Wuthering Minds

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The characters of Wuthering Heights are of a complex multi-layered kind. Especially those who originate from Wuthering Heights manifest various degrees of restlessness and emotional instability, thus making them appear sort of psychopaths or even sociopaths at the eye of a detached reader. Psychologists of any school couldn’t resist the temptation of analyzing the destructive dynamics that bind the characters together giving their solid contribute to interpretations.

Freudian analysis

The dynamics that bind Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar together are those of the relationship of Freud’s id, ego, and superego. Heathcliff,  the id,  represents the most primitive drives (like sex), constantly wants its pleasure to be fulfilled; the id does not change in time and remains secluded in the unconscious. Catherine, the ego, relates to other people and society, tests the impulses of the id against the real world, and tries to control its energy. Edgar, the superego, represents the rules of proper behaviour and morality inculcated by teachers, family, and society; he is civilized and cultured. He is the moral conscience which compels Catherine to choose between Heathcliff and himself.

In Freud’s analysis, however, the ego must be male to deal successfully with the world, therefore a female ego would have to live through males if she wants to survive. That is why Catherine has to identify herself with Heathcliff and Edgar: to pull through. Catherine rejects Heathcliff, as she is attracted by the material and social advantages of marrying Edgar, thus avoiding the degradation of yielding to her unconscious self. However, she expects Edgar to accept Heathliff in their life, thus integrating  the different parts of her personality–id, ego, and superego–into one unified self. When she realizes the hopelessness of this psychological integration and torn by her fragmentation, she dies.

Jungian analysis

The relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff is considered as aspects of one person for Jungian readers as well: those aspects may be the archetype of the shadow and the individual

In the personal unconscious, the shadow consists of those desires, feelings, etc. which are unacceptable, for both emotional or moral reasons : it is the dark side of human nature. The shadow is emotional, uncontrollable, and hence can become obsessive or possessive. That’s why Heathcliff  can be seen as Catherine’s shadow: he represents the darkest side of her, with his rancour, his wildness, and his detachment from social connections.

When Catherine marries Edgar, she tries to reject that secret part of her,  that’s why Heathcliff mysteriously disappears. But Heathcliff, as the shadow, refuses to be suppressed permanently, in fact, he comes back out of the blue after two years .  Jung explains that:” even if self-knowledge or insight enables the individual to integrate the shadow, the shadow still resists moral control and can rarely be changed“. Therefore Cathy’s efforts to integrate Heathcliff into her life with Edgar are destined to fail. She tries somehow to impose herself and affect Heathcliff’s behaviour, but he defiantly ignores her prohibitions(an example is when Catherine forbids Heathcliff to court Isabella). Once back, Heathcliff obsessively seeks possession of Catherine to insure his own survival.

Monomaniac

For Graeme Tytler Heathcliff suffered of monomania, a nineteenth-century psychological theory, which refers to “the disease of going to extremes, of singularization, of one-sidedness,” in short, an obsessive behaviour. Monomania can be caused by “ thwarted love,  fear, vanity, wounded self-love, or disappointed ambition“.” Heathcliff shows a predisposition to monomania soon after Catherine’s death for his resolute determination to be connected to her after her death. However, it’s only eighteen years after Catherine’s death that he shows the first signs of insanity. He suffers from hallucinations, insomnia; he talks to himself or to Catherine’s ghost and he seems to be continuously haunted by Catherine’s image.

Only death will set them all free from obsessions and……. psychologists.

Metamorphosis

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In Rome there is a very long ring road called Raccordo Anulare that divides the city in two parts: in and out. I want to try to make myself clear: the area which is inside the ring road is considered the centre, while outside there are the outskirts. However, for my husband Mr Run, Raccordo Anulare means much more that this. It represents the “limes” that divides the true-born Romans from the barbarian immigrants from nearby regions and towns, it is like the Pillars of Hercules which mark off the world we known from the unknown. Once you cross that line you are out. Ipse dixit.

raccordo3 traffico

So you can guess, how Mr Run must have felt, when, few years ago, he had to take off his ancient Roman helmet and armour to move to Ostia Lido, a district in the South of Rome, “only” 30 km far from the centre. A shock. We had not finished to move our stuff yet that he professed himself determined to quit as soon as possible. Now, in case you don’t know already, I have to inform you that Ostia is a charming place beautifully situated by the sea, surrounded by a vast pinewood and close the ancient Roman ruins of “Ostia Antica”. It is the paradise for bikers, surfers and naturally runners.

