“He is more myself than I am”

He is more myself than I am“, what a romantic expression, such a pity Heathcliff didn’t hear a single word of the final part of the conversation his Catherine was having with Neally Dean:

«So he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made out of, his and mine are the same». (Wuthering Heights)

No, in fact, he will never know it, as having being deeply wounded by Catherine’s previous statement: “I will degrade myself by marrying Heathcliff”, that hot-headed man rushes away without thinking twice and disappears in the night. Had he been a little less hasty, had he let his reason control his overflowing emotions, he would have given his love a chance and spared us a lot of drama; but he did not. However, would those words have had the power to cool down his spirits? Actually, they require a little pondering to be fully understood, and as we know that pondering is not exactly in Heathcliff’s nature, we will analyse them for him.

So, what does Catherine mean, when she says that Heathcliff is more herself that she is. These are striking words about the intensity of her love for him, that, somehow, surpass the universally acknowledged metaphor of those ” halves” Plato refers in his Symposium:

“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves…….and when one of them meets the other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy and one will not be out of the other’s sight, as I may say, even for a moment…Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.” (The Symposium)

Love, hence, is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete. However, for Catherine, Heathcliff is not simply her natural other half, he is more:

“Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable;…” (Wuthering Heights)

So Heathcliff is not part of her, it is her, hence, she feels there cannot be a separation between the two. He is always there, in her mind and in her soul as a haunting presence, therefore, Plato’s interpretation of the nature of love cannot do for this case.

Maybe the archetypes of animus, anima and persona could help us understand. For Jung the persona is the outer or social self that faces the world. The animus is the archetype that completes women, which contains the male qualities which the female persona lacks, while the anima represents the female traits that a man’s persona lacks. The individual is rarely aware of his anima/her animus, which Jung defines “demon-familiar” , therefore, obscure, hidden, threatening.

The point is that the animus of a woman and the anima of a man take the form of a “soul-image” in the personal unconscious and when this soul-image is transferred to a real person, the latter naturally becomes the object of intense feelings, which may be passionate love or passionate hate. Wait a minute, so, what we call love and we have narrated, analized, dissected using millions of words for years and years in any part of the world is only a question of the projected soul-image of our animus/anima? I’m disappointed. Hence, Heathcliff cannot be but Catherine’s animus, as she is his anima. They are the projections of their soul-images and this explains their profound sense of connection or identity with each other. They are far more than two matching halves.

If it is so, this would also explains why there are recurrent patterns in our relationships and why we invariably keep on being attracted by the same sort of man or woman: it’s because we fall in love with the projection of our anima/animus. Consequently, if we are so unlucky to feel the charm of the womanizer type, no matter how disappointed we could be, we’ll keep on being seduced by that sort man. How can we avoid Catherine’s fate, therefore? Letting our survival instinct help us, or better, let’s call it experience. So next time an Edgar Linton’s type shows up, we’ll be clever enough to put to bed “our demon lover”, lock the door, and give the man a real chance.

To Flavia,”one of those girls who venture living of mad pulses, fill their failings with carbs and fall in love with idiots.”

 

What’s in a Name?

“What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name.
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title..” (Romeo and Juliet. Act 2, Scene 2)

Dazzled by the darts of love, Juliet speculates on the nature of names. Names are immaterial, yet, they can become insurmountable obstacles. They cannot be touched or seen, yet, they belong to a man and may mark his fate, even if, of course, they cannot change his essence, whatever it may be. Therefore, names matter. If if weren’t so, my mother wouldn’t have opposed so strongly to the one which was destined to me: Rosaria. I should have been named after my grandfather Rosario, and even if the its origin, Rose, may sound evocative and sweet, here it connotes the typical woman of the South of past tradition and my mother, a modern woman of the North, would have never accepted it. That name did not fit the image she had of her daughter, that’s why she chose Stefania. Fortunately, my grandfather, a mild, sensible man, didn’t mind, after all, I was the last of his many grandchildren and some of them had already been named after him.

Names are clearly evocative, they give an impression, often deceptive, of a person. That is why writers have always chosen carefully the names of their most important heroes or heroines. Think about Heathcliff, for example. It is a name that reflects its complex nature. He is heat, that is passionate, hot, but also destructive and dangerous. He is the fire that attracts you like a magnet, but if you touch it, you’ll get burnt. As for that cliff, it evokes harshness and danger again, in fact, waves move naturally towards cliffs and inevitably break. It is their fate. Would that character have worked likewise, had he been called, Jack, for instance?

I’ll leave Gwendolen to give the answer to this question in the “Importance of Being Earnest”:

“Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed. It does not thrill. It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain. Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John! And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John. She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.”

It is a no. Gwendolen believes that names reflect the essence of men, and she wishes that the appropriate title for her future husband should be Earnest:

“…my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.”

