Heathcliff and Catherine, complex characters in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, are often referred to as “star-crossed lovers.” With the childhood that they each endured, Heathcliff and Catherine were destined to be together until the end, as it was portrayed in the novel’s conclusion when villagers described seeing their ghosts together on the moors. However, their “love” was not strong enough to sustain each other. The “love” said to have been shared by Heathcliff and Catherine was initially rooted in their detrimental upbringing. Sociopaths are those who disregard right from wrong, exploit others, and manipulate for personal gain or pleasure. These characters were obsessed with each other and with the control they wanted over others around them, indicative of a sociopathic aspect of this well-known relationship.
Heathcliff’s upbringing as a gypsy boy left on the road to then be brought up in a household of verbal abuse and hatred is not an appropriate environment for the development of a young boy. The theory in psychology known as “nature vs nurture” is a debate on which is most influential in a human’s development, “nature” (environment) or “nurture” (care). The environment they were brought up in made it difficult for the two to separate the need for love from the fear of abandonment which they both experienced in their separate ways. With his lack of faith, a young Heathcliff attached to Catherine as a means of comfort since she was the only woman that was suitable in the Earnshaw household. She welcomed Heathcliff upon his arrival and when Hindley would reprimand Heathcliff, Catherine would remain with open arms to comfort him resulting in his attachment to her and the knowledge that he would always be safe with Catherine. This statement is supported by Heathcliff claiming that he “shall writhe in the torments of hell.” His “hell” is life without Catherine where hell is a place of utter discomfort and torment without the woman with whom he found his comfort. With this in mind, Catherine and Heathcliff grew up in a harmful environment with Hindley where they only had each other for comfort.
The obsession with control is evident within the actions of the two when Catherine marries Edgar for the social status she would obtain and when Heathcliff marries Isabella in order to control both the properties of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Catherine chose Edgar despite her “love” for Heathcliff. She justifies it by saying marrying Heathcliff would “degrade” her though the money she would obtain by marrying Edgar would be used to help Heathcliff. Catherine, “on the brink of death,” confesses her want for control over Heathcliff when she says she wants to haunt him even after death. Heathcliff, as a result of Catherine’s death, accelerates his plot for revenge on those at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and tries to connect any way he can to Catherine. The obsession Heathcliff had to be connected to Catherine emanates from the psychological impact she had on him by choosing Edgar over him. Heathcliff’s actions are solely influenced by the loss of Catherine and the attachment he had with her since they were children.
The passion and obsession Heathcliff had for control was also symbolized by his forcing of Linton and Cathy’s marriage in order to control Thrushcross Grange. In the end, Heathcliff did not find the satisfaction in the control he had in each of the lives of those on Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. However, his “peace” soon came when Cathy and Hareton took a liking to each other since the two of them represented the previous generation of Catherine and Heathcliff. He decides to not continue with his vengeance due to the fact that he was reminded of himself and Catherine when they were younger. The foundation of his obsession was the fact that he never got the girl. With Hareton and Cathy becoming more than friends, Heathcliff realized that this was just as comparable and satisfying as himself ending up with Catherine would have been. Heathcliff asks Hareton “who ordered you to obey her?” when Catherine proposed the idea of planting flowers; showing the conflict yet again of Heathcliff trying to gain control over the girl who reminded him of the women he “loved.”
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is the story of Heathcliff and Catherine compelled by obsession and control of those around them as well as growing attached to each other from the beginning. They were driven to obtain all that they wanted through harmful actions that are characteristic of sociopaths rather than those in love. A sociopath is defined as one who disregards right from wrong, deceits in order to exploit others, and manipulate others for personal gain or pleasure. Both Heathcliff and Catherine used others in order to obtain the level of satisfaction they wished to have received from each other, Catherine moving up in the social ladder with Edgar and Heathcliff controlling everyone in Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange to make up for his lack of control over Catherine and her decisions.