Two of the Same

         In the 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontė, and in the 1880 novel Washington Square, by Henry James, there are characters that display similar traits with slight variations. Both novels depict characters that are morally unsound. Brontė's characters seem more passionate with their wicked behavior. On the other hand, James writes about characters that seem to conceal their behavior almost as though they work behind closed doors. Although both authors exhibit contrasting styles, the similarities between their characters that they express are fascinating.

         First, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Morris from Washington Square are somewhat alike in character and behavior. Both are very clever, but consequently they use this for their bad intentions. For example, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights to better educate himself, and this enables him to seek his dreadful revenge on those who had thwarted his and Catherine Earnshaw's love. This is best portrayed by Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) and Catalina (Iraseme Dilian) in Luis Buńuel's 1954 film adaptation Los Abismos de Pasion. On the other hand, Morris goes overseas to educate himself, and later he uses this to better impress the wealthy Catherine Sloper. Another striking resemblance between the two characters is their persistent nature to do whatever it takes to get what they want. For example, Heathcliff patiently waits until all the pieces fall in place, so that he can completely carry out his plan to take over Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Morris is equally patient with Catherine so much so that he comes back after Dr. Sloper's death to again try to persuade her. The 1949 film The Heiress, directed by William Wyler, best exemplifies Morris's (Montgomery Clift) patience. In my opinion Morris is Heathcliff, but without the undying love to fuel him.

         Secondly, Ellen Dean from Wuthering Heights and Mrs. Penniman from Washington Square are also comparable in many ways. Both are frantic caregivers that feel they know what is best. On the contrary, they are the only ones that contain knowledge that could end the misery of their counterparts. For example, if Ellen Dean had been completely honest with Edgar Linton about Catherine's true condition, Catherine could have been saved; this is most clearly evident in the the depictions of the characters--Flora Robson's Ellen, David Niven's Edgar, and Merle Oberon's Catherine--in the 1939 film Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler. This holds true for Mrs. Penniman as well in the book and in the movie, as played by Miriam Hopkins. If she had not been so infatuated with Morris, she would have seen the signs of his true intentions with Catherine Olivia de Havilland). I feel the considerable difference between the two, is Ellen Dean had to contend with the savage brutality of Heathcliff, while Mrs. Penniman only dealt with the strong persuasiveness of Morris.

         Lastly, both Hindley from Wuthering Heights and Dr. Sloper from Washington Square are in very similar situations. For example, both lost their wives with the birth of their children, and consequently both grew very resentful towards their children. The difference is Hindley mistreated Hareton physically, which in effect led to Hareton's misfortune. Again, the film Los Abismos de Pasion illustrates Ricardo's (Luis Aceves Castaneda) abuse of Jorecito (Jaime González Quiñones) the best. On the other hand, Dr. Sloper and his cinematic counterpart, played by Ralph Richardson, never physically abused Catherine; but he mentally and emotionally abused her, which may have been worse.

         In conclusion, the similarities in both novels, plus their movie versions greatly captivated me to the point of deep thought between the two. Both novels have great endings, but seem to show the true sadness associated with the characters in their particular situations. For example, Heathcliff lost his life; Ellen Dean and Mrs. Penniman never enhanced their situations; Hindley and Dr. Sloper both died not ever really understanding the potential of their only children.

Josh Siljander

Table of Contents