Wuthering Minds


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.


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.


16 thoughts on “Wuthering Minds

  1. One of my favorite books since childhood. I used to think the world was divided into those two types of men: Heathcliffs–dangerous, enticing, moody and bad news. Edgars–snivelling, weak, boring but marriage material…I saw myself as Cathy, stuck in the middle…Then I met my husband and he was neither 🙂

  2. Hmm, it’s many years since I read Wuthering Heights, and I read it late and perhaps that’s why it never appealed. But I am with you in thinking that the characters need to be freed from psychologists, or rather psychoanalysts. These characters are all produced by a woman in her mid-twenties. They are a witness to the amazing ability of the brain to imagine, articulate and put itself into another’s mind. Given Emily’s restricted life, they are a wonderful example of the freedom we have to imagine what we have never ourselves experienced. (A psychologist).

  3. One of my very favourite books I rre-
    ead every three or four years… nice post… food for thought that enriches the reading.

  4. Interpretation relates the reader to what it is read. And it conjugates every feelings and emotions through the reading. Once your interpretetion is finished you have just left a part of your soul in what you’ve recently read.
    It naturally bumps in my mind a quote from Gesualdo Bufalino ” nessuno può morire la morte di un altro. Forse per i pochi minuti che dura la complicità di una lettura, la morte di un poeta si può” ( Nobody can experience the death of someone else by dying, Perhaps you can die a poet’s death through a certain complicity of a reading which lasts few minutes).
    Somehow we can manage to become part of something which is not hinc et nunc, which belongs to something out of this world; and if we succeed in it we’ll be a little bit sadder because wiser. We will be wiser because acquainted with a new subject that has not been staying a mere subject, detached. We have experienced it by living it. I just think of a dream parallel-reality. The reading works as a catharsis. I embody in other characters, whose reality is different from mine. And it is not supposed to be considered as the reality where I live ( trees, sky, people, home, life, death, nature). It can also made up of different elements, such as supernatural. So the subject it is not still and flat it evolves following the mind-patterns of the reader.
    I really appreciate in terms of metaphore the Jungian analysis. Shadows are our reflection, yet the purest of our souls. Catherine somehow dismissed her pure shadow ( you will pardon the pleonasm) and she was bound to die, having not fulfilled her desires. Because her desires, her purest desires, where in her shadows. She wished she were on earth “sobbing for joy” along with Heathcliff. At the same time she wants Edgar’s wealth . In this shacking and impervious movement from one side to the other ( from id to super-ego) her shadow is going to be released. Heathcliff is Catherine’s shadows, because he reflects Catherine’s drives. Edgar somehow is just a mere frost or moonbeam he cannot be any shadow as he is Heaven. But I think Heaven is a sad place to be. I did not regard it as Dante’s one- enriched with Divinity intelligence and consciousness. Heaven is Edgar, Edgar is a moonbeam, pale, vanishing, detached and apathic, so Heaven cannot be shining and brighting. Heaven is pale, almost dark as Catherine’s heart might have been in Edgar companionship. In Heaven there is no shadow. Unfortunately Catherine arranged to marry Edgar. She’s put off by shadow, she is kind fascinated by this gloomy Stimmung ( Thrushcross Grange). Being the reality where I live unsatisfying, can it be that I can merge myself with another reality. Can it be dream?
    I have just managed to make out the subject addressed to us through your last lecture. I know it is misleading but I wanted myself to understand by writing ( which it can be a cure for anything, I think at least).
    I would like to post a song, which is Canzone del padre ( Sogno numero 2) , written and sung by Fabrizio De Andrè.
    In his first concept-album ( Storia di un impiegato) Faber gives his soul a pen and a piece of paper to sort out its reality. Here’s it.

    ” Così son diventanto mio padre,
    ucciso in un sogno precedente[…]
    adesso le fiamme mi avvolgono il letto
    questi i sogni che non fanno svegliare.
    Vostro Onore, sei un figlio di troia,
    mi sveglio ancora e mi sveglio sudato,
    ora aspettami fuori dal sogno
    ci vedremo davvero,
    io ricomincio da capo.”

    At least, do my dreams make up a circle pattern? Am I bound to live the dream once again? I feel I can experience my desires, but somehow they’re within a shadow which belongs to reality. Therefore reality is not a good friend to me ( it’s my ” Vostro Onore..” ). What if I fall on thorns of DREAM?

    My desires are within my shadow and it belong

  5. Not to condone their behavior but Heathcliff, in lit, and Lord Byron, in fact, got away with stuff because they were sexy. Many men nowadays have bad manners and cynacism but not the sexy part, alas!

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