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However, my husband could not see the beautiful surroundings as an opportunity for outdoor activities, as for him sport had always been a huge waste of time. At those times I used to call him Mr Iron, in fact. I know that it is a nickname that may evoke the image of a stubborn, all of a piece man, but actually it has to be interpreted literally: my husband was in charge with the ironing (well, still is) and firmly believed that ironing was as tiring as practicing any other sport, so he didn’t need to go to the gym. Ipse dixit. The hero of every housewife.

The cold winter months passed by and with them Mr Run’s continuous mutters and grumbles. The spring with its warmth and colours seemed to have slightly improved on his disposition, in fact one day unexpectedly, he came up with the idea of buying a bike to do something different as the place we lived bored him to death. I took it as a good sign.

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So this is how all started: he began cycling, then he was intrigued by the great number people he met jogging in the pinewood or down the 7km promenade in Ostia.  When my husband put on his first professional running shoes, it was first sight love. Just like a Forrest Gump he started to run 30 km per week at first to reach the 60 of present-time. Then he wanted to know how good he was, therefore he started to compete in the 10 km runs, half-marathons and marathons. After a year of hard training my husband had lost 12 kg and turned into Mr Run.

However, even Forrest Gump enjoyed some company while running, therefore as next step my husband felt it was high time to look for other (crazy) Mr Runs to share his passion with. While he was doing the hard selection among the potential teams, he came across the web page of the running team of  Amatori Castelfusano on which there were the following words: “A society  (in latin “societas” which originates from the word “socius” that is a friend, a mate, an ally) is a group of people with different degrees of autonomy, relationship and organization skill, who once together interact to reach one or more common goals. If you find yourself in these simple words, come and join us”. That’s what he did.

After all, “happiness is real, only when shared“. (Christopher McCandless)

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Does “Wuthering Heights” work on the big screen?

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How often have you found the big screen adaptation of one of your favourite novels below  your expectations? As far as I am concerned, almost always. Few  days ago, for instance, I was watching  the 1992 version of Wuthering Heights on tv, with Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche and even if the characters were well-chosen ( yeah, maybe Ralph  Fiennes was a little too stiff and expressionless sometimes) and the setting accurate, I found it tremendously tedious. Even Mr Run fell soon asleep, well that doesn’t count, as this is how he reacts whenever I make him see some nineteenth century romantic stuff,  however, right  before dozing off on the couch, he said something sensible, even if it sounded like a justification: he was under the impression that the story couldn’t get off the ground. He was right, but why?

After all, Wuthering Heights is a great  story, for sure, passionate, whose intensity is the product of the cruel fate that almost all the protagonists seem to share: they never fully conquer the object of their desires, even if they fight desperately to get it. Cathy and Heathcliff love each other deeply, but they won’t be able to stay together (at least in this world), Mr Linton marries Catherine but he won’t succeed in making her love him the way he wishes, same situation for Isabel and Heathcliff; Hindley loses her wife soon, falling thus into the abyss of pain and alcohol, only  Catherine’s daughter and her cousin Hareton will end up together, but it is a matrimony that symbolically amends their parents’ mistakes and puts an end to the story .

The increasing awareness of the impossibility to reach their goals makes their emotions grow more and more powerful and devastating page after page. The consequent profound pain is so unacceptable for some of them to lead either to suicide attempts, just like in Catherine’s case, or to destructive behaviours. This feeling of intense longing for something unattainable can be expressed by a German Romantic word: Sehnsucht that is the addiction (die Sucht) to longing (Sehen) and Wuthering Heights is Sehnsucht  made fiction.

