Incest in Wuthering Heights

Panther Imperial Wuthering Heights book cover(Like all of my posts, this got way out of control.)

I am going to take some time to talk a little bit about Wuthering Heights, after having very recently read the book for the first time. Wuthering Heights has come up on my tumblr before, but it really has not been represented to the degree that it deserves. It is a glorious incestuous mess. I’m sure many of you – maybe even most of you – are familiar in varying degrees with the story. Some of you are probably experts on it, and will soon realize that I am not. This is mainly directed towards those who are more unfamiliar with Wuthering Heights and its various movie adaptations. (I’ll be doing cursory examinations of the eight most faithful adaptations and the book Nelly Dean.) This is more of a presentation of the relevant aspects of the story and some discussion of the variations and possibilities than a deep literary analysis to wow and stun even its biggest fans.

There has been tons of literary criticism written about Wuthering Heights. I would love to take a whole course on this book, reading theses and writing essays and listening to lectures. But who has time for that? I’ll just suffice it to say that I’m not knee-deep in professional literary analysis. This is just a girl who read the book one time who likes incest shipping and wants to show the relationships and characters from the story a little love.

First, an introduction:

Yorkshire Moors - Wuthering Heights

The isolated Yorkshire moors

Wuthering Heights is a classic Romance/Gothic-era novel written by British novelist Emily Bronte. It was first published in 1847 but takes place in the late 1700’s. At the center are the Earnshaws, a relatively well-to-do family living in the isolated Yorkshire moors, and the love between Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff, the street urchin her father brings home to be her adopted brother. There is bad feeling between Heathcliff and Cathy’s brother, Hindley. After their father dies, Hindley abuses Heathcliff and treats him like a servant, while Cathy is drawn towards their elegant and wealthy neighbors, the Lintons. Despite the intense love between Cathy and Heathcliff, they struggle to find happiness with each other. Heathcliff resolves to get revenge against everyone who has wronged him, even if through their children.

That’s my spoiler-free introduction to the plot. While it’s ostensibly a story about love it’s also very much a story about revenge and cycles of abuse and destructive behaviors. As you can see, Heathcliff/Cathy is a foster-sibling romance, but it’s also worth noting, without getting too specific, that there are two romances among cousins – one of which is my favorite relationship in the story and probably the main reason I’m even doing this post – and several other non-canon relationships that I will discuss, as well as the not-unheard-of theory that Heathcliff may actually be Cathy’s biological half-brother.

I recommend reading the book – in terms of the cousin ship that I alluded to, none of the adaptations really do it justice or come even close to how great it is in the book. But if you’re curious about which of the eight movies I would recommend for that relationship, I would direct you towards the version from 1992. If you’re looking for a go-to version for the story overall, I would recommend 2009, which is, in my opinion, the most all-around enjoyable version to watch. (1992 is runner-up.) However, it’s what I would call a “soft” or “nice” adaptation of the novel, and doesn’t really have the same grit.

Hareton, Catherine, Nelly, Heathcliff, and Linton in Wuthering Heights (2009)

I’m so glad that I read the novel. It happened sort of on a whim (after several years of me thinking that I probably should read it, just as a matter of course), but it sucked me right in and I didn’t want it to end. I enjoyed it immensely and will certainly read it again. It was not my first introduction to the story. Sometime in my younger years I had seen the classic movie from 1939 with Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff. This version is often considered to be the preeminent and most prominent version, and for many years it was my only exposure to Wuthering Heights. Laurence Olivier will probably always Heathcliff for me – he’s who I can’t help but picture. The thing about the 1939 version – and this is true of the version from 1970, and also the version from 2011 – is that it omits the second generation of characters. It wasn’t until I saw the 1992 version with Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff that I even knew about the children! I also saw the version from 2009 with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff not too long after it came out. I remember enjoying it the most out of all the versions but the second generation characters didn’t quite make the same impression on me as when I first met them when watching the version from 1992. I’m pretty sure I know now why, and I’ll get into that towards the end.

I like all of the movie adaptations in their own way. Naturally, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. But it goes without saying that the novel is more detailed, and in this case most of that detail surrounds the characters in the second generation (who, even when included, often get cheated), which also happens to be the part of the story that interests me most.

