Catherine: Cathy's Angel of Mercy

     At a surface glance one most likely does not detect the strong mother-daughter relationship between Catherine Earnshaw Linton and her daughter Catherine (Cathy) Linton since Catherine died shortly after giving birth to Cathy. Emily Brontë made clear in her 1847 novel Wuthering Heights the fact that Cathy inherited the best qualities of her mother. In this light Catherine's spirit still lived on, but if one delves deeper into the story, he or she can discover two mercifully motherly acts of Catherine which enabled Cathy to live. However, this argument does not hold true for William Wyler's 1939 film by the same title since Catherine (Merle Oberon) died childless.

     The first act is the most obvious, of course. An ailing Catherine was lying helplessly in the bedroom of the Linton home. Just before the life was drained from her, she gave birth prematurely to a little baby girl. Thus, she slipped off in to eternity but allowed the little girl to remain behind to live.

     Looking at this scene in a new light, one can see a mother's dying wish for her child to live. Catherine, in the agony she was in, could have chosen to end her misery and pain by taking her own life or by merely giving up and dying. In either case she would have taken her baby with her and never allowed her to live. But she chose not to do this. She chose to endure the suffering and bring her baby into the world--the world that she knew was slowly escaping from her.

     Cathy then grew up into a lovely young lady. As a girl she loved to run freely upon the moors just like her mother. She enjoyed all the luxuries of life with her adored father, but soon this happy life was cut short. Her father died, she was forced in to a marriage, and soon she fell under the control of Heathcliff. From then on life would never be the same.

     She began a sad and miserable life as a widow imprisoned at Wuthering Heights. The life she once knew had faded, and all hopes for happiness seemed to grow dimmer with each passing day. She was now an object of Heathcliff's revenge and was tormented by him day and night.

     Suddenly something miraculous happened. As if she heard her daughter's cries of misery, Catherine came back for Heathcliff, thus freeing Cathy. Heathcliff's spell was broken by Catherine's undying love. Once again harmony could reside at Wuthering Heights and its inhabitants could live in happiness. Cathy now was free to pursue a loving marriage with Hareton and experience all the joy that her mother never did. For the second time Catherine had set her daughter free to live.

     Comparing this novel to William Wyler's 1939 film by the same title, one can obviously see that this argument of the role Catherine played in Cathy's life does not hold up. In the film Catherine was not portrayed as this beautiful merciful angel because she died childless.

Christy Stephens

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