The point is that Sehnsucht in Wuthering Heights seems to work well on book, but on-screen you feel that there is something off-key. First of all, I think it is very difficult to play the roles of these super passionate, borderline characters well and be plausible at the same time. Furthermore the sense of suspension and dissatisfaction given by that prolonged craving, produces a sort of slowdown effect and a sense of frustration in the viewer. The second part of the novel is actually less involving than the first, therefore the intensity of the narration in all the screen versions which include this portion of the book diminishes, and Heathcliff’s death doesn’t have the strength of the final “coup de theatre”.

My favourite adaptation of Wuthering Heights dates back to 1939, it is the one directed by William Wyler and interpreted by the acting excellence of the time: Merle Oberon as Cathy Linton, Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff and David Niven as Edgar Linton. This movie, in my opinion, is more convincing not only for the high quality of the actors, but above all for the choice of narrating only the first part of the book, thus focusing better on the central characters of Catherine and Heathcliff. Furthermore the black and white is more suitable to produce that gloomy effect which characterises the Gothic atmosphere that pervades the novel.

One thing more, when the movie was dubbed in Italian, the names of the protagonists had to be slightly changed as those were times when the knowledge of English was not so widespread, therefore Cathy became “Keti” and Heathcliff  “Igliff”.  When my mother, who well remembers that old movie and is an old lady, saw the modern version, she told me that she would have bet that the names of the protagonists were different. 🙂

Byronic attraction

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Having already warned all the fans of Pride and Prejudice about the risks of believing in the existence of a Mr Darcy in the real world, and having myself very likely married the only man, who can be compared to that fantasy ( ok, I know, maybe I have exaggerated a little , but I have to write that in case Mr Run reads this post), I would like to continue with my action for woman awareness, talking about another dangerous type of man who crowds girls’ dreams. Don’t deny it, “it is a truth universally acknowledged” that women feel that dangerous attraction for a” proud, moody, cynical (man). with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection” just to use Lord Macaulay‘s words. Nowadays such a man would be called a bastard or a jerk, but in the early nineteenth century he was to become a new type of hero, the Byronic hero.

The Byronic hero is somehow, the portrait of Byron himself or rather of what Byron would have liked to appear before the people he knew. From a literary point of view the protagonist of Byron’s epic poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ is considered the first Byronic hero, but this character can be found in almost every other work he wroteThe word hero here is actually deprived of its traditional meaning of a man who distinguishes himself for his courage, nobility, fortitude etc. and becomes the figure who dares rebel, just like Milton‘s Satan, against conventional modes of behavior and thought,  who naturally possesses a magnetical charm but also a great degree of psychological and emotional complexity. In a few words, a lot of troubles.

If we get a list of the character traits and attitudes typically associated to a Byronic hero and we study it accurately, in my opinion Heathcliff  is the most Byronic among his fellow mates that people the pages of the novels and poems of the early nineteenth century.
Let’s discuss some of them one by one:
1. A distaste for social institutions and norms
Heathcliff displays his distaste for society and its conventions from the very beginning, when he receives hastily and coldly his tenant Mr Lockwood. His antagonist is Mr Linton who represents rule, order and stability.
2. An exiled, an outcast, an outlaw
Heathcliff never fully integrates in the adoptive family and is rejected by the Lintons’.
3. Arrogant
If we might interview the characters of the novel I guess everybody  could say something about it.
4.Cynical
Even in this case everybody experiences his cynicism, Catherine included, but Isabel Linton will be the one to pay bitterly for her credulity and ingenuousness
5.Cunning and ability to adapt 
Despite any punishment or social degradation, he succeeds in surviving in any situation. He is quick to understand and grabs any occasion he has, an example is Isabel’s crush on him, to reach his revengeful purposes.
6.Dark attributes not normally associated with a hero.
He is described as a gipsy.
7.Disrespectful of rank and privilege.
Once again the enemy is Mr Linton even because his rank is an appeal for Catherine.
8. Emotionally conflicted,bipolar tendencies or moodiness.
His conflict is between love and hate, which explodes in the necessity of revenge.
9. High level of intelligence and perception.
He seems to know well all the weaknesses of the people that surround him. Jus like when he wins Wuthering Heights taking advantage of Hindley’s addiction to alcohol and game habit. He is never taken by surprise.
10. Mysterious, magnetic, charismatic
We know nothing about his past and real family. We know nothing about what he did in the his  two-year absence from the Heights or how he made his fortune. He appears and disappears.
11. Power of seduction and attraction
Well, the whole novel is about this. Even Lockwood seems to be seduced by the man when he first sees him. “A capital fellow” he defines him.
12.Self destructive behaviour
The power of his love is both destructive and self-destructive
13.Social and sexual dominance
He is socially and sexually the dominant male. He manages to come into possession of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and destroys or humbles all the male figures he comes across.
14.Sophisticated and well-educated
He can’t certainly be defined sophisticated or well-educated, but he has received an education and knows how to behave properly if this fits his schemes. At first glance Heathcliff looks like a gentleman to Lockwood
15.Troubled past
We only know that he is a founder who seems to have suffered.

