Wuthering Heights or For Love or Money

         For all the people that think society today is crumbling due to a lack of morals, I say pick up a copy of Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights or William Wyler's 1939 film version. Although these characters speak in proper English and dress in a respectable fashion, morally, they are no different from the characters of reality television such as those in Joe Millionaire and For Love or Money. Deep down, all these characters are greedy, evil people who will do whatever they have to to improve their financial well-being.

         No character proves this point better in Wuthering Heights than Catherine (Merle Oberon). In fact, Catherine probably could have prevented much of the unhappiness that takes place simply by choosing her love for Heathcliff over Edgar Linton's financial stability. For a woman of her time, Catherine has far more power than the average woman. However, instead of using her power to choose a husband based strictly on love, she chooses the rich Edgar Linton (David Niven) over the impoverished orphan Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier). Of course, to make matters much worse, Heathcliff later returns as a wealthy man and buys the Earnshaw estate, punishing Catherine for not choosing him.

         The one truth from Wuthering Heights is that miserable people live everywhere, spanning all time and all locations because miserable people choose to be miserable by chasing after things in their life that are essentially meaningless. Rich people are not always happy, and the poor are not all miserable. The elder Earnshaw (Cecil Kellaway) seems to be the one person in the novel and movie that is not a horrible person. He opens up his home to the orphan Heathcliff through the kindness of his heart. At the same time, his son, Hindley (Douglas Scott/Hugh Williams), could not do this, thus beginning his downfall into an empty, unhappy existence filled with gambling and alcoholism because he could not share what was given to him. Even though Catherine and Hindley are definitely in the wrong throughout the novel and film, Heathcliff, Edgar, and Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) also play large roles in the unhappiness at Wuthering Heights. First of all, Heathcliff should have never returned.

         Catherine chooses Edgar over him, and Heathcliff should have just accepted it and moved on. All he accomplishes by returning is prolonging everyone's unhappiness until Catherine dies and he goes crazy. On the other hand, Edgar should have never even proposed to Catherine. He has to know that she really loves Heathcliff, but he is never able to accept it. Even when it is painfully obvious, Edgar still never does anything about it. In the film, Catherine even dies in Heathcliff's arms. However, none of this is as bad as naïve Isabella marrying Heathcliff as some sort of consolation prize. She is young, but she has to have known better than to marry someone who is in love with another married woman.

         Every character in Wuthering Heights that ends up unhappy deserves to end up that way for one reason or another. It has been that way throughout time, and it will continue to be that way because of the human conscience. Those that possess one and listen to it will be happy, while those who do not will probably end up as greedy contestants on Joe Millionaire.

Kevin Kraus

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