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 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.

Heathcliff the villain

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A villain is the evil, immoral guy of a story. The etymology of the word villain comes from the Latin “villanus” meaning “farmhand“. He is antagonist to the knight not only for his low social status but for those moral values of chivalry: faith, loyalty, courage and honour that do not seem to affect his world.The villain is often cruel, malicious and devoted to wickedness. The typical villain of the Morality plays was the devil himself:Satan. In the Elizabethan Drama the villain’s want of morality allowed him to act against the laws of nature and God which were at the basis of society and  thus breaking them he gave the start to the dramatic action. The audience could easily spot villains on stage because dramatists often used to choose for them names that hid the clues for their moral imperfection. In Hamlet, for example, Shakespeare called the villain Claudius, which comes from the Latin “Claudus” that is “lame”. Sometimes the names could also point out the dangerousness of the villain. Richardson seemed to warn his unfortunate heroine Clarissa naming the man of her dreams Lovelace, truly a loveless man whose lace of love will strangle her to death. Heathcliff as well belongs to the cathegory of the villains. Emily Brontë chose for his protagonist a name that could mirror all the enigmatic nuances of his personality. He is heat, heath and cliff at the same time, that is wild, passionate, maybe stubborn, but definitely dangerous and uncontrollable. He is a modern Satan, dark( “he looks like a gipsy“), retiring, elusive and vengeful. Wherever he goes he upsets the preexisting balance bringing chaos and sorrow. Once adopted, for example, he will win Mr Earnshaws’s affection causing such frustration and  jealousy in his son Hindley that will fire up their deadly fight. The same destiny will share the Lintons’ when, after a mysterious absence of years, Heathcliff will turn up at their door only to carry out his revenge. Nothing and nobody will stop him. Not even love.

Catherine’s Sehnsucht

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Wuthering Heights is the novel about Sehnsucht, but in one of its most extreme and pathological form. Even if the dialogues of the two protagonists, Heathcliff and Catherine, seem to express a kind of deep, absolute love (” he is more myself than I am” Catherine will confess) that may foreshadow some Romeo and Juliet actions, they actually will never succeed in staying together, at least in this world. It isn’t even correct to say succeed, because it would imply that there is a struggle for the sake of the couple. Not at all. Once set the social barrier that will divide them forever at  the beginning of the novel, they will begin to tease, hurt each other under the command of a destructive instinct . When Heathcliff comes back after few years and Catherine is now Mrs Linton, he only seeks revenge and wants her to suffer making her jealous seducing and then marrying her sister in law. It was Catherine who had chosen a comfortable and respectful life to love. She deserved punishment. Blinded by jealousy and resentment they won’t be able to crush the obstacles that separate them, but rather they will add some more. This violent longing will wear out Catherine in particular who has always shown a self-destructive nature. For example when Heathcliff mysteriosly disappears, she waits for him till night under the rain, consequently developing a dangerous fever or she decides to starve whenever things don’t go her way. Her mind and body grow weak page after page and even when Catherine meets Heathcliff for the last time , we understand that their mortal fight is suspended only because she is about to die. From now on, without her love, Heathcliff will long only for death, the place where he’ll meet her again. Maybe these are the words Cathy said when she had come back to take him there: