifestation of Iago’s subconscious desires. For instance, Iago uses the metaphor “our bodies are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners” which symbolises, on one hand, how Iago’s conceit is comparable to a poisonous plant.
Or, on the other hand, it may imply that all human nature is malleable, but the skilled man can control his own desires or the most “unruly” garden if necessary, an obvious reference to homosexuality. Undoubtedly, Iago assumes the role of the metaphorical gardener who cultivates and manipulates the mind of Othello to suit his own personal agenda, whilst nurturing Othello’s mind from nai?? ve doubting to destructive jealousy. Similarly, homosexual desire could be used as an explanation of motivation for Eddie’s jealousy in AVFAB.
In contrast to Othello, animal imagery is employed by Miller when he attempts, in my opinion, to show Eddie’s repressed sexuality. An example of this is the boxing scene which can be read as an allegorical sex scene between the two males. This is reinforced even further by the fact that immediately after the “boxing” or more appropriately, the sex, the conflict between masculinity and homosexuality is emphasised by Eddie’s attempt to pick up a chair with his hand. In failing to do this, his subconscious rejection of archetypal masculinity is portrayed effectively.
Therefore, both plays Othello and AVFAB show the “darker” side of love being the innate repression of a true sense of sexuality and real identity which ultimately culminates in the destruction of another heterosexual relationship. Each culture, Venetian and Italian, had set traditions and underlying principles, and religious opposition to homosexuality may have led to the rejection of ones sexuality, thus acting as indirect motivation for both Iago and Eddie to inflict terror upon the people they are supposed to “love”.
Furthermore, perversion in Wuthering Heights lies upon the assumption that there could be a blood line between Catherine and Heathcliff. Earnshaw’s reference to Heathcliff being “a Gift from God” may be admission that he is indeed his illegitimate son. This would mean that their union cannot be completed according to certain religious or evolutionary rules. To me, Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship goes beyond any possible rationality and therefore, there must be an underlying reason as to why they cannot consummate their love which is contrary to evolutionary and religious doctrines.
This “theory” seems likely due to the very Byronic nature of Bronte literature; the innate passion between Catherine and Heathcliff incongruently combined with their intransigence in pursuing that quest suggest transcendent meanings, like in Othello. It may also account for their persistent affinity with each other. When Catherine asserts “I am Heathcliff”, this symphonic imagery may refer to the possibility that the two are half siblings, accounting for this mysterious symbiosis between the two, but also the fact that Catherine considers Heathcliff her alter-ego and vice versa.
Consequently, in many ways, Wuthering Heights can be read a metaphysical novel, for the reason that their union cannot be completed whilst they are living on earth, due to religious opposition to incestuous relationships, and, moreover, Heathcliff’s decline into necrophilia after Catherine’s death may allude to the fact that beyond this earth they could fulfil the love that they could not in this life.
In comparison, the relationship between Eddie and Beatrice in AVFAB is shown to be more emotionally connected upon the point of death, shown by “he dies in her arms, and Beatrice covers him with her body” this sense of intimacy is in stark contrast to the hostility that previously dominated their marriage, and the juxtaposition of “he” and “her” is suggestive of unity, whereas the oxymoronic rhyming couplet at the end of Act 1. Scene 3 of Othello “night” and “light” foreshadows the danger that Iago possesses.
Moreover, the theme of religion is again utilised by Biblical allusion, with Beatrice assuming the role of Mary Magdalene and Eddie in some ways being a representation of Jesus; ultimately, the scene which entails the death of Eddie appears to be symbolic of some higher sacrifice and symbolic of the “Stations of the Cross”. When the “two women support him for a moment” this is, perhaps, a reference to Luke (26:27-31): “a large number of people followed Him, including women who mourned and wailed for Him” and traditionally, a woman named Veronica is said to have wiped His brow.
This reflects the self-sacrifice that Eddie is making, similar to the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is clear that in both Othello and AVFAB both Eddie and Othello are portrayed as tragic heroes, possessing one major flaw; the latter turns self-righteous (a recurrent theme in the works of George Elliott) and the former is consumed by homoerotic sexual jealousy. Furthermore, the character of Iago uses the phrase “I am not what I am” which directly contrasts with Exodus 3:14, where God says to Moses “I am what I am”.
Therefore, Iago uses the line to foreshadow his deception of Othello, but simultaneously Shakespeare may have also used the allusion in order to show that Iago directly contrasts with God, portraying him as satanic, and, thus, these binary oppositions elucidate the central theme of “good” versus “evil”. In the same way, I would argue that embedded within the narrative of Wuthering Heights is a complex system of biblical hermeneutics.
Most poignant is the idea that love has become a religion; which would offer an explanation for the inexorable connection between love and death in the characters’ speeches and actions. The way in which Wuthering Heights can be read as an anti-Christian novel, so too can Othello, for the reason that during Elizabeth’s reign as Queen of England, her Protestant religious settlement more or less forbade Catholicism in the country. Shakespeare, therefore, being secretively Catholic may have included subverted relationships as an attack upon the religious tradition of his time and society.