From here on out there will be detailed spoilers. So, for those of you who don’t know the story (and want to read on) or need a refresher, the rest of the story goes as follows:

Edgar Linton, the wealthy neighbor, proposes marriage to Cathy, and Cathy, despite her tie to Heathcliff, desires to accept. She does not believe that she has to choose the luxury and prestige of marriage to Edgar over Heathcliff – she believes that she can have both. While explaining this to her servant, Ellen “Nelly” Dean, she makes a great profession of love towards Heathcliff, including the famous quote I see all the time on tumblr: “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same”. However Heathcliff only hears the first part of the discussion in which she says that it would degrade her to marry him. Heathcliff goes off into the world and after three years comes back wealthy and a gentleman. But in the meantime, Cathy and Edgar have married. Cathy continues to believe she can have both of them but their rivalry with each other deeply distresses her and she becomes ill. She has a daughter, also named Catherine, and then dies. (I’ll be referring to the mother as “Cathy” and the daughter as “Catherine” for simplicity’s sake,)

Before Cathy’s sickness, Heathcliff began courting Edgar’s sister, Isabella, who had been in love with him ever since he returned with his fortune. Edgar threatens to disown his sister if she doesn’t stop seeing Heathcliff. She defies him and elopes to marry Heathcliff. However, Heathcliff hates her, having married her to hurt Edgar and also because she is Edgar’s heir. Isabella lives in misery with him until she is able to run off and we find out later that she was pregnant when she left. She names her son Linton.

Hindley, Catherine’s brother, had a wife who died in childbirth, named Frances. Hindley spirals after Frances’ death, falling into debt and alcoholism. Heathcliff buys Hindley’s debt (and beats him mercilessly at cards), and is now the owner of Wuthering Heights (which is the name of the Earnshaw estate. The Linton estate is called Thrushcross Grange). Hindley fades more and more and eventually dies. Heathcliff resolves to raise Hindley’s son, Hareton, in the same manner that Hindley treated Heathcliff while they were growing up.

After the death of Isabella some 14 years later, Heathcliff brings his son Linton to come live with him. Catherine, Cathy and Edgar’s daughter, has been kept in ignorance of Wuthering Heights and everyone who lives there. Edgar had shut himself off and he and Nelly, Cathy’s servant who came over with her when she married, raised Catherine together on the grounds of Thrushcross Grange without much outside interaction.

Catherine eventually strays too far on the moor and encounters the residents of Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff begins his scheme of marrying Catherine to Linton, so that he will inherit Thrushcross Grange when Edgar , who is ill and dying, and Linton, who is also ill and dying, eventually pass on. Catherine forms a deep attachment to Linton when they first meet and they carry on a forbidden affair for some time. (In the book and some movie versions she had met him once already, when his uncle tried to take custody of him.) But because everyone is so sick, Heathcliff must act. He kidnaps Catherine and forces her to marry Linton. Both Edgar and Linton die in succession, leaving only Hareton, Catherine, and Heathcliff alive.

Catherine liked Hareton upon first meeting him but is put off by his uncultured manners and ignorance (thanks to Heathcliff’s upbringing), and eventually grows to hate him all the more for – by all appearances – not helping her. So she is rude to him, and he is rude to her in return.

Catherine and Hareton in Wuthering Heights (1978)

Everyone mistreats each other in the atmosphere of hate that Heathcliff has created, however there is a strange bond between Hareton and Heathcliff: Hareton sees Heathcliff as his father (“And the best of it is, Hareton is damnably fond of me!”), and Hareton is said to resemble Cathy. Heathcliff likes him a lot more than he did his own son. This drives another wedge in between Catherine and Hareton. However, her loneliness and boredom eventually lead her to befriend him and their natural affinity for each other is rekindled. When Heathcliff sees their love he realizes he is poised to have his revenge but ultimately decides that it doesn’t matter. He enters a renewed state of mourning over Cathy and wastes away and dies.

Before the story concludes, we find out that Hareton and Catherine are going to marry and live at Thrushcross Grange. Catherine has taught Hareton how to read and not be so much down in the mud where Heathcliff wanted him, and they are very happy.

As you can see, Catherine and Hareton represent a sort of redemption of all of the characters, the bad cycles, the bad choices. They don’t hold on to their anger and their hate, they choose to be good and to love and to forgive and to move on.

Obviously there’s some variation among the movies – the above is a simplified summary of the events from the novel, geared towards what’s in the adaptations. One thing that’s very different and is the case with almost all the movies is the matter of the ages. In the book the characters are quite young. Cathy is 16 when Edgar proposes marriage, and all four of them are roughly the same age, with Hindley and Nelly being a few years older. Likewise Catherine is 16 when she marries Linton. In the movies, they’re all much older. Though some of that comes from wanting to only use 2 actors for each character – child and grown.

One major difference between the novels and the movies is how the story is told. The novel is from the point of view of Mr. Lockwood, a tenant who comes to live at Thrushcross Grange after Heathcliff lets it following the deaths of Linton and Edgar. Lockwood makes a neighborly visit to Wuthering Heights to meet his landlord, and also encounters Catherine and Hareton while he is there. He ends up sleeping in Cathy’s old room when he’s forced to stay there during a storm. He reads some of her diary, and after observing the odd behavior of the inhabitants there, he implores Nelly, who is now housekeeper at Thrushcross Grange, to recount their story. So the meat of the story is narrated by Nelly. We also get Isabella Linton’s POV in a long letter that she wrote to Nelly after her marriage to Heathcliff and also Nelly reports verbatim on other observations that had been shared with her, such as those of Zillah, the housekeeper at Wuthering Heights in the “present day”. Mr. Lockwood makes another visit to Wuthering Heights to pay his account when he’s planning to return to London, and then again one last time some months later. So, as you can see, the novel is told from the perspective of someone observing what is happening, not by its participants.

