Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 35

"The Dead Are Not Annihilated": Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights

Geerken, Ingrid.
Journal of Narrative Theory, Volume 34, Number 3, Fall 2004, pp. 373-406 (Article)
Published by Eastern Michigan University DOI: 10.1353/jnt.2005.0004

For additional information about this article


Access Provided by UFOP-Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto at 11/12/10 2:23PM GMT

The Dead Are Not Annihilated: Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights

Ingrid Geerken
Regret is essentially generative of narrative. It is an emotion that engages the mind in a story-making process that seeks to correct a past experience. Regret can be formulated mentally and verbally through the conditional phrases If only . . .; I wish I had . . .. In my larger work, I examine three types of regret: martial (regret over killing), marital (regret over marrying), and mortal (regret over the death of a loved one). Here, I will be looking at the psychological, structural and generic features of mortal regret. Although regret is an experience that crosses historical boundaries, my main focus is on the nineteenth century: I will be using Bronts Wuthering Heights as an exemplary text of mortal regret. I. Agent-Regret: character and plot Catherine Earnshaw Lintons death halfway through Wuthering Heights makes an accommodation to her loss a structural necessity. The young Catherine, Bronts narrator Nelly explains, was much too fond of Heathcliff. The greatest punishment we could invent was to keep her separate from him (40). The separation of Bronts lovers is the motivating event of the novel. Death, the greatest separation of all, is redened by Bront as a generative state. Her frustrated lovers not only reunite in the grave (defying extinction), they also leave behind a second generation of
JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory 34.3 (Fall 2004): 373406. Copyright 2004 by JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory.


survivors to persist in their absence. Even as nineteenth-century society is grieving in epitaphs and mourning practices, Bront inscribes the wound of mortal loss with words that act as sutures to both mark and repair psychic injury. Her novel incorporates and repudiates two main cultural forms of consolation: the genre of elegy, and the concept of the Christian afterlife, both of which require an acceptance of the limitations of mortality. Instead, Bronts particular expression of mortal regret in Wuthering Heights is generated out of a complex of remorse, grief, and resistance that testies to the persistence of life in the face of loss. The social historian Philippe Aris designated the nineteenth century as the era of mourning. In a revival of excesses not seen since the Middle Ages, mourning was unfurled with an uncustomary degree of ostentation . . . it claimed to have no obligations to social convention and to be the most spontaneous and insurmountable expression of a very grave wound (67). According to Aris, as survivors accepted the death of another person with greater difculty, the fear of death shifted away from ones own death to the death of another, la mort de toi (68). The feeling of intolerance to a loved ones death that historically gave rise to the mourning industry and the modern cult of tombs and cemeteries is the same feeling, I would argue, that motivated the production of a new kind of novel based on what I call mortal regret. Emily Bront published her only novel, Wuthering Heights, in 1847. Bronts history is replete with the losses that motivate mortal regret: Bronts mother, her two older sisters, her aunt, and her beloved brother Branwell all died during her lifetime. Emily catches her death at Branwells funeral and within weeks was desperately ill. Dismissing all remedies and refusing to take to her bed or nourish herself properly, she died of tuberculosis soon after. Unlike her sister Charlotte, who seemed to nd a religious consolation despite her mounting losses,1 Emily rejected the God and the church of her father (Patrick Bront was a Evangelical clergyman) in favor of what she calls the God within my breast. Emily refused to teach at Sunday school and did not attend church regularly. According to Stevie Davies, her attitude towards Christian piety varied from the cool to the contemptuous (19). As Christianity could not assuage her mourning, the novel became the medium of Bronts reparative work. Authors of mortal regret are deeply interested in the act of putting together a narrative that both contains and expresses intense grief. In The Ve-

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


hement Passions, Philip Fisher writes: with losses that set off grief, the insult to the will is unmistakable. The death of someone loved . . . marks out a fundamental limit to the human will. That limit is mortality itself (164). In narratives of mortal regret what I call the surge of affect (an emotional rush accompanied by an aesthetic upswell) is directed towards overcoming the limitations of mortality. The mournerin an Orphic gesture imaginatively extends his or her agency past its furthest extreme (death) in order to resuscitate the dead beloved. The appearance of ghosts, monsters and revenants in such narratives attests to a galvanic effort to reinvigorate the dead through the sheer force of longing. Mortal regret acts as what the psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas would call a transformational object in narrative.2 According to Bollas, the transformational object is initially identified with the comprehensive mother who, for the infant, constitutes the total environment. This mother, however, is less signicant and identiable as an object than as a process. She is existentially identied with processes that alter selfexperience (14). In Wuthering Heights, Catherine constitutes Heathcliffs comprehensive mother: she is the medium through which metamorphosis occurs in the novel. As an enviro-somatic transformer of the subject, Catherines death irrevocably alters Heathcliffs internal and external landscape. Her death also becomes the mechanism or mise en scene through which the total environment of the narrative is processed. Heathcliff experiences the dead Catherine as dismembered and dispersed throughout his world. He becomes haunted by her omnipresence as a set of innite signs: for what is not connected with her to me? And what does not recall her? I cannot look down to this oor, but her features are shaped on the ags! In every cloud, in every treelling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day, I am surrounded with her image! (324). Heathcliffs mortal regret transforms his world and that of the narrative into a collection of memoranda that [Catherine] did exist, and that I have lost her!(324). Similarly, after the death of their son Waldo, Lidian Emerson wrote of her husband: How intensely his heart yearns over every memento of his boy I cannot express to you. Never was a greater hope disappointeda more devoted love bereaved (Richardson 359). In mortal regret, the memento becomes the ubiquitous trace presence of the longed-after dead one. Mortal regret reverses the Freudian trajectory of mourning in which


the mourner divests himself, bit by bit, of every one of the memories and expectations related to the lost loved one (Mourning and Melancholia 39). Instead, the mourner collects and reassembles these bits and pieces in a desperate attempt to prolong in the psyche the existence of the dead. Mortal regret can be distinguished from the xation of melancholy by its emphasis on restoration. The fantasy underlying these reparative acts is that a perfect assemblage of parts will resurrect the dead. According to the psychoanalyst Melanie Klein, the wish to restore and re-create the lost loved object is the basis of all creativity. I call the act of putting together the pieces of a loved object Agavic, after the image of Agaves desperate attempts to reassemble the parts of her murdered son in Euripides The Bacchae. Mortal regret participates in the Agavic attempt to piece together sundered elements. In Wuthering Heights, this is expressed at the level of plot in the drive to reunite two lovers, Catherine and Heathcliff, and two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. This impulse towards reunication is intensied in Catherines and Heathcliffs sense that they share an identity; Nelly, I am Heathcliff says Catherine (82). Mortal regret may include attempts at bodily reparation in response to mortal loss. When, at the end of The Bacchae, Agave gathers the scattered pieces of her sons body and reassembles its parts, she asks Are all its members pieced together well? In Sylvia Plaths Colossus, the speaker laments the disarticulated memory of her dead father: I shall never get you put together entirely, / Pieced, glued and properly jointed. In Mary Shelleys Frankenstein, Dr. Frankensteinmotivated by the death of his motherfabricates a monster out of a collection of disinterred body parts.3 In these works mortal regret, the act of bodily reparation is paralleled on a formal level by the many layers of narration that envelop the central act of revivication. The work of mourning literally becomes one of restoration. Mortal regret is metactionally linked to the process of literary reconstruction that marks these highly wrought texts. Mortal regret counteracts the helpless passivity of mourning through a surge of affective activity. In texts of regret, this produces intricate formal structures. And since loss is always a highly personal event, these authors often have distinctive or unconventional styles. (Here, I am thinking of authors such as Bront, Emerson, Dickinson, and Hopkins). For example, Joseph Brodsky notes how