If we have understood Emily Bronte‘s novel well, the Byronic type is the kind of man who  should be avoided carefully, nevertheless his attractive power is still proof against wisdom or better judgement. I’m sure that in a story of every woman there is a chapter dedicated to her own Byronic hero, a chapter that every now and then she will read to remember that  thrill, that shiver. She will read those pages with the lightness of one who, however, has been able to write other meaningful chapters.

Becoming Mary

mary shelley
Having celebrities for parents is often regarded as an advantage both social and economical, but it cannot be denied that sometimes the load of that popularity is so suffocating to make arduous find the necessary room to develop your true self: expectations are high and the oppressive ghosts of parents’ personalities or even faults shadow your being at the eyes of people. It’s like living unseen under a veil of opinions and prejudices, hence you must be endowed with a great temper if you want to tear it, otherwise the chances of prevailing as an individual in order to determine your fate will be just a few.
“Pray,who is that handsome young lady ?”
“Oh, don’t you know? She is Mary Godwin Wollstonecraft. Her mother is the famous Mary Wollstonecraft . Poor child, she didn’t even know her; she died few days after her birth!”
“And why is she famous?”
“Don’t you know? She wrote a pamphlet or something in support for the rights of women!”
“The rights of women! And which are these rights, pray?”
“Oh, she maintains that girls should have the same education as boys in order to achieve, listen carefully, women’s independence, can you believe it?”
“Women’s independence?”
“Indeed, she dared say that “to marry for a support is legal prostitution“, SHE, talking about prostitution.”
“I know why she pleads for independence: to be free to give public scandal as she always did! The father of the young lady is an anarchist, William Godwin, and…. I’ve been told that he and her mother didn’t even live under the same roof!”
“Indeed, they seem to have shared the same bed at least.”
“Her mother had also had another daughter from an American man. Unmarried!!”
“Poor child, with such a family she will never be admitted in society.”
“No, she won’t, to be sure.”
Women’s independence! AH!”
Despite their flaunted anti-matrimonialism, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin had tried to preserve their daughter’s respectability at the eyes of people resolving upon marrying; nonetheless the shadow of her controversial origin was to be a permanent fault in her life. Yet, even if good society seemed to be proof against the tremendous winds of a revolutionary age, William and Mary had succeeded in inflaming with their radical, outrageous ideals the minds of an entire generation and Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of their most fervent admirer. So when Shelley, who had soon joined Godwin’s circle of intellectuals, met Mary the first time, what exactly did he see? A charming young lady of sixteen or the perfect, fascinating synthesis of the ideals of such incredible reformers? The answer is in his dedicatory stanza to The Revolt to Islam (1817) where he writes : “They saw that thou wert lovely from thy birth, / Of glorious parents, thou aspiring Child” , hence she had been singled out by birth for great literary accomplishments and at the same time had to be the perfect product of her parents’ theories : a free cultivated young girl devoid of that prudery that characterized the customs of the age, therefore emancipated enough to accept him as her lover even he was already married with children. Shelley was so obsessed by the memory of her mother that took Mary almost daily to St. Pancras Church to visit Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave and It’s there that he and Mary, rumors whisper, had their first intimate encounter. When William Godwin, who had become much more conservative in time, discovered the liaison, forbade her to see him and virtually kept her under house arrest (having a teenage daughter meant trouble even in the early nineteenth century). After a lot of drama and also Shelley’s attempt to suicide, she eloped with him and we know well, as dear Jane told us, what were the consequences of an elopement in society and with a married man. In fact the life of these free spirits wasn’t to be that simple. The eight years Mary and Percy spent together were characterized by romance and a lot of melodrama: travels, love, free love  but also poverty, births, miscarriages, deaths, suicides and even matrimony to grant legitimacy to their union and offspring, just like what her parents had done. In the introduction to 1831 edition of Frankenstein Mary Shelley  goes back to those times and in particularly to 1816, when she moved into a chalet on the banks of Lake Geneva, near Villa Diodati, where Byron and his physician, William Polidori, were staying to tell “How (…) a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea” . Indeed, she was a reckless young girl when she conceived her novel, but this introduction was written by mature woman of about forty hardened by the events of life, who could see better the contradictions of her past. She could see how abruptly her choices had turned her world of childish fiction into a harsh reality and in this world Shelley was a husband above all anxious to see her “worthy of (her) parentage” in order to “enrol (her)self on the page of fame”. He had incited her to write “not so much with the idea that (she) could produce any thing worthy of notice, but that he might himself judge how far (she) possessed the promise of better things hereafter“. That’s why she had been unable to produce anything and felt that “blank capability of invention”. She had worshipped his mind, which she believed, was “far more cultivated” than hers and this sense of inferiority surfaces every time she refers to her husband or Byron. They were “noble”, “illustrious”, with a” brilliant imagery” more fit for poetry than prose, therefore she took part to their conversations “as a devout but nearly silent listener“. When they all decided to write a ghost story, she experienced once again the frustration for her husband’s expectations: “Have you thought of a story?”I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”  But one day the subject of one of those discussions among men, where Mary again was merely a silent spectator, touched her mind: scientific experiments, galvanism, Erasmus Darwin’s success in causing a piece of a vermicello to move voluntarily. That very night she dreamt of a ” pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together” ,who had dared “mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world” giving “spark of life” to a “hideous corpse”: she had her story, she had her chance to be seen. Her veil in a night had been torn away and Mary the authoress of Frankenstein, ready to gain everlasting fame, had materialized. When she died in 1851, she had established a reputation as a celebrated author independent of her famous husband Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In Rome We Run!!!

