Catherine: Fighting or Fearing

     One of the biggest differences between the screenplay version of Wuthering Heights (1939), and the book version (1847), is the lack of emotion in the character of Catherine.

     The book Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontė, displays Catherine as a woman that shows her emotions very openly to all the people around her. When Heathcliff returns from his long mysterious trip, Catherine is not afraid to show the joy that she is feeling. She displays her joy even though she knows that her husband will disapprove of her interacting with somebody like Heathcliff. Catherine not only shows her emotions, but she also uses them to get things that she desires. When Edgar tells her that she must either give up him or Heathcliff, she pretends to have a fit so she will not answer the question. By showing extreme anger and acting as if she has become weak she manages to get Edgar to leave her alone.

     The 1939 movie version of Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, exhibits Catherine, as portrayed by Merle Oberon, to be a woman that is fearful of showing her emotions. She does not show her emotions because she is afraid of upsetting the men in her life. When Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) returns home from his journey, Catherine stays very calm and shows no signs of excitement. A person watching the movie, however, can tell later on that she still has a love for Heathcliff which she wishes to express.

     Catherine's character in the book is extremely volatile. If something happens to her that brings her a great amount of joy, she will display her feelings without a moment's hesitation. If, however, an event takes place that puts her in a bad mood, she will scream and shout at those near her until she has gotten her way. The movie takes away all of the emotion that Catherine was given in the book. She is depicted in the movie as passionless and unfeeling.

     Without Catherine intervening at every opportunity to throw a tantrum, the energy of the film is greatly reduced. The movie loses much of its potential by taking away from one of the main characters of the story.

Grant Apanowicz

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