Wuthering Heights: Eros, Pathos, or Philos

         Wuthering Heights, directed in 1939 by William Wyler and based on Emily Brontė's book written in 1847, is a very familiar story to me (it is my mom's favorite movie), but I find it to be very annoying in its portrayal of love. I feel some of the relationships are true love, while others are not; audiences tend to get the ones of true love, based largely on philos, and obsession or infatuation, based mainly on eros, mixed up.

         The main character, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), is apparently crazy in love with Catherine (Merle Oberon). He acts like a maniac about her, as he does in the book. He is so in love with her that he wants her to be miserable if he cannot have her. That creates a problem for me. Love is not jealous or controlling. It is patient. He does not love Catherine if he cannot wish her happiness no matter what. He holds her up on some pedestal that she can never live up to. This, to me, is obsession. He is obsessed with her because she is all he ever knew as a close friend. He would not take the time to give someone else a chance. He is indeed suffering from a surfeit of eros.

         Catherine, on the other hand, loves Heathcliff but loves herself enough that she knows that she deserves better. She marries Edgar and loves him, with a strong dose of philos. Love is a choice of the will. She chooses to love Edgar Linton (David Niven) even though a part of her heart stays with Heathcliff to the end. Edgar chooses to love Catherine even though he knows that she has a love for Heathcliff. I almost feel that her love for Heathcliff is partly based on pathos because she pities him. It is not her fault he is so messed up. She is being a friend to him.

         If Heathcliff and Catherine would have gotten together, they would have been one crazed love-hate relationship. Love and hate do not go together. They work against each other. Heathcliff does not truly love Catherine, or he would have let her go and understood why she has married Edgar, and he would not have been so determined to get revenge on everyone around him.

         True love, based largely on philos, is Edgar and Catherine choosing to love one another through everything. Infatuation, mainly based on eros, is Heathcliff holding onto this image he continues to have of Catherine as a little girl even into her older years.

Jennifer Enoch

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