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


Hardys Poems of 19121913, motivated by the death of his estranged wife, Emma Gifford, are characterized by a remarkable formal diversity that contrasts with the typical tonal and metric uniformity of most elegies (44). And Emersons biographer Richardson writes that virtually all of Emersons creative life was lived in the twenty-ve years between the death of his son Waldo in 1857 and his wife Ellen in 1832 (540). For authors of mortal regret, the dead were never truly part of the past but were instead resurrected in art. In the nineteenth-century, the formal intricacies of such texts of mortal regret are paralleled by the mourning artifacts produced by Victorian society to remember the dead.4 These included jewelry and other ornate objects made from the human hair of the deceased. Typically, pieces of jewelry (brooches, rings, lockets) either contained a lock of hair or were made with the hair of the dead. These mementos were worn by grieving survivors as a symbol of an absent love: Queen Victoria, overcome with anguish after losing both her mother and her beloved husband in 1861, purportedly wore a piece of jewelry made with Prince Alberts hair every day after his death. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff removes a lock of Edgars fair hair from a locket hung around the neck of Catherines corpse, and replaces it with a jet-black lock of his own. Later, Nelly will interweave the two locks together before replacing them inside Catherines locket, thus ensuring that the lovers fates will be forever intertwined.5 In the making of memorial hair wreaths, survivors interwove the hair of deceased family members through several generations, thus contextualizing an individuals personal loss within the larger structure of an evolving kinship. Like Wuthering Heights, these mourning artifacts recorded, in Thomas Hardys terms, the genealogical passions of nineteenth-century society. In Victorian culture at large, mourning was indubitably generative: it gave rise to an entire industry of hair working that produced objects as astonishing as the full tea set (made entirely of human hair) exhibited in the 1853 Crystal Palace Exposition. In Wuthering Heights, Bront transforms this historical phenomenon of hysterical mourning into a literary treatise on wild grief. At the heart of the novel is a very grave wound that testies to the experience of an apparently irredeemable loss. Mortal regret both structures and organizes the novel on every level. For example, Fisher observes how the time-schemes in Wuthering Heights, break up . . . into dozens of two- or three-page


scenes, each of which tracks the explosion, enactment, and dissipation of a passion (89). Similarly, Lockwoods early nightmare of a sermon divided into four hundred and ninety parts (21) underscores the discontinuous or dismembered state of the narrative. The multi-part structure of Bronts novel expresses formally this temporal and libidinal process of putting together what has broken apart. Mortal regret is an experience of profound object loss. Four major acts that express mortal regret are: 1) clutching, 2) what I call corpsing, 3) exhumation, and 4) incantation. First, a person threatened by the loss of a loved one will clutch the others body in an attempt to prevent separation. Second, a mourner will identify with the dead loved one by corpsing, or playing dead. Third, the grief-stricken bereaved will exhume the corpse in an effort to regain physical intimacy with the beloveds body. Fourth, the mourner will attempt to use prayer or incantation to raise the dead. The act of corpsing is pivotal in this narrative sequence because it determines the extent to which the process will be taken literally. Nevertheless, each act of mortal regret stands alone and is imprecated in the others. clutching
Farewell! Forgive me! Of these limbs, blood-stained And mangled, which one shall I mourn the most? Why not this hand? Is it what I seized rst? (Euripides, The Bacchae)

Clutching can be experienced equally as an intimate gesture or a violent seizure; in either case it is motivated by the desire to counteract the threat of loss through physical attachment, or, in lieu of that, violent release. In Emersons Experience, written two years after the death of his son, he laments the evanescence and lubricity of all objects, which lets them slip through our ngers when we clutch the hardest. The human act of clutching becomes, for Emerson, the most unhandsome part of our condition(288). In Shelleys Frankenstein, the revitalized monster reaches out to clutch his creator just before it is repulsed, and in Hardys The Well Beloved, in a chapter entitled He desperately clutches the Form, the protagonist frantically attempts to stop the transmigration of his lovers spirit into the body of another woman.6

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


Bronts exquisite attentiveness to the image of the human hand links passion and violence early on in the novel. Elaine Scarry, for example, cites the many instances of pulling, pinching, tearing, and grabbing that take place in Wuthering Heights (139).7 It is the act of clutching, however, that sets the standard by which mortal regret will be expressed and exchanged in the novel. In the famous opening scene of Wuthering Heights, Catherines ghostly apparition smashes through her bedroom window and clings tenaciously to Lockwoods outstretched arm. He says, I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it (ital. mine, 23). Catherines act of smashing through the window pulls the reader into the novels frame, even as her desperate act of clutching links Lockwood to its internal plot. Heathcliffs mortal regret, on the other hand, is based on his failure to take hold of Catherine. As he approaches death, Heathcliff sees Catherine not two yards in front of his face: with a sweep of his hand, he cleared a vacant space . . . and leant forward to gaze more at his ease. Heathcliffs visual rapture is accompanied by an attempt to grasp Catherines form: if he stretched his hand out to get a piece of bread, his ngers clenched before they reached it, and remained on the table, forgetful of their aim (331). Heathcliffs helpless gesture of clenching and unclenching acts out his failure to (grasp, clutch, take hold of) Catherine; his rage over losing her is neatly expressed in his clenched but empty st. His anorexia, which duplicates Catherines own refusal to eat before her death, becomes a moral imperative: Im animated with hunger; and, seemingly, I must not eat (328). Just as Freud posits a grasping instinct [. . .] which exists independently of the need for nourishment, so Heathcliffs hunger for Catherine is greater than his need to eat: I take so little interest in my daily life, that I hardly remember to eat and drink (323). Bront allows the lovers one scene of reciprocal clutchingor claspingbefore their final separation (158163). Heathcliff, hearing that Cathy is ill after his elopement with Isabella Linton, demands that Nelly arrange a meeting between them. In this scene, Bronts focus is on the precise gestures of the lovers hands and arms: Heathcliff approaches Catherine and grasp[s] her in his arms; as Heathcliff wrenches away, Catherine seizes him by the hair, retaining in her st a lock of his hair. While raising himself with one hand, Heathcliff grabs Catherines arm so tightly that he leaves four bruises on her colorless skin. Catherines desire


is to hold Heathcliff until we are both dead. As Nelly tells it: they were locked in an embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be released alive. Catherines eyes and hands become the locus of Heathcliffs distress: It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted hands. The scene culminates in Catherines tenacious refusal to let go of Heathcliff even as her husband Edgar appraoches: she clung fast, gasping even as Heathcliff would have risen, and unxed her ngers by the act. The violence of this forced separation is duplicated in the novels opening scene, in which Lockwood (as a stand-in for Heathcliff), loosens Catherines grip by rubbing her wrist on the windowpane until the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes (23). corpsing The next form of mortal regret is the act of corpsing, or pretending to be dead. In the experience of corpsing, an agent imagines his or her death while still retaining the lifelike capacities of feeling, sensing, and even, at times, speaking. Acts of corpsing are distinct from suicidal behavior, and from actually being dead. When Catherine, after Heathcliffs abrupt departure from Wuthering Heights, gets thoroughly drenched for her obstinacy in refusing to take shelter . . . standing bonnet-less and shawl-less to catch as much water as she could with her hair and clothes (85), she is expressing an indifference to her physical self characteristic of mourning. She is not, however, corpsing. When, on the other hand, she is described as dashing her head against the arm of the sofa, and grinding her teeth, before stretch[ing] herself out stiff, and turn[ing] up her eyes, while her cheeks, blanched and livid, assumed the aspect of death (118), she is engaged in an act of corpsing. Catherine is also corpsing whenas Heathcliff cradles her bodyher arms suddenly relax, and her head hangs down (163). Catherines acts of corpsing are almost always preceded by the threat of a separation from Heathcliff and anticipate actual death. In their nal scene, Catherine clutches desperately to Heathcliff as he tries to extricate himself from her arms. Catherine shrieks, No! . . . Oh, dont, dont go. It is the last time! . . . Heathcliff I shall die! I shall die!(162). At the end of this scene, the act of clutching is rapidly transformed into one of corpsing; Catherine loses consciousness (she is described as being either fainted or

