As in most great novels the characters within stories, such as Emily Brontė's 1847 Wuthering Heights, have distinctive characteristics that set them apart from the rest. Like Brontė's novel, on which it is based, Wuthering Heights, the 1939 film directed by William Wyler, has a great deal of varying characters, such as Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier), a maladjusted man who is slightly obsessive over Catherine; Catherine (Merle Oberon), an indecisive spoiled brat torn between the two loves of her life; Ellen Dean (Flora Robson), the vindictive housekeeper; and Hindley (Hugh Williams), the classic drunkard.
Within this medley of somewhat eccentric characters, hiding behind the vindictiveness and mayhem is, or who seems to be, the levelheaded Edgar Linton (David Niven). It is true that many of the characters could be described as more exciting and interesting, but it is hard for me not to be compelled by him. From my observations of Edgar, he seemed to be one of those wonderfully kind and generous people that are enjoyable to be around. But once one ceases to have contact with those people, they are easily forgotten.
There is no doubt that Edgar was a charming man that compelled Cathy with his wealthy lifestyle. In reference to getting the girl, that he did; but was he too blind to see that her true love was given to Heathcliff? Clearly he had to have seen the attraction between Cathy and Heathcliff; it was too evident to ignore. With this in mind, I cannot help wondering why he never did anything to intervene between the two.
Edgar was considered a gentleman of that time period, so he was expected to be civil. On the contrary, when does civil become cowardly? In the film he allowed Heathcliff to enter his house numerous times, knowing that his intentions were directed toward Catherine. In my opinion, it was cowardice that overwhelmed Edgar. In comparison with Heathcliff, with his large stature and slightly more intimidating appearance, Edgar looked and felt inferior to Heathcliff. I believe this is the reasoning for Edgar's passiveness to Heathcliff.
Though Edgar was a very polite man and exceptionally kind to Catherine, I feel he was not strong enough to stand up for his love, Catherine. As a result, in the movie, Catherine died in Heathcliff's arms opposed to the arms of Edgar.