Of course he is a liar, with a charming name, of course.

Even Walter Shandy, in Laurence Sterne’s novel “Tristram Shandy”, believes that names are as important to a person’s character as noses are to a person’s appearance. As Dr Slop had flattened his child’s nose in performing a forceps delivery, Walter Shandy believes that a solution to compensate him from what he believes to be a clear mark of loss of masculinity, would be to give him a grand name like Hermes Trismegistus, that is, “Hermes the thrice-greatest”. So, he needs a name “three times the greatest” to make things even. Trismegistus was also the name a legendary character: the greatest king, lawgiver, philosopher, priest and engineer ever. After all, isn’t this what all parents dream for their children? A grand, successful future and a good name may be a good start. Unfortunately, Mr Shandy’s hopes are definitively crushed, as his child is accidentally christened Tristram, which comes from the French “triste”  and from the Latin “tristis,” that is “sad” in English, with a final effect which is not exactly what Walter Shandy had hoped, but, quite the reverse. Tristram himself believes that this event has radically changed the course of his fate. So, what’s in a name?

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”(L.M.Montgomery)

 

The Darkness behind the Locked Door

One of the most fascinating take on Wuthering Heights, in my opinion, is the Jungian interpretation,  which sees  Heathcliff as Catherine‘s dark side, her shadow. In the personal unconscious, the shadow consists of those desires, feelings, which are unacceptable, for both emotional or moral reasons : it is the dark side of human nature. Heathcliff represents her repressed sexuality, her unconfessed desire which, however, is arduous to control, as the shadow is impulsive, powerful, wild, and hence can become obsessive or possessive. 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 surfaces after two years to claim his place next to Catherine, who, despite her desperate efforts to integrate him, is eventually defeated and dies.

This paradigm can also be applied to Jane Eyre as well. In this novel the role of the shadow belongs to Bertha Mason, Mr Rochester‘s first wife. Both Bertha Mason‘s and Heathcliff‘s descriptions conform to the archetype of the shadow. Heathcliff is always portrayed as dark as a gypsy , while Bertha is a Creole, the daughter of a white European settler in the West Indies with “dark hair” and “discoloured black face“. At those time the Creoles were more associated with the native Caribbean populations than the white, civilized Europeans. Creole women were often described as obstinate, dissolute and untrustworthy, which is exactly what Rochester will tell about Bertha.

Rochester had been entrapped  in this marriage. He had been beguiled by her uncommon beauty, wealth and that Creole sensuality, but only when it is too late, he open his eyes to face the real truth: his wife is mad. Once back to England and to the strict conventions of the Victorian society he cannot but hide and lock Bertha in a remote chamber of Thornfield, thus caging his own sexuality.  Thornfield will represent for him from that moment on, what the very name foreshadows, a field, as his soul, tormented by the thorns or guilt, sexual frustration and disappointment. That’s why he is often away. Till Jane Eyre crosses his way.

The growing attachment he feels forJane will make him spend more time at Thornfield, thus it will be impossible for him to ignore his surfacing powerful shadow. As I mentioned before, the shadow cannot be repressed forever, in fact, Bertha walks the night undisturbed, her screams and hideous laughter can be heard by everybody and she even attempts at punishing Mr Rochester setting his room on fire for having been thus neglected and confined, but above all for having brought in the household the “other” woman, Jane Eyre.

 Bertha is, of course, Jane’s polar opposite but she is also her truest and darkest double. Her confinement in the attic mirrors Jane’s imprisonment in the Red Room at Gateshead, a punishment for her anger and lack of conformity. This doubling  makes Bertha’s role within the novel much more complex, and  that means that any analysis of her character must take account of her relationship with Jane. For example one night, when Jane sees Bertha  at the foot of her bed, dressed in white with a bridal veil, while she is looking in the mirror, Jane continuously repeats that she has never seen such a face. Only a few pages later, the morning of her marriage, Jane looks at herself in the mirror and says:” I saw a robed and veiled figure, so unlike my usual self that it seemed almost the image of a stranger. It is impossible not to notice that the two scenes are almost identical.

Mr Rochester‘s attempt to marry Jane is but his extreme effort to reject that contemptible part of himself and be free to live his life. But in vain. The disclosure of the truth will have as consequence the disappearance of the “good ” self, Jane, who will come back only when Bertha Mason dies, committing suicide. It is interesting to notice that Mr Rochester will be permanently injured in the endeavour of saving Bertha from the fire she had herself set. After all, as his shadow, she was part of him, therefore, letting Bertha die was just like dying himself.