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


dead) just before Heathcliff places her lifeless-looking form in her husbands arms. The image of Heathcliff cradling Catherines body (so reminiscent of Michelangelos Piet) is a dress rehearsal for the scene of her coming death. The act of corpsing empowers the imagination to go beyond what can be truly known or remembered. Corpsing makes the experience of death accessible by representing what it feels like to be dead. In this way, corpsing is motivated both by a desire to simulate a state close to that of a dead loved one, and to experience our own deathparadoxicallyin a way that we can communicate and remember. In this way, Emily Dickinson can begin a poem (remarkably) by saying, I heard a Fly buzzwhen I died. Christina Rosssetti, in another register, expresses a state of disembodiment in which not only the material body, but the entire physical world, is erased. So, in Cobwebs, all that remains after a series of negations is one even plain through which the sluggish air [b]roodeth. Poems such as Dickinsons I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, and Rossettis After Death describe the sensation of death in material and empirical terms. The agentin an expression of impossible agencystill sees, hears, and smells even as she inhabits what Rossetti calls the death apartment. Like these poets, Bront desentimentalizes the typical features of Victorian deathbed accounts (such as the visible rising of the soul or mist, the last look, or the metaphor of Death as teacher and deliverer), transforming them from the inside out through empirical observation. Catherine and Heathcliff have opposite strategies for expressing mortal regret. Heathcliffs mourning pays honor to Catherines death by simulating many of its effects. His paralytic passivity is typical of vehement grief. Catherines acts of corpsing, on the other hand, are depicted as deliberate acts of will. Nelly, who repeatedly accuses Catherine of premeditation in her exhibitions of frenzy, downplays the severity of her illness to others, leading some critics to blame Nelly for contributing to Catherines death. Catherines corpsing is portrayed as an act of self-assertion that distinguishes it, for example, from the posthumous women of Rossettis poetry, who, as Angela Leighton describes, are dead, but unrisen, buried but unhopeful(159). Catherines preternatural energy combined with Heathcliffs longing animates her corpsing and prolongs her existence past death.


Fainting is mimetic of corpsing because it involves a loss of consciousness. When Catherine collapses in Heathcliffs arms, Nelly coldly observes, Shes fainted or dead . . . so much the better (163). Bront emphasizes the heightened sensation and magnied awareness of a fainting or corpsing agent by focusing on the painful stages involved in a return to consciousness. After being overwhelmed by utter blackness, Catherine, in a traumatic revival, remarks that it was not until dawn that she had recovered sufciently to see and hear (125). Just as a fainting t simulates a miniature death, Catherines resuscitation is a practice-run for an imaginaryand arduousresurrection. Corpsing is also simulated in sleep. In Wuthering Heights, however, the mourner is denied simultaneity with the dead loved one through sleep: Lockwood, Heathcliff, and Edgar are all tormented by insomnia as a result of Catherines death. As Catherines cofn remains uncovered in the great drawing-room of Thrushcross Grange, Edgar spends his days and nights there, a sleepless guardian of her body, while Heathcliff, at the same time, spends his nights just outside, equally a stranger to repose (167). Bront describes how Heathcliffs subsequent desire to be buried alive with Catherine is based on a denial of her death: If she be cold, Ill think it is this north wind that chills me; if she be motionless, it is sleep(289). It is only as he approaches death that Heathcliff dreams that he is sleeping the last sleep, by that sleeper, with my heart stopped, and my cheek frozen against hers (289). Corpsing, as an act of identication with the dead, leads to a rehearsal of ones own death. Accompanying this process is a curiosity about the material afterlife of the body. In The Rings of Saturn, W.G. Sebald contemplates the fate of the seventeenth century physician Thomas Browne, who, in a treatise entitled The Urn Burial, writes to be gnawd out of our graves is a tragical abomination. But . . . who is to know the fate of his bones, or how often he is to be buried? Uncannily, Brownes body was dug up several times before its nal internment almost a quarter of a millenium later (1011). In the nineteenth-century, authors of mortal regret are keenly aware of the material context of their bodies after burial. Emily Dickinson left instructions that she was to be buried in one of the costliest casketsve feet, six inches long lined in white annel (Farr, 1), and Christina Rossetti informed her executor that she wished to be buried in the nearest approach convenient to a perishable cofn (Leighton 158).

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff attempts to exert control over death by remodeling Catherines casket (replacing one side with a sliding panel like the one in her bedroom) and by constructing an identical cofn for himself. Heathcliff then bribes the sexton to pull the sliding panels away when he is dead and buried next to Catherine. Heathcliffs alterations to Catherines cofn and the ingenious assembly of his own ensure that the lovers will share a grave-bed that resembles the bed they shared as children, although never as adults. The feverish psychic and physical activity of mortal regret perpetuates the belief in an afterlife that retains, like the act of corpsing, the possibilities of consciousness, sensation, and revivalin short, an afterlife that reduplicates and corrects the wounds of life itself. In these respects, mortal regret offers neither the acquiescent consolation of elegy nor the promissory recompense of the Christian afterlife. Corpsing seeks, rather, an immediate and unmediated redress of loss. exhumation Exhumation became a literal and gurative problem in the nineteenthcentury. At that time, a cultural movement away from church-burials and towards cemeteries gave the living greater access to the dead, and the chance to formulate beliefs about the afterlife of their loved ones quite apart from the Christian concepts of immortality and salvation. According to Aris, these entombments were motivated by the survivors unwillingness to accept the departure of their loved one (70). Thus the act of disinterring the dead becomes motivated less by a fear of sacrilege than by a survivors intolerance to loss; accordingly, exhumation could become an expression of mortal regret. In mortal regret, grief becomes a problem with a plausibly manual solution. In a journal entry, Emerson describes how he moved the cofns of his wife and son Waldo to a new plot in Sleepy Hollow. Then he did a remarkable thing. Just as he had looked into the cofn of his dead wife Ellen twenty-five years ago, he now ventured a gaze into that of his son Waldos. As his daughter Ellen remembers, He said he had looked into the cofn, but he said no more (Richardson 540). Camille Paglia has condemned some of Dickinsons poems as so necrophilic as to seem disgusting or mad, but most critics agree that these acts are best understood as versions of love (Farr 96; 138). In Dickinsons poems to her sister-in-law


Susan, the speakers desire to embrace her beloveds corpse is, like Heathcliffs, motivated by a yearning for a lover who cannot be claimed or repossessed until death. On the day of Catherines funeral, Heathcliff exhumes Catherines corpse with the intention of burying himself alive with her: being conscious two yards of loose earth was the sole barrier between us, I said to myselfIll have her in my arms again! (288). He is deterred only by the feeling that Catherine is not under me, but on earth (290). Eighteen years later, Heathcliff disinters Catherines body only to reveal that her corpse has not yet begun to decompose, that the buried face is hers yet. Heathcliffs pointed question to Nelly, did she die like a saint? (in other words, as one immune from the natural laws that dene mortal life) is answered by the immaculate preservation of Catherines body in this nal act of exhumation. incantation Mortal regret is also expressed through acts of prayer, prophecy, or incantation that transgure the body. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff responds to news of Catherines death by crying out, I pray one prayerI repeat it until my tongue stiffensCatherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed youhaunt me then! (167). Catherine, who appears in the novels opening pages as a ghost, appears to fulll Heathcliffs vehement request. Incantation is often linked to the power of words to invoke the dead and implicate the living in this act of resuscitation. While at Wuthering Heights, Lockwoods repetition of the names inscribed on the windows ledgeCatherine Earnshaw . . . Catherine Heathcliff . . . Catherine Linton (17)and his perusal of Catherines childhood diary invokes Catherines ghost. Similarly, the reader is implicated in this dynamic of resurrection by bringing the words on the page to life. Words which, as I will describe momentarily, repeat like a metrical incantation a single aspiration of redeemed love. Bront reverses the trajectories of life and death as embodied by Catherine and Heathcliff: Catherine is revived as a ghost even as Heathcliff becomes a corpse: Oh, God! It is unutterable ! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! (167). By exhorting Catherine to

