Growing up, children encounter many things that shape their psychological development. Parents constitute the most prominent of these influences. But whether the development results from direct parental stimuli or indirect heredity is dubious, however some correlation definitely exists. While some children respond to their parents by mimicking them, others respond by retaliating and acting opposite as they were raised. In the latter case, the retaliation can sometimes result from a lack of attention, or separated parents, where one raises the child to loathe the other. Although the first generation of Wuthering Heights did not play an integral role in the physical upbringing of their children, the second generation still develops their personalities in response to their parents’ limited influence. This responsive development manifests within the characters of Linton, Hareton, and Cathy.
Admittedly, Catherine, Heathcliff, and Hindley, aren’t the soccer moms of today. Heathcliff does not even meet his son Linton until grown, only then because his mother Isabella dies. Because of paternal rights, Heathcliff gains custody of Linton. When Linton prepares to meet his father for the first time, he questions Nelly: “’And what is my father like? Is he as young and handsome as uncle?’ ’He’s as young,’ she replies, ’but he has black hair and eyes, and looks sterner, and he is taller and bigger altogether.’…’Black hair and eyes!’ mused Linton. ‘I can’t fancy him. Then I am not much like him, am I?’”(Bronte 152). Upon meeting his son, Heathcliff observes him as weak, sickly, and high strung, which strongly contrasts with ursine Heathcliff. Their contradictory personalities ultimately lead to a cold, empty relationship between father and son. Hindley’s son, Hareton, although brought up by his father after his mother dies during childbirth, later suffers the loss of his father also. Newly orphaned, Hareton falls into the hands of Heathcliff, who revels in the opportunity to take out his revenge on Hindley through his son, exclaiming to the boy, “’Now, my bonny lad, you are mine! And we’ll see if one tree won’t grow as crooked as another, with the same wind to twist it!’”(131). Finally, Catherine’s daughter Cathy, born “a puny, seven month’s child; and two hours after, the mother died, having never recovered sufficient consciousness to miss Heathcliff, or know Edgar” (121), relies solely on her father, Edgar to raise her. The complete absence of Catherine on her life allows her to avoid constant turmoil associated with her deceased mother. In the cases of all of the children, the limited interaction with their parents from Wuthering Heights enables them to grow into more mature beings, because “the tortured first generation of Wuthering Heights fail to develop a mature understanding of themselves and others- in fact, Catherine and Heathcliff actually shrink from full participation in adult life, regressing into the adolescent preoccupation with self and the desperate need to feel loved”(Federico, 1).
“’ But why have I never heard of him before?’ asked Linton. ’Why didn’t mamma and he live together, as other people do?’” (Bronte, 151). Having been raised by his mother Isabella alone, who desired to keep him away from his father, Linton grew up a refined, gentle boy. Upon Isabella’s death, however, he finally came to know his father Heathcliff, whom he previously knew nothing of. “’Do you know me’ asked Heathcliff…’No!’ said Linton…’You’ve heard of me, I dare say?’…’No,’ he replied again. ‘No? What a shame of your mother, never to waken your filial regard for me! You are my son, then, I’ll tell you; and your mother was a wicked slut to leave you in ignorance of the sort of father you possessed’”(153). Early on, Heathcliff insured that Linton would suffer and serve only as a means for revenge by “reversing the golden rule, he does to his son, Linton, what Hindley had tried to do to him. His words even echo those used earlier to describe him, as he calls Linton ‘my property,’ ‘it’ (Shapiro, 5). Despite Heathcliff’s attempts to turn Linton into a little version of him, Linton remains a product of his mother’s upbringing, which increases Heathcliff’s abhorrence of the boy, for he already had “an antipathy to the sound of his voice, and could not do at all with his sitting in the same room with him many minutes together”(Bronte, 155). Only when Heathcliff realizes the use Linton has for getting revenge on Edgar Linton through Cathy does he begin to foster a paternal attitude. Cathy’s love for Linton spurs from his needy attitude, which resulted from his father’s neglect. Seeing the human side of Linton, they start their romance, which was “typical of the adolescent absorption with romantic notions, and the fact that the relationship was taboo made it all the more alluring”(Federico, 4). Cathy’s devotion to Linton never dies until he does. Even though forced to marry Linton, Cathy stays with him, “prepared to accept the consequences of her situation by loving Linton in spite of Heathcliff”(4). In his romantic endeavors, Linton proved superior to his father, for he found the true affection his father desperately yearned for.
The next of the unfortunate orphans, Hareton Earnshaw never experienced real love while growing up. Raised by his father Hindley, whose only passions were drinking and seeking revenge, Hareton grew up to be like the one person his father truly hated: Heathcliff.