 

 

 

 

 

Theorem

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There is a song here in Italy that somehow is considered the bible on the nature of love. It dates back to the early nineties of last century, and since then, generations of Italian lovers of every age can’t help but muse on those lines of wisdom, particularly when a love affair bitterly comes to an end. “What did that Marco Ferradini say?” ” Take a woman, treat her badly………ahhh, I should have followed his advice!” I know that from these few  words you might jump to the conclusion that this song is a plea for the macho cause, but it is not. The subject is: women. What do women want? What can a man do to make a woman love him? The main narrating voice, who very likely, has been recently dumped, tells his friend his ideas on love and women, a theorem, in fact:

Take a woman,tell her you love her
Write her love songs,send her roses and poems
Give her heart juices too
Make her feel important
Give her the best of the best you’ve got
Try to be a tender lover
Be always near her
Get her out of troubles

And be sure she will leave you
Who is too much loved will not give love in return
And be sure she will leave you
Who loves less is always the strongest one, everyone knows.

Take a woman,treat her badly
Make her wait you for hours
Don’t show up and when you call her
Act as if you were doing her a favor
Make her feel less important
Balance well  love and cruelty
Try to be a tender lover
But out of the bed show no mercy

And then you’ll see, she will love you
Who loves less, more love gets in return
And then you’ll see, she will love you
Who loves less is the strongest one, everyone knows.

marco3These assertions are so bewildering, that nobody ever remembers the words his friend uses to soothe his sorrow. It is a weak conclusion, in fact.  More or less he says: you speak like this, because you are embittered, you don’t need to change to find a woman who loves you, after all, what is a man without love and so on. I had to check the lyrics on google,actually, I had even forgotten there was this final part. However, is there any truth in these words or is it only a male point of view? After years and years of feminist battles, in the secrecy of our heart do we keep craving for unattainable, unreliable, selfish, but irresistibly charming men?

We do. We have to admit it. This truth is not only in the lines of Marco Ferradini’s song, but above all, you may read it clearly in the immortal pages of all those novels we have read and loved. A gallery of irresistible, fascinating rascals that has made us throb and dream: Mr Lovelace, Mr Wickham,John Willoughby, Heathcliff, Mr Rochester only to mention some of the most popular ones and I’m sure that in the past of every woman there is at least one of those fellows, before deciding to marry somebody more trustworthy and even-tempered sort of man like Mr Edgar Linton.

marco2In a famous passage of Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean and Catherine Earnshaws discuss about the nature of love. Catherine has already accepted to marry the rich, sober, composed Edgar Linton and she wants to know from her whether it was the right choice. Their dialogue looks very much like a session at a psychologist, as Nelly only asks questions in order to make her reach that degree of awareness that will make her openly confess her true love for somebody else, Heatchcliff : ” He is more myself than I am” , Cathy will eventually acknowledge and adds: “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.’ These words confirm Marco Ferradini’s theorem. Women want “lightning” even if it is destructive and “fire” even if you may get burnt, hence even if Cathy resolves upon marrying his “moonbeam” Mr Linton, the fire of her impossible passion for Heathclill will inevitably destroy her.

 

 

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.

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. 🙂

Yorkshire dreams

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Do you ever dream queer dreams?” asks Catherine to Nelly Dean at a crucial moment of Wuthering Heights. Nelly startles and doesn’t want Cathy to proceed, because she is convinced that dreams may foreshadow some imminent catastrophe. But it won’t be that kind of dreams. The way Emily Bronte will use the dream effect on the story is innovative. In her sister’s masterpiece Jane Eyre, dreams give the novel a gothic flavour, in fact they are usually in the form of presentiments, warnings for the future or sometimes symbolize the complex representations for the events in Jane’s life. Emily will dare more, she will anticipate somehow  Freud‘s Interpretation of Dreams. Let’s try to make it in simple words: dreams for Freud are unconscious wishes. As they are not accessible to the ego, they emerge from the psyche during the sleep when conscience weaken its control. Dreams for Freud are highly symbolic. They contain both overt meanings (manifest content) as well as underlying, unconscious thoughts (latent content),this is because dreams may represent the fulfillment of a wish often unacceptable to the ego,so the latent content undergoes a transformation that doesn’t allow the super ego of “the dreamer” to recognize it, thus escaping  its censorship. Dreams are our unconscious wishes in disguise. Cathy tells Nelly that she often dreams to be in heaven. But she is unhappy there and when the angels, worn out by her desperation, send her back on the earth she wakes up “sobbing for joy”. Cathy won’t need many sessions with a psychologyst to decipher the metaphors of her dream. She knows exactly its meaning. That heaven isThrushcross Grange, the grand house where the Lintons’ live, and she, as the future Mrs Linton, will have to join them very soon. Respectability, society , money are part of that heaven but ,as Nelly jockingly will say, Cathy “is not fit to be there”,she belongs to the earth, to Wuthering Heights where Heathcliff may be beside her. In another dream she sees her image reflected in a mirror but  she doesn’t seem to recognize it. All her dreams seem to warn that she is about to do the wrong choice, a choice that will make her betray her true nature, her true self.