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


wake in torment, Heathcliff endows her with lifelike qualities. Her material existence is proven when, in the opening scene, she bleeds as a ghost. Heathcliff, on the other hand, reverts to a pre-verbal stage, splash[ing] . . . blood about the bark of the tree, and howling like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears(167). Upon Catherines death, the two lovers energetically exchange places in the narrative. In Wuthering Heights, Bront has made life-in-death (Catherine) and death-in-life (Heathcliff) an aesthetic possibility. II. Surge of Affect: formal effects Mortal regret is expressed in an array of structural features that transgure the form of Wuthering Heights and complement its internal acts of clutching, corpsing, exhumation, and incantation. Agent-regret produces the acts that express mortal regret on a level of plot and character; the surge of affect accompanying this emotion generates techniques that are expressive of mortal regret on a formal level. I will give a brief inventory of these structural features in Wuthering Heights. Bronts power to mesmerize has been felt since the publication of her novel in 1848; early reviewers complained that the novel cast a spell over them; and disliked the involuntary nature of their emotional response to the work. Many believe that Emily heard the voices she records in her poetry and in her ction (Chitham 43). In Wuthering Heights, Bront generates a dream-like fugue expressive of mortal regret. The connection between regret and dreaming is deceptively straightforward and functions on the level of desire: dreams, like regret narratives, are often an expression of wish fulllment. Freud writes that a dream is a reaction to an experience . . . which has left behind it a regret, a longing, a wish that has not been dealt with (Intro. 157). Bronts novel is stimulated by mortal regret and represents the fulllment of a wish (that the dead are not annihilated). The representational strategies in Wuthering Heights are analogous to those described by Freud in The Interpretation of Dreams as dream-work (condensation, displacement, dramatization, secondary revision). Below is an enumerated array of formal effects specic to mortal regret. 1) Aural and visual hallucinations (including ghosts, nightmares, and


visions) are reproduced in the structure of the narrative as well as in the plot. A ghost is an economical metaphor for regret. According to the sociologist Janet Landman, the ghost discloses the way in which the past has the power to haunt us in the present[;] it brings together the actual and the possible, the past and the present (80). Structurally, Catherines apparition contains within it the past, present, and future of the novel. The narrative neatly encapsulates this psychic tension when Catherine identies herself to Lockwood as Catherine Linton (not Catherine Earnshaw), even though her apparition is that of a young child (23). Her combined marital and mortal regret produces an identity that encompasses her childhood past with Heathcliff, her marital present with Edgar, and her maternal future in Cathy. A nightmare, according to Freud, is a failed dream. In Wuthering Heights, Lockwood has two nightmares linked by the theme of mortal regret. In Lockwoods rst nightmare, the famous Jabes Branderham, who preaches specically from the text, delivers the sermon in a chapel near a swamp whose peaty moisture is said to answer all the purposes of embalming on the few corpses deposited there (21). The act of embalming preserves a corpse from decay; Catherine, too, is preserved from oblivion by Lockwoods act of invocation. (In the plot, she is immaculately preserved in her grave for eighteen years). Lockwoods rst nightmare is directly related to the second; the rappings and counter-rappings in the chapel transmute into the rapping on the lattice that signals the arrival of Catherines ghost (22). Hallucinations splice memories into the real-time of the narrative. For example, Catherine hallucinates as she approaches death. She imagines that she is back in her childhood room, sees Heathcliff and speaks aloud to his apparition. Similarly, Nellys meditation on her childhood playmate Hindley produces a visionfresh as realityof him lifting up his face and staring straight into hers (108). This power to conjure the dead parallels Nellys act of storytelling and duplicates the image-making activity in which we as readers are already engaged. 2) Mortal regret is expressed in the reversals of embodiment that take place in the narrative: in Wuthering Heights, the dead assume more weight and density than the living. Although the story passes through many bodies, Bront gives us the

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


impression that her narratorsLockwood, Nelly, Isabella, Zillahare mediums simply channeling the story to the reader. The transparency of these narrators is in direct contrast to the physicality of Catherines ghost. For instance, Heathcliff experiences the dead Catherine as though she were a living thing in esh and blood . . . a substantial body in the dark (290). Similarly, though the voices of Catherine and Heathcliff reach us only through others, they become central to the novel in a way that others do not. Wuthering Heights begins with a transparent gure (Catherines ghost) that is solidied through a gradual process of accretion: Heathcliffs desperate desire to see Catherinefullled upon his death at the end of the novelis the central animus of the plot. 3) Mortal regret is expressed in acts of duplication and superimposition. In Wuthering Heights, scenes of mortal loss are placed over each other like a set of transparencies. Catherines pivotal experience of mortal regret is expressed in this fragment from her childhood diary: My head aches, till I cannot keep it on the pillow . . . Poor Heathcliff! Hindley . . . says, he and I must not play together, and threatens to turn him out of the house if we break his orders (20). This earlier scene is then overlaid with Catherines memory of the event: I was a child; my father was just buried, and my misery arose from the separation that Hindley had ordered between me and Heathcliff. In this second version of events, Catherines initial two lossesthe death of her father, and her separation from Heathcliffare superimposed in the narrative. Catherine remembers corpsing: I was laid alone, for the rst time, anticipating her nal, if exible, experience of the same (125). The combined effect of these layered perceptions exceeds their individual signicance. Narratives of mortal regret proceed, then, both linearly and cumulatively. Although each layer constitutes a loss, the collective effect of the overlaid scenes is one of increasing plenitude. Bront reverses the process whereby the mourner experiences the loss of a loved one as a diminishment of her world. Each retelling of the story adds to, rather than subtracts from, the amplitude of Catherines presence in the narrative. 4) Mortal regret is expressed through acts of physical, mental, and structural re-visitation. Regret means re-visiting a situation; hence, it means repetition and circling back. In Wuthering Heights, the entrance and exit of characters gen-


erates the narrative frame. Lockwood, who records the storys sequel when he returns to Wuthering Heights a year later, duplicates Heathcliffs own act of exit and reentrance. Lockwoods unobstructed admittance on his second visit to Wuthering Heights augurs the great improvements he finds inside (308). Similarly, the reader is repeatedly asked to revisit scenes of mortal loss. Through the acts of departure and return, the narrative expresses the fantasy motivating mortal regret: that the departed do return to life. As a psychic form of re-visitation, mortal regret is expressed in mental ashbacks: Heathcliffs yearning produces Catherines apparition as desire takes form: the appearance of ghosts at the beginning and end of the novel emphasizes the rewind or replay aspect of the narrative. Mortal regret can be intensied by combining two or more formal effects: structural ashbacks can participate in the acts of superimposition and subtraction. In a pivotal point in the novel, Catherines marital regret (over marrying Edgar) is combined with her mortal regret (over losing Heathcliff). This mental ashbackinstigated by a quarrel between Edgar and Heathcliffcauses a fainting t that leaves her corpsing on the oor. Catherines paroxysm of despair is brought about by a thought that kept recurring and recurring till [she] feared for her reason. This thoughtthat she was back in her oak-panelled bed at home (125), connects the past and future scenes of her loss; the turning of Catherines mind brings the shards of her regret to the surface of the narrative. 5) Mortal regret can be registered in the narrative as moments of structural aporia. Catherines fainting ts, for example, are expressed as symbolic lapses in the narrative. As Catherine faints, the plot, too, collapses: as she fantasizes that her marriage to Edgar and her rise as mistress of Thrushcross Grange have been expunged, the narrative suspends the distinction between the past and present scenes of her regret. Catherine recounts:
supposing at twelve years old I had been wrenched from the Heights, and every early association, and my all in all, as Heathcliff was at the time, and been converted at a stroke into Mrs. Linton, the lady of Thrushcross Grange, and the wife of a stranger; an exile, an outcast, thenceforth,

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights

from what had been my worldYou may fancy the abyss in which I groveled! (125)


Catherines loss of consciousness is expressed by an abyss in the story: Bront records a lapse of three days (the length of time that Catherine and Heathcliff take to die) before Nelly resumes the narrative. 6) Mortal regret can be expressed by the polyvocality of a narrative. In Wuthering Heights, Lockwoods written account of Nellys oral account is interspersed with his attempts to tell the story in her words, only a bit condensed. In Bronts novel, layers of voices, many overheard or imagined, repeat what has already been heard. These echoes reverberate in a plot that doubles back on itself (returning to the same place at different times), and is doubled by a second generation that shadows the rst. These intermingling voices produce images that move forwards and backwards in time. Bront thus mimics the mental pattern of agents experiencing mortal regret: the act of retrospection (ashback) is combined with acts of restoration (superimposition, doubling) that resurrect a dearly loved person. 7) Mortal regret can be expressed by acts of addition and subtraction that affect it at every level. Using a process Scarry calls dyadic subtraction Bront produces the impression of violent movement in the novel by juxtaposing images in a compressed temporal sequence: two pictures appear in the mind, bang, bang, two acts of imagistic assertion, with the second simply erasing or subtracting the rst (103). In my analysis of mortal regret, these vanishing images leave a ghostly impression in the text that can be revivied. Such acts of mental or affective reproduction are paralleled in Wuthering Heights by acts of biological reproduction. A carefully calibrated sequence of deaths whittle the plot to its nal skeletal structure. The deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw, the elder Lintons, Frances, Isabella, Hindley, and Linton are all instrumental to the novels nal outcome. Ultimately, two pairs of lovers, the second reduplicating the rst, are left in the text. By allowing both Catherine and Heathcliff, as spirits that walk the earth, and Cathy and Hareton, as their physical representatives, to exist simultaneously in the text, Bront reafrms the persistence of love beyond death.


