Wuthering Heights was written in 1847 by Emily Brontë under the pen name Ellis Bell. It is a story of two families influenced by Gothic fiction and Romanticism – yet while it seems like a romance, it is not.
The novel features controversial depictions of mental health, physical and mental cruelty, domestic abuse, deceit, vulgar depravity, and suffering.
The early years – a new life
The central character of the story is Heathcliff, a young orphan who was brought to Wuthering Heights by the manor’s owner, Mr. Earnshaw, who treats Heathcliff like a son. Earnshaw’s own son, Hindley, detests Heathcliff although his sister, Catherine, becomes close to him. Catherine is the one great love of Heathcliff’s life. Hindley is sent to college when Heathcliff is 10 and Catherine is 9.
Death and dominance
Sadly, after Earnshaw’s death, Hindley, who returns with his wife Francis, forces Heathcliff at age 13 to be a slave in the manor. Heathcliff goes from orphan, to pampered son, and then a common forced laborer.
The other family in this novel lives in Thrushcross Grange, a home with a more snobbish name than Wuthering Heights, which, in itself, gives way to the declining atmosphere in the home. Isabella and Edgar Linton are the snobbish children in the home, and one night, when Heathcliff and Catherine sneak over to tease them, Catherine (age 12) is bitten by a dog and must recuperate there for five weeks. Heathcliff is sent home while Mrs. Linton sets about making Catherine into a proper young lady. During that time recuperating, Catherine begins to fall for Edgar, whom she will later marry despite her feelings for Heathcliff. At one point, the Lintons visit Wuthering Heights, where Edgar and Hindley tease Heathcliff and they fight. Upon being locked in the attic, Heathcliff vows revenge.
Revenge and more death
Francis dies a few months after childbirth with her son Hareton. Tired of his abuse from Hindley, Heathcliff runs off, returning after Catherine’s marriage to seek revenge against those who wronged him. He returns with an inheritance, and to increase his wealth, Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton so that he will someday inherit Thrushcross Grange, as well.
Heathcliff treats Isabella cruelly, yet still becomes pregnant with his son. Catherine gives birth to a daughter (Cathy) and dies, driving Heathcliff mad, begging her spirit to remain with him. Isabella leaves Heathcliff and goes to London where she gives birth to her son, Linton. Hindley turns to alcohol following the death of his wife, eventually dies, and Heathcliff inherits the manor.
Cruelty, secrecy, and more revenge
Thirteen years later Cathy wanders the moors and comes across Wuthering Heights and Hareton and they become friends. Isabella soon dies and Linton, a sickly, whiny boy comes to live with Edgar, yet Heathcliff insists on his son living with him, and treats him more cruelly than he did Isabella.
A few years later, Cathy meets Heathcliff, and then Linton, with whom she begins a secret romance via letters, later destroyed by Cathy’s nursemaid, Nelly. Cathy sneaks out at night to spend time with Linton, who is only pursuing her at Heathcliff’s command. Heathcliff wants them to marry, to secure his legal claim to Thrushcross Grange and take final revenge on Edgar Linton for marrying Catherine.
Edgar grows ill and Heathcliff lures Cathy and Nelly to Wuthering Heights, holding them prisoner until Cathy and Linton marry. Edgar dies, followed quickly by Linton. Heathcliff gets what he wanted – ownership of both homes. Cathy is forced to be a servant at Wuthering Heights, while Nelly is sent back to Thrushcross Grange as caretaker when Heathcliff rents it to a man named Lockwood, who learns this story from Nelly.
Insanity, death, and peace at last?
Hareton, whose education ended upon Hindley’s death, was illiterate and ignorant as part of Heathcliff’s revenge. However Cathy develops feelings for him. Heathcliff becomes increasingly obsessed with Catherine’s memory, speaking to her “ghost” until after a night walking on the moors, he dies. Cathy and Hareton inherit both homes and make plans to marry.
Mental Disorders We Can See In the Novel
Romanticizing mental illness is certainly not new, nor is it in the past. Television often sensationalizes and overshadows the seriousness of symptoms of mental disorders. Romanticizing anything looks at it in an unrealistic or inaccurate way, glossing over what is true. Horror movies are one genre that often presents antagonists as being mentally ill.
Mental illness is not something to romanticize as it tells people that what they have is a tragic beauty. Viewpoints such as that are extremely dangerous to teenagers and young adults who often succumb to bullying. Romanticizing mental illness increases the risk of suicidal tendencies, thoughts, and actions.
While every character in the novel displays one or more forms of mental illness, we focus on Heathcliff in this article.
Here are some of the mental disorders we find in Wuthering Heights:
Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
We do not know that early trauma that Heathcliff may have endured as an orphan but suffice it to say that there was likely situations that occurred early in life that would lead to PTSD. Certainly, the teasing and abuse he withstood at the hand of Hindley would be enough to cause long-lasting trauma. Heathcliff grows up learning to bury weakness and tears. Instead, he allows rage to overtake him, torturing others.
Heathcliff’s excessive focus on self-interest and revenge fits into the narcissistic personality disorder, as he has no empathy for anyone else. The narcissist may boast about their achievements, even when those achievements are cruel, as Heathcliff is proud of his ability to make Isabella hate him. His arrogance, deceptive actions, and feeling above those around him fit the narcissistic personality.
Borderline Personality Disorder
BPD inhibits a person’s ability to manage emotions, interfering with relationships and causing impulsivity. Intense mood swings, emotional pain, unstable relationships, distorted self-image, self-harm, raging anger, dissociation, emptiness, and suicidal behavior are possible. We see ll this in Heathcliff as he rages and schemes to get back at everyone who wronged him.
Heathcliff has loved only one person for most of his life, and sadly, she would not be his. That leads to overwhelming depression which can cause social isolation. Today, we see that one of the common reasons for depression is hormonal imbalance, such as HGH deficiency. It can cause impaired cognition, anxiety, increased stress, and other mental disorders. Fortunately, there is a successful treatment that can be prescribed by a doctor. Learn more about Genotropin results to discover all the benefits of HGH therapy for adults.
We see despondent behavior towards the end of Heathcliff’s life when he is so lost without Catherine that he begs her ghost to haunt him until his end. Later, he cannot eat or rest until his will is written, as he wants to tie up loose ends and welcome death and a life away from the misery he knows.
The inability to adjust to psychological stressors is seen throughout the story, as Heathcliff cannot deal with the loss of the life he knew when Mr. Earnshaw dies, when he loses Catherine, and when he is faced with adversity. Impaired social functioning, restlessness, hopelessness, and erratic behaviors are signs of this condition.
Problem of Romanticizing Mental Illness
Romanticizing mental illness takes something that needs help and turns it around to be something desirable. That is a very dangerous action as people who suffer from mental illness require help of a trained professional.
Mental illness should not define a person, because, as with onions, people have many layers. There is nothing glamorous or romantic about mental illness. Depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, self-doubt, debilitating anxiety, and overwhelming fear and paranoia can make life harder for people than it should be.
When we try to gloss over mental illness, we do a disservice to those who require help. Body image is an especially concerning subject that can lead to a host of problems for young females. They are bombarded with images in movies, on TV, and in magazines of stick-thin women and are told this is beautiful. Anorexia and bulimia are two forms of mental illness that we need to face as a fact in society and find ways to challenge that perception.
Too many shows and movies set out to show mental illness in a better light, and yet they fall short of their mark, often doing the opposite. A scene from the show 13 Reasons Why was removed two years after its first appearance as it depicted a teenage girl killing herself rather than seeking help.
Social media can be a dangerous tool, as it enables the spread of misinformation. Romanticizing mental illness can also lead to some people pretending they have an issue for attention or because it seems glamorous. That is a mental illness in its own right. Any mental illness that goes untreated can worsen and lead to dangerous outcomes.
Mental illness requires treatment – not romanticism. Books, movies, TV shows, and social media platforms need to address these issues without glamorizing them and making them appealing. Comics joking about mental illness do a disservice to those who suffer from these conditions, poking light at issues that are among the most serious we face.
We need to face these issues in a serious way, allowing for people to feel comfortable getting the help they need. Discussing books, shows, and movies in an open and honest way when they depict romanticized mental illness is crucial to remove the glamour and present other ways of addressing the situations depicted