Having been put into the same situation his father placed Heathcliff into at his age; Hareton grew into “a gentler version of his oppressor and foster father, Heathcliff. Though Heathcliff does his best to make Hareton a tool of his revenge against the first Catherine’s brother Hindley Earnshaw, he succeeds instead in creating a reproduction of himself”(Woodford, 3). Even though Heathcliff realizes the parallelism between he and Hareton, he still “Brutalizes Hareton, as he was brutalized by Hindley, by cutting him off from ordinary humanity and denying him an education. He is even more monstrous then Hindley, however, because he realizes what he is doing”(Shapiro, 5). While living under Heathcliff, Hareton develops a defensive attitude as protection against embarrassment. Nelly remarked, “I perceived he was very sensitive to suspected slights, and had obviously a dim notion of his inferiority” (Bronte, 161). This inferiority sprung mostly from his inability to read, especially when confronted about it directly. “Hareton stared up, and scratched his head like a true clown. ‘It’s some damnable writing,’ he answered. ‘I cannot read it.’ ‘Can’t read it?’ cried Catherine. ‘I can read it…It’s English…but I want to know, why is it there’”(162). Already embarrassing situations were made worse by the constant taunting of Linton. In regard to Linton and Hareton’s relationship, Nelly remarked, “Hareton is not bad-natured, though he’s rough- they’re sure to part, one swearing, the other crying”(156). Despite all of the hostility and negativity surrounding him, Hareton manages to transcend his situation and find happiness with Cathy. They “eventually come to love with patience and understanding, but only after Heathcliff’s influence is removed”(Bell, 3). Heathcliff’s influence took priority over Hindley’s influence on Hareton because the negative attention from Heathcliff outweighed the rejection from his own father. Heathcliff’s attention to Hareton thrived solely on his desire to get back at Hindley, however, ultimately making Hindley the biggest impact on Hareton’s life, although in an extremely indirect way.
Finally, Cathy reflects her mother more than any of the other children. With Catherine dying immediately after the birth of Cathy, Cathy serves as a direct continuation of Catherine’s legacy. She shares many similarities to her mother, and “is in many ways a reincarnation of her mother. Though she is softened by the characteristics which she has inherited from her father”(Woodford, 2). The kindness and meek nature of Cathy’s father Edgar contributed greatly to Cathy’s improved personality over her mother’s. Cathy repaid her father for his caring upbringing by giving great loyalty to her father. When she learns of what Heathcliff did to her father, she declares to him, “‘I shan’t speak to you, Mr Heathcliff!’ answered Catherine. ‘Papa says you are a wicked man, and you hate both him and me; and Ellen says the same’”(Bronte, 171). When she learned about the situation between the residents of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, she failed to understand because her limited experience was “conversant with no bad deeds except her own slight acts of disobedience, injustice, and passion, rising from hot temper and thoughtlessness, and repented of on the day they were committed, was amazed at the blackness of spirit that could brood on, and cover revenge for years, and deliberately prosecute its plans, without a visitation of remorse”(164). In dealing with relationships, Cathy matured where her mother could not. “She parallels her mother in her ‘sunshine’ and in her imperiousness….But she differs from her mother also: as her relationship to Linton indicates, she is open to others, receptive to their needs”(Shapiro, 5-6). Additionally, “Cathy’s marriage to Hareton is in a sense a revision of her mother’s unsuccessful marriage to Edgar Linton…In young Cathy, Bronte gives us a woman whose acquired humility, patience, and affection yield what promises to be a satisfying marriage and a mutual broadening of experience”(Federico, 2). Cathy separates herself from her mother most noticeably with maturity level. “Catherine, especially, is not so much struggling to grow up as she is struggling not to”(1).
The generations of this book hold few similarities, serving as contrasts to each other as a way to trace the progression through the families. Even though few traits passed down from parents to their children, the children still fed off of parental influence, most in an indirect way. The second generation struggles to understand the passionate hatred their parents left to them. They are much more pacific than their parents were, and undeserving of the treatment they received merely for living. Ultimately, the kids paid the price for their parents’ misdeeds in life, all of them at one time falling under the cruel hands of Heathcliff, which was the uniting factor among the second generation.
Bell, Vereen M. “Wuthering Heights and the Unforgivable Sin.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Vol. 17, No. 2, September, 1962, pp. 188-91. Online. Galenet.
Shapiro, Arnold. “Wuthering Heights as a Victorian Novel.” Studies in the Novel. Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall, 1969. pp. 284-95. Online. Galenet.
Woodford, Donna C. “An Overview of Wuthering Heights.” Exploring Novels. Gale. 1998.