8) Mortal regret is expressed in the spatial shape of the novels structure. Bronts box-in-a-box narrative and the geographical xity of its setting gives Wuthering Heights the spatial shape of a grave. Many smaller boxesCatherines closeted bed, the attic garret, the sliding-door casket, the walls enclosing Thrushcross Grangeare contained within this larger narrative structure. These physical enclosures produce sensations of entrapment and enclosure that mimic those of a living burial. Lockwood, for example, specically describes the younger Cathy as being buried alive in Wuthering Heights(11). 10) Mortal regret is expressed in the temporal and spatial condensation. Bront places external constraints on her narrative in order to intensify the emotions within it. By limiting the setting of Wuthering Heights to the Yorkshire moors and two intermarrying families, Bront ensures that each person who dies is kin and must be mourned. Bront never portrays events beyond the boundaries of this narrative frame; the reader is enclosed within its limits. Catherine never leaves its geographical bounds, even after death. Instead, the boundaries crossed in Wuthering Heights are largely metaphysical. In contrast to the closed and limited space of Yorkshire society, the passion between Catherine and Heathcliff is portrayed as innite, immortal, and unlimited by the wills of others. In Wuthering Heights opposing events are juxtaposed so that one affective state (such as joy) exists with its opposite (such as grief). As a result, no transformative event is accomplished without an equally transforming loss: whenever someone is added to the immediate plot (Frances, Hareton, Linton, Cathy) someone else is subtracted (Mr. Earnshaw, Frances, Isabella, Catherine). Narrative time is ordered by grief and grievances, so that even when critical events diverge at the level of plot, they converge in narrative time. For example, funerals converge with weddings and deaths coincide with births: Hindley introduces his wife at his fathers funeral, and the death of the elder Lintons is told consecutively with Catherines marriage to their son Edgar. Bronts slamming together of joy and grief reaches an apotheosis when Catherine dies while giving birth to her daughter Cathy, and when Cathy is forced to marry Linton as her father Edgar dies. Mortal regret accelerates the processes of novelistic evolution. The temporal overlap be-

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


tween lives rapidly shortens, coalescing midway at Catherines death/Cathys birth, and gradually lengthening as the novel reaches the reparative quiescence of its ending. This equation reiterates the central dynamic of the novel, which tracks the moving away and moving together of Catherine and Heathcliff from their initial separation to their nal union in death. In Wuthering Heights, the afterlife exists within the temporal structure of the narrative. The appearance of Catherines ghost in the opening scene places the afterlife of the story before its inception. As the ends and origins of the narrative become reversed, death is re-imagined as a generative state. Catherine explicitly repudiates Christian conventions of salvation:
I dreamt once that I was [in heaven] . . . heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they ung me out, into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights where I woke sobbing for joy (80).

Catherines vision of heaven can be compared with Heathcliffs epiphany of hell as a life without Catherine: Two words could comprehend my future, death and hellexistence, after losing her, would be hell (149). Bronts narrative reverses the traditional concepts of heaven and hell, replacing them with an afterworld that can accommodate earthly passion. III. Reparation : narrative closure
I am the family face; Flesh perishes, I live on, Projecting trait and trace Through times to times anon, And leaping from place to place Over oblivion (Hardy, Heredity)

Bront uses biological reproduction in Wuthering Heights as a generative process that preserves the past in the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff and perpetuates the future in the second generation of Cathy and Hareton. The act of inheritance in the novel transfers both physical resem-


blance and symbolic afnity between generations of characters. Bront uses what Hardy, in The Well-Beloved, calls hereditary persistence to launch an attack on the limits of mortality, while at the same time remaining faithful to the passage of time in the novel. In Wuthering Heights, one generation usurps anothers place in the narrative. Through this simple evolutionary mechanism, Bront anticipates Darwins own obsession with mortality. According to the psychoanalyst Adam Phillips, Darwin is haunted by irredeemable loss . . . It is starkly . . . adapt or die, and the adaptation itself, even if successful, involves suffering the loss of previously successful adaptations (89). That this same adaptive process is at work in Wuthering Heights is evident from the painful nature of the plot.8 The fact that most editions of Wuthering Heights include a genealogical table is evidence of the integral part kinship plays in the plot. In a process I call reproductive reparation, Bront uses childbirth to replenish the plot with a new generation of characters that will carry out the reparative process. The success of the generation represented by Hareton and Cathy is predicated on the loss of that represented by Catherine and Heathcliff. While acknowledging the success of Cathy and Haretons marriage at the end of the novel, readers regret that the deaths of Catherine and Heathcliff are necessary to a satisfactory resolution to the plot. We thus experience regret and reparation simultaneously. Bront uses heredity to produce characters that resemble each other, both physically and structurally. Gillian Beers observation that evolutionism tended to authorize narrative[s] which emphasized cause and effect, then, descent and kin (6) is borne out by the plot of Wuthering Heights. Reproduction, as literal childbirth, links the bloodlines of the rst generation to the second, establishing a direct line between cause and effect in the novel. Bront transforms what Phillips calls the by now commonplace ideas that childhood and sexuality are a locus of human suffering and that daily life is a competitive struggle for survival (13) into the genealogical equation that produces the narrative. By tracing the mortal regrets of the bereaved, Bront shows how specic deaths (of mothers, fathers, sons, brothers, wives, sisters, in-laws, lovers) alter the structure of the plot, and irrevocably change the life of survivors. In general, the second generation acts to repair the mortal regrets of the rst. Catherine suffers mortally from marital regret; however,

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


it is her daughter and namesake Cathy who is given the opportunity of a second marriage. Heathcliff cant possess Catherine after her marriage to Edgar Linton; however, his symbolic son Hareton will marry Cathy, the widow of a Linton (Linton Heathcliff). The reparative riddle of Wuthering Heights is already embedded in its opening sequence. Together, the novels two inscriptionsthe date 1500 and the name Hareton Earnshaw carved over the door at Wuthering Heights, and the names Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, Catherine Linton etched into the ledge of Catherines bedroom windowoffer a key to the resolution of the plot.9 Haretons restoration of the Earnshaw line and Cathys symbolic reversal of her mothers life-path ultimately fullls the promise of reproductive reparation in the text.10 Bront rst presents us, however, with a family romance that is internally disordered: Lockwoods prescient confusion over the kin relations at Wuthering Heights emphasizes the current disordered state of the Earnshaw family. Mothers as living presences are noticeably absent in Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff is an orphan, and his stepmother, who is ready to ing him out of doors, dies soon after his arrival (35). Parturition in Wuthering Heights is a potentially deadly experience. The three mothers who give birth in the text (Frances, Catherine, Isabella) do not live long enough to usher their children into adulthood; the rst two die shortly after giving birth and the thirdwho lives for twelve years after the birth of her childis never shown in her maternal role. Instead, the mother becomes a metaphor for the artist, overseeing the work of embodiment at the level of the text itself. In Wuthering Heights, only Nelly, the housekeeper, becomes what the psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott calls a good enough mother to the orphans of the second generation (Hareton, Cathy, Linton), and this capacity is linked to her reparative function as our narrator. Children who cry in the novel are almost never consoled.11 Men (fathers, husbands) who ordinarily inspire trust instead cause fear and dread: Hareton sobs with terror when his father attempts to touch him (75); Isabella weeps to go home the very morrow of her wedding to her husband (150). Expectant mothers are not attuned to their bodies or to an infants distress. Catherine behaves irresponsibly (becoming agitated, starving herself) while in the last stages of her pregnancy. Although Isabella is herself pregnant, she cannot tolerate the constant wail of