We Run Rome

What an amazing way to end the year and “run” towards the new one! Last New Year’s Eve Rome was kissed by a warm sun, spring didn’t seem so far indeed, therefore the perfect day for the thousands of people who gathered at Terme di Caracalla stadium to run the third edition of “We Run Rome” and say goodbye to 2013. Among top runners and amateurs, there was my husband, who is a sort of runningaholic, can I really say that?, well, he is addicted to running. He runs at least, and I say at least, four times a week for 60-80 km overall. No matter climate or temperature, he must go. And you know why? Because running makes you happy. It’s not only for the endorphins that your body produces, it’s the challenge, it’s reaching the goal that is rewarding as I also said in a previous post. Once you cross that line, time and rank are certainly important, but it’s that extraordinary sense of satisfaction that makes you keep going to the next goal. I know, that now you would like to ask me this question: as you are glorifying the power or running, why don’t YOU run? The answer is simple: I’m happy blogging 😀

Here are some pictures of the race:

Rome trees

Trees in Rome

We Run Rome Village

We Run Rome Village

We Run Rome Village

We Run Rome Village

The start line

The start line

Top Runners warming up before the start

Top Runners warming up before the start

Top Runners at the start line

Top Runners at the start line

Runners at the start line

Runners at the start line

Goooo!

Goooo!

Goooo!

Goooo!

C. KIMURGOR (Kenya) : the winner!

C. KIMURGOR (Kenya) : the winner!

C. KIMURGOR (Kenya) : the winner!

C. KIMURGOR (Kenya) : the winner!

TIRUNESH DIBABA (Etiopia) : the female winner!

TIRUNESH DIBABA (Etiopia) : the female winner!

Valeria Straneo (Italy) :  female marathon silver medal at World Championships in Athletics in Moscow 2013

Valeria Straneo (Italy) : female marathon silver medal at World Championships in Athletics in Moscow 2013

My husband's arrival!

My husband’s arrival!

My husband's satisfaction

My husband’s satisfaction