Catherines infant (169). Mothers die in childbirth; babies cannot bond with their mothers. Of Cathys birth, Nelly remarks, An unwelcome infant it was, poor thing! It might have wailed out of life, and nobody cared a morsel, during those rst hours of existence (164). In response, the second generation overcompensates for the neglect of their parents with acts of greedy desire. Bront emphasizes Isabellas disgust when Hareton commence[s] drinking and spilling [milk] from the expansive lip of the pitcher. Despite her expostulations the infant rufan continued sucking . . . as he slavered into the jug (ital. mine 142). Linton Heathcliff insists on drinking boiled milk instead of the customary porridge; the current housekeeper complains that he must have always milk, milk for ever (211); Heathcliff complains that his biological son has been reared on snails and sour milk (207). The frustration of primary instincts in Wuthering Heights threatens the safety of the characters and interferes in the processes of reproduction so necessary to a satisfactory resolution of the plot. Catherine and Heathcliffs orphaned status and the hostility of their home environment intensify their need to cling to each other for survival; their identity with each other is bred in the violence and threat of childhood (Sedgwick 11). Although the reproductive processes at work in the plot eventually creates balance and order in the text, this does not occur until its many variations are played-out through the interactions of characters. In order to achieve nal reparation in the narrative, Bront must generate a set of emotionally stable characters capable of integrating into the community at large. Ultimately, the death of Bronts main protagonists will liberate resources that secondary characters (namely Cathy and Hareton) need to survive and ourish in the narrative. Bront portrays a population that is homogenous and even incestuous, in the sense that it operates within an excessively closed circle. Even Lockwood complains of the dearth of the human physiogamy in Northern Yorkshire (90). In order for Bronts generational plan to be successful, she must import characters from outside this tightly-knit community. Mr. Earnshaw and Hindley both introduce a stranger (Heathcliff and Frances, respectively) into Wuthering Heights. The origins of these strangers are obscured; Heathcliff is picked up in a Liverpool slum, and no one knows what [Frances] was [nor] where she was born (41). Heath-

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


cliff and Frances are brought into the insular community to insure an exogamous propagation of the plot through the birth of a second generation. On the other hand, Bront challenges biology by privileging symbolic substitutions in her narrative. Heathcliff substitutes for Mr. Earnshaws dead son; Catherine is closer to Heathcliff than to her natural brother, Hindley; Nelly is a surrogate mother for both Hareton and Cathy after the death of their mothers; Heathcliff supplants Hindley as Haretons surrogate father. These symbolic substitutions generate possibilities that test the limits of social and moral propriety.12 Although Bront keeps the genealogical link between the two families as close as possible without overtly violating any incest taboos (the nal marriage that occurs is between two first cousins), the love between Catherine and Heathcliff has such strong connotations of incest that some critics see its prohibition as the major obstacle separating the two lovers.13 Because Bront gives equal weight to symbolic and biological factors in determining kinship, it is not a question of whether or not the incest taboo is operative between Catherine and Heathcliff, but how. The strength of their attachment is made manifest in the bloodlines of the narrative, but not in the way these analyses suggest. Catherines bleeding apparition, Heathcliffs bloody attacks against himself and others, and Heathcliffs bloodless corpse all point to a relationship between the lovers that produces consanguinity even as it transcends this relation. Heathcliff transforms his longing for Catherine into a visceral experience by acting violently on his own body and the bodies of others. His acts of violence are motivated by his grief over Catherines death. During an anguished vigil as she dies, Heathcliff dashes his head against the knotted trunk [of an old ash tree] . . . splash[ing] blood about the bark (167). After viewing Catherines corpse, Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights only to foil an assassination attempt. He leaves his adversary Hindley senseless with excessive pain . . . the ow of blood . . . gush[ing] from an artery, or a large vein (177). When his wife Isabella taunts him with Catherines death, Heathcliff snatches a dinner knife and inicts a deep cut under her ear, which only the cold prevent[ed] from owing freely (181, 170). Later, Heathcliff strikes Cathy, her mouth, lling with blood (281), because she refuses to relinquish a locket with portraits of Catherine and Edgar inside. Heathcliff is both the central mourner and the central moral problem in


Wuthering Heights. His prolonged anguish over Catherines death and his meticulously executed plan of revenge produce the novel: the violence he inicts on secondary characters is made necessary to a successful outcome to the plot. Only Heathcliff ever draws blood in the novel, and he does so in order to entice Catherines shade to appear to him. These injuries constitute a sacricial offering to the dead. Homer specically describes such a practice in the Odyssey: Odysseus, voyaging to Hades to consult with the soothsayer Tirsias, must rst assuage the dead by slaughtering a ram and an ewe. After letting their black blood stream into the well pit (XI. 39), the shades gather in such numbers that Odysseus must draw his sword to keep / the surging phantoms from the bloody pit (XI.52). Grief saturates this episode in the Odyssey: rst, because Odysseus and his men are yet again deviated from their homeward course, and secondly, because they must confront and grieve for their own dead. Odysseus learns of his own mothers death in this episode. To his grief, however, she remains seemingly aware of his presence. As Tiresias explains, she must rst imbibe the blood: Any dead man/ whom you allow to enter where the blood is/ will speak to you, and speak the truth; but those/ deprived will grow remote and fade(XI.1647). Similarly, Heathcliff repeatedly draws blood to make Catherine aware of his presence and to be able to converse with her extraterrestrialy. He feeds Catherines soul with the nourishment it needs to remain a vivid presence in the narrative. In Wuthering Heights, blood becomes both a marker of kinship and a verication of life. In this way, the threat of incest inherent in the relationship between the two lovers is tied to the supernatural fact of Catherines bleeding apparition. Bront creates lovers who confound all conventional boundaries. Heathcliff and Catherine transcend the blood relation that would incriminate them while at the same time symbolically fullling its requirements. In their many incarnations, Heathcliff and Catherine share an array of intimate relations (brother and sister, mother and son, father and daughter). This multiplicity of experience gives them privileged access to the future. Together, Heathcliff and Catherine must act to engender and restore the narrative through their nal union. Before reparation can occur, however, Heathcliff and Catherine must exorcise the regrets that haunt the narrative and impede plot resolution. These regrets are those that separated the lovers in life. By so doing,

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


Bront ingeniously refashions the chasteness of her lovers into an impediment, rather than a crime. The transgressions of Catherine and Heathcliff are those of love, not sex. In the context of Catherine and Heathcliffs relationship, chaste has two meanings. The rst refers to Catherine and Heathcliffs sexual restraint: their regrets are rst directed towards the missed opportunity represented by their unconsummated love. Although Catherine and Heathcliff were forcibly separated as children, Bront makes it clear that they alone are responsible for their second separation: Heathcliff departs Wuthering Heights, and Cathy marries Edgar Linton despite the fact that shes convinced its wrong. The second meaning of chaste is connected to the act of chastening.14 When Catherine and Heathcliff are reunited after their estrangement, each bitterly reproaches the other: Heathcliff asks, Why did you betray your own heart Cathy? Catherine sobs in response, You left me too; but I wont upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive me! (161). In this scene of mutual chastening, both lovers take responsibility for the actions that caused each other anguish and produced the marital regrets (Catherine and Edgar/ Heathcliff and Isabella) that obstruct the narratives ow. The act of reproach links the drives of regret and reparation together, making reconciliation between the lovers a possibility for the rst time. This scene of forgiveness clears the way for the reparative acts that follow. Although Catherine and Heathcliff do not reproduce biologically, their reconciliatory reunion generates the symbolic and structural resemblances that characterize the relation of the rst generation to the second. As we have already seen, Bront uses the trope of resemblance to express the continuity between the two generational plots. Haretons physical resemblance to both Heathcliff and Catherine is stronger than that to his natural parents, Hindley and Frances. And young Cathy not only physically resembles her mother Catherine, but also displays her spirit in defying Heathcliff. Although the symbolic afnities between the rst and second generation do not outweigh hereditary persistence in the novel, they are suggestive of a figurative process whereby Heathcliff, and even Catherine, become godparents to the three offspring. In order for reparation to occur, the thing that is lost must be duplicated or re-instituted. Therefore, Cathy, Linton, and Hareton must reenact the love triangle of the rst generation comprised by Catherine, Edgar, Heath-


cliff. This reenactment constitutes a correction of Heathcliffs prior experience, specifically that of his departure from Wuthering Heights and Catherines marriage to Edgar Linton.15 Through Heathcliffs revenge plan, Bront recreates the circumstances that caused the regrets of her original pair. Bront does not choose to revise the initial scene of Heathcliffs separation from Catherine in their childhood, rather, she chooses to reconstruct the state of affairs caused by their second separation, a situation for which they must accept moral responsibility. Heathcliff acts as Brontes agent when he manipulates the marital arrangements of the second generation. In order for reparation to occur, it is not sufcient that Cathy marry Hareton straight away; rather, Cathy must first marry Linton in order to reduplicate the circumstances of Catherines marital regret. In this replay, however, Catherine/Cathy will not die before reparation can be achieved. Instead, Catherine and Heathcliff, through the gures of Cathy and Hareton, will recongure the plot so as to correct it. When Cathys rst husband (Edgar/Linton) dies, this opens up the reparative possibility of a second marriage. Thus, Cathy marries her true love Hareton, and Catherine and Heathcliff are reunited in the afterlife. The structural similarity between the two generations allows for a symbolic correction of past experience; the resemblances between characters transform Heathcliffs plan of revenge into one of reparation. As the novel draws to a close, Heathcliff is increasingly agitated by Cathys and Haretons resemblance to Catherine. Gazing after Hareton, he mutters, It will be odd, if I thwart myself! . . . But when I look for his father in his face, I nd her everyday more! How the devil is he so like? I can hardly bear to see him (303). While surveying Cathys face, Heathcliff yells out, What end possesses you to stare back at me, continually, with those infernal eyes? Down with them! And dont remind me of your existence again (318). Heathcliff is further disarmed when the pair of Hareton and Cathy lift their eyes together, to encounter [him] because their eyes are precisely . . . those of Catherine Earnshaw (322). Through Hareton and Cathy, Catherine directs Heathcliffs actions from beyond the grave, seeking to prevent the repetition of their tragedy. The generations are inextricably linked: Catherine and Heathcliffs reunion in the afterlife depends on the successful resolution of their mortal regrets. Since Catherine is dead, reparation can only be achieved through their living proxies. Thus, Catherine and Heathcliff must together generate

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


a happy ending for Cathy and Hareton. After death, Catherineincomparably beyond and above it all (164)becomes privy to the structure of Bronts overall plan. She offers a transcendent view that complements Heathcliffs earth-bound perspective. These two viewpointsone alive, one deadgenerate the tension between freewill and predetermination in the novel. Heathcliff, too, begins to realize the existence of an intelligent design that transcends his own. Drawing closer to death, Heathcliff begins to see himself in Hareton, and Catherine in Cathy. These moments of identication, which come thick and fast in the last chapter of the novel, deter Heathcliff from inicting physical violence against the pair. At one point when Heathcliff seems ready to tear Cathy into pieces, he controls the impulse as he gaze[s] intently in her face (320). Heathcliff later confesses to Nelly that Hareton seems a personication of [his] youth, not a human being, and that his startling likeness to Catherine connect[s] him fearfully with her (323324). Heathcliff explains that in his singleminded pursuit of Catherine he has lost the faculty of enjoying [the] destruction of Hareton and Cathy (323). Finding himself unable to react with vengeance, Heathcliff cries out, referring to Catherine: By God! Shes relentless. Oh, damn it! Its unutterably too much for esh and blood to bear, even mine (334). The New Years Day wedding between Cathy and Hareton marks the successful completion of their reparative task. The vision of the little sheperd boyTheys Heathcliff and a woman, yonder, under tNab . . . un Aw darnut pass em(336)16suggests that the lovers have already escaped their graves to haunt the moors. Catherines mortal regret, her decline, and death are the subject of the novels rst half, Heathcliffs mourning over Catherines death the subject of its second. Both parts taken together are essentially generative and reparative: Bront extends the working-through of their mortal regrets into the second generation.17 Catherines mortal regret in the rst half of the novel sets in motion the reparative possibilities of the second; the imaginative act of generating alternatives or practice-runs is integral to this process. The reproduction of a second generation that parallels the rst in name, number, and social position is another way that Bront increases the alternatives available for a reparative resolution of the plot. On another level, the reproductive reparation at work in Bronts novel


is paralleled by the generativity of its internal structure. Wuthering Heights has long been seen as in some sense generically problematical (Gilbert and Gubar 249). Queenie Leavis believes that Bront made a number of false starts in writing the novel, and that these have become submerged, though not assimilated, in the nal work (205). Most critics identify Wuthering Heights with a number of different genres, and usually with more than one.18 The multiplicity of generic structures within the novel is another aspect of the essential productivity of the regret form. Mortal Regret is procreative in multiple registers. In Wuthering Heights, Bront examines transformation, even metamorphoses, within the context of human mortality. Unlike in the traditional bildungsroman, death in Wuthering Heights is not an ending. In Wuthering Heights, Catherines apparition, and the sighting of Catherines and Heathcliffs ghosts near the church, and on the moor, and even within th[e] house (336), are evidence that death does not necessarily signal closure. Bront enlarges the scope of the nineteenth-century novel by extending the education of her heroine past her death, and by portraying a passionate love that exceeds materiality. Bront turns vehement grief into a perpetual process of renewal and revitalization: by resisting the limits of mortality she proves, in Heathcliffs words, that the dead are not annihilated! (334).

1. In a letter written after Annes death, Charlotte writes, A year agoa prophet warned me how I should stand in June 1849how stripped and bereavedhad he foretold the autumn, the winter, the spring of sickness and suffering to be gone throughI should have thoughtthis can never be endured. It is over. BranwellEmilyAnne are gone like dreamsgone as Maria and Elizabeth went twenty years ago. One by one I have watched them fall asleep on my armand closed their glazed eyesI have seen them buried one by one andthus farGod has upheld me. From my heart I thank Him (Fraser 326). I consider the albatross in Coleridges The Rime of the Ancient Mariner a straightforward example of a transformational object because the unmotivated killing of the sea-bird physically alters the environment and causes mass death aboard the ship. The ancient mariner, like Heathcliff, is subsequently cursed by the spirit of Life-in-Death who thicks mans blood with cold (11). Like Heathcliff, the ancient mariner cannot


Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


sleep or die until he does penance for his act, which, ttingly, includes repeating his narrative of mortal regret to the Wedding Guest. Coleridges poem bears many thematic and structural similarities with Bronts Wuthering Heights. These similarities will become more evident as my essay progresses. 3. Shelley links Frankensteins galvanic experiments to the death of his mother, who reappears in a dream just as the monster comes to life: I thought I held the corpse of my dead mother in my arms; a shroud enveloped her form, and I saw the grave -worms crawling in the folds of annel (57). I am indebted to my colleague Judy Smith for this reference. Characteristically Bront resists and revises contemporary mourning conventions in her novel: it is the dead Catherine, rather than the living Heathcliff, that will possess the memento mori. Moreover, Nelly, in her function as narrator, symbolically creates the hairwork that determines the novels plot. The central core of Hardys story is about a young sculptor who pursues throughout his life a migrating spirit he calls the Well-Beloved embodied serially by three generations of women identically named Avice Caro. The sculptor, Pearston (1892)/ Pierston (1897), becomes romantically involved with the grandmother, mother, and daughter of the same Portsmouth family sequentially; it is at the funeral of each successive woman that Pearston senses the transmigration of the Well-Beloved into another genetically similar body. This kind of reproduction is paralleled at the authorial level; Hardy wrote two versions of the same story produced in different formats: The Pursuit was published serially in 1892; The Well Beloved as a novel in 1897. Catherine and Heathcliff act out at the level of plot what Elaine Scarry calls Bronts technique of hands-on instruction (139). According to Scarry, the violence of Bronts writing extends to the way in which mental images are generated in the novel: the folding, stretching, and shaking seem as though they are carried out on live persons rather than on images. . . . Bront . . . concentrates on the susceptibility of mental images to being reached and acted on by the human hand (139). According to Melvin Watson, two contemporary reviewers (Atlas, XXIII, 1848, 59; and Examiner, January 8, 1848, pp.2122) objected to the painfulness of the story (41), and Dorothy Van Ghent refers to the quality of feeling in Wuthering Heights, in G.D. Klingopuloss words, as the quality of suffering (156). These riddling inscriptions contribute to Gilbert and Gubars assessment of Wuthering Heights as a famous nineteenth-century literary puzzle (249). Frank Kermode de-

4. 5.






scribes the inscriptions as a hermeneutic code, something that promises, and perhaps after some delay provides, explanation (216); J. Hillis Miller calls them materials inviting interpretation (43). I prefer to describe them as the blueprint or genetic code of the novel, because they encapsulate events that will unfold gradually over the course of the narrative: 10. Frank Kermode gives a ne description of the signicance of the ordering of Catherines names: when you have processed all the information you have been waiting for you see the point of the order of the scribbled names, as Lockwood gives them. Read from left to right they recapitulate Catherine Earnshaws story; read from right to left, the story of her daughter, Catherine Linton (218). 11. When, as a spirited and occasionally naughty child, Catherine tries to make it up to her father, he rejects her by telling her he cannot love her: That made her cry, at rst; and then, being repulsed continually hardened her (41). 12. The possibilities include that of incest between brother and sister (HeathcliffCatherine), a strong bond of love between a servant and her masters son (Nelly and Hindley), an adulterous love between a married woman and her adopted brother (Heathcliff-Catherine), and a free-love sexual arrangement (Catherine, Edgar, Heathcliff). Although Bront never makes any of these conjectures explicit in the novel, they have been the basis of much critical and aesthetic speculation. For example, Eric Solomon points to Heathcliffs abrupt and ill-explained arrival at Wuthering Heights, and his persistent claim to the family property, as evidence that he is Mr. Earnshaws illegitimate son (80); John Wheatcroft writes a novel, Catherine, her book, that elaborates on the possibility of a sexual relationship between Hindley and Nelly; Luis Buuels 1954 lm adaptation of Wuthering Heights, Abismos de Pasin, makes the love between Catherine and Heathcliff explicitly adulterous, and Patsy Stoneman links Catherines proposal of a love triangle between herself, Heathcliff, and Edgar, to the famous manifesto of free love in Shelleys Epipsychidion (45). Thomas Moser even suggests that Heathcliff is the biological father of all three children (Hareton, Linton, Cathy) of the second generation.The capacity of Wuthering Heights to generate conjecture both internally, within the plot (as Lockwood does) and externally, (as readers, critics and artists have done) is a characteristic feature of the regret genre. 13. Queenie Leavis believes that clearly, Heathcliff was originally the illegitimate son and Catherines half-brother, which would explain why . . . Catherine never really thinks of him as a possible lover either before or after marriage (206). Kathyrn B. McGuire, on the other hand, believes that the issue of whether Catherine and Heathcliff are related by blood is irrelevant because what is essential is that they were raised as brother and sister(217).

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


14. The OED links the adjective chaste (Abstaining from unlawful or immoral or all sexual intercourse; pure, virginal) to the verb chasten: (1. Esp. of God: discipline, punish by inicting suffering, chastise. 2. Render pure, in character or style). The idea of punishing, or purifying, by inicting suffering seems integral to the scenes of chastening between Catherine and Heathcliff. The use of chasten as a religious term seems consistent with Bronts transfer of divine properties to Catherine and Heathcliff throughout Wuthering Heights. 15. In his analysis, Norman Lavers focuses on the moment at which Catherine has married Edgar Linton, and Heathcliff has vanished. He argues that in the second generation, Cathy, Hareton, and Linton take the roles of Catherine, Edgar, and Heathcliff, respectively. One of Lavers claims, however, is that Heathcliff ensures that the situation is going to come out properly by turning Linton into a gentleman (as Edgar is). This seems unconvincing, since Linton isnt much of a gentleman. Nonetheless, his basic argument conrms my view that the two parts of the novel are split between regret and reparation. 16. Although Nelly dismisses the scene as nonsense, she admits to being afraid of going out after dark, and being left alone at the Heights (337). 17. As Gilbert and Gubar observe, Catherines fall . . . [is] examined in a number of parallel stories, including some that have already been set in motion by Catherines death. Isabella, Nelly, Heathcliff, and Catherine IIin one way or another all these characters lives parallel (or even in a sense contain) Catherines, as if Bront were working out a series of alternative versions of the same plot (287). 18. To cite just one typical example, Hayley R. Mitchell, in his Introduction to Readings on Wuthering Heights writes, It contains elements of Romantic ction in its emphasis on folklore and the supernatural; Gothic ction in its demonic portrayal of Heathcliff and the themes of imprisonment; and Victorian Domestic ction, in which idyllic family and community relationships are the ultimate goal. In its combination of these traditions, and others, Wuthering Heights is in no way a conventional novel for its time (11).

Works Cited
Aris, Phillipe. Western Attitudes Toward Death from the Middle Ages to the Present. Trans. Patricia M. Ranum. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1974. Beer, Gillian, Darwins Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge U Press, 2000.


Bollas, Christopher. The Shadow of the Object: Psychoanalysis of the Unthought Known. New York: Columbia UP, 1989. Brodsky, Joseph. Introduction. The Essential Hardy. New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1995. Bront, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems. New York: Dover, 1992. Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems. Ed. Thomas H. Johnson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1960. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Experience. Selections. Ed. Stephen E. Whicher. Boston: Houghton Mifin Co., 1957. EuripidesThe Bacchae. Trans. Donald Sutherland. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 1968. Farr, Judith. The Passion of Emily Dickinson. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982. Fisher, Philip. The Vehement Passions. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2002. Fraser, Rebecca. The Bronts: Charlotte Bront and Her Family. New York: Fawcett Columbine,1988. Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams. Trans. James Strachey. New York: Basic Books,1953. . Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis. Trans., and Ed. James Strachey. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1966. Mourning and Melancholia. . Mourning and Melancholia. General Psychological Theory. Ed. and Introd. Philip Rieff. New York: Collier Books, 1963. 164179. Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979. Hardy, Thomas. The Complete Poems. Ed. James Gibson. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002 . The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved and The Well-Beloved. Ed.and Introd. Patricia Ingham. New York: Penguin, 1997.

Mortal Regret in Wuthering Heights


Kermode, Frank. Wuthering Heights. Critical Essays on Emily Bront. Ed. Thomas John Winnifrith. Boston: Twayne, 1997. 205215. Lavers, Norman. The Action of Wuthering Heights. Readings on Wuthering Heights. Literary Companion Series. Ed. Hayley R. Mitchell. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. 6168. Leavis, Queenie. A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights. Critical Essays on Emily Bront. Ed. Thomas John Winnifrith. 205215. Leighton, Angela. Victorian Women Poets. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992. McGuire, Kathyrn B. The Incest Taboo in Wuthering Heights: A Modern Appraisal. American Imago 45.2 (Summer 1998): 21724. Miller, J. Hillis. Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels. Oxford: Blackwell, 1982. Mitchell, Hayley R., ed. Readings on Wuthering Heights. Literary Companion Series. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Moser, Thomas. Wuthering Heights: Text, Sources, Criticism. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962. Phillips, Adam. Darwins Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories. New York: Basic Books, 2000. Plath, Sylvia. The Colossus and Other Poems. New York: Random House, 1962. Richardson, Robert D. Emerson: The Mind on Fire. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. Rossetti, Christina. The Complete Poems. Eds. R.W. Crump, Betty S. Flowers. New York: Penguin, 2001. Scarry, Elaine. Dreaming by the Book. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1999. Sebald,W.G. Rings of Saturn. New York: New Directions, 1999. Solomon, Eric. The Incest Theme in Wuthering Heights. Twentieth Century Interpretations of Wuthering Heights. Ed. Thomas Volger. Upper Saddle River, NJ: PrenticeHall, 1968 Miller, J. Hillis. Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels. Oxford: Blackwell, 1982.


Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. Ed. Maurice Hindle. New York: Penguin, 1992. Stoneman, Patsy. Introduction. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bront. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995. The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. Lesley Brown. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Van Ghent, Dorothy. On Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. Ed. Alastair Everitt. 156171. Wheatcroft, John. Catherine: her book. New York: Cornwall Books, 1983. Watson, Melvin R. Wuthering Heights and the Critics. Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. Ed. Alastair Everitt.111117.