And, as you can imagine, Nelly is an extremely important character in the book, since most of what we know is what she has chosen to tell us, and is through the lens of how she viewed things. Understandably, she plays a much less significant role in the movies, and yet it never quite feels fair. Though her role, even in the novel, does feel a bit like she’s in a video game, and she only has certain options about what she can say or do, and the story will play out basically the same way no matter what choices she makes.

n - nelly deanThis leads me into one of the “adaptations” I want to talk about, which is a book called Nelly Dean (sometimes subtitled: “A Return To Wuthering Heights”). It was authored by an English professor, Alison Case, who has been teaching Wuthering Heights for years. It’s written as if it’s a letter from Nelly to Mr. Lockwood following the end of the novel, the “untold story” of the events we already know. It tells Nelly’s story, as if she’s not just the narrator but also the main character. There’s really very little of Cathy and Heathcliff, and – to my disappointment – almost nothing of Catherine and Hareton’s relationship. 90% of the novel takes place before Cathy’s marriage to Edgar. I thought it was very good, if a bit long. You can tell the author knows what she’s doing – she knows Wuthering Heights like the back of her hand and can write for the period and match the original book really well. It was a clever idea, to take advantage of the fact that the original novel is mainly Nelly’s account and there might have been things about what happened that she chose not to share. I also thought it was great justice for Nelly, who really has no life of her own in the original novel outside of the drama of these people she works for. It was nice to get to see her be the heroine and to fill out her motivations and thoughts.

And in Wuthering Heights where we got to hear hints of strong feeling or where you would imagine there would have been a lot of pain for Nelly, Nelly Dean really goes for the gut. For example, Hareton’s mother, Frances, died in childbirth. Nelly was given Hareton to raise, and for five years she raised him, until Cathy took Nelly with her to Thrushcross Grange when she married. When Nelly visits Wuthering Heights later, Hareton doesn’t seem to remember her. And she remarks how strange it was, for her to have been his whole world and for him to have been her whole world during those five years, and how he doesn’t even know her now. And that’s really all she says, but you know it must have been heartbreaking for her – both leaving him, and encountering him later as a stranger. Alison Case really delves into that kind of stuff.

And this might not have been one of Bronte’s main themes, but Nelly’s insignificance as a character in the story (highlighted by the movies) and her insignificance as a figure in the lives of the main characters, despite how present she is and how much she does for them and how little she has to call her own – is a very pointed commentary on the lives of many servants during that period.

Nelly Dean has several aspects that are interesting for our purposes. First, it emphasizes Nelly’s role as a mother to both Hareton and Catherine. She raised Hareton until he was 5, and raised Catherine her entire life. This is canon from the original book, but Nelly Dean has a line explicitly stating, all in one sentence, that she is mother to them both. This is after Catherine and Hareton have just gotten married, and is said to her by the doctor when he is convincing her that she must be exhausted: “Yes, your duties as housekeeper to two houses, mother of the bride, mother of the groom, and manager of two estates.” So I like that Nelly Dean emphasizes this sort of siblinghood between Catherine and Hareton. It also comes close to making up for the fact that Catherine and Hareton never even met each other until Catherine was 13.

This is a major spoiler for Nelly Dean, but in the end we find out that Nelly was the illegitimate daughter of Mr. Earnshaw (Cathy and Hindley’s father). This makes her a half-aunt to both the kids, which I like, and which, for some reason, makes the cousins seem even closer to each other. But the real significance here is in Nelly’s relationship with Hindley. (Nelly is the same age as Hindley, though often in the movies she is shown as a much older woman.) Nelly and Hindley were in love from childhood and had planned to marry. They have sex too. But once Mr. Earnshaw learns of the affair, he sends Hindley off to school. Throughout the novel, Hindley knows that Nelly is his sister, but Nelly has no idea. So to her it seems like Hindley has changed in his feelings towards her for no discernible reason. He comes home married to Frances and treats Nelly with a coldness and a distance that she can’t understand. In this book, a lot of Hindley’s unhappiness comes from his angst over being in love with Nelly and not being able to be with her. (There is nothing like this in the original novel.)

But that’s not all! Call now and you can have another incest ship for free! Yes, there is something else. When Nelly tells her mother about Heathcliff, Nelly’s mother is extremely suspicious of Mr. Earnshaw’s motives in bringing home this street child and making him a member of the family. Knowing already that Mr. Earnshaw has had extramarital relationships, she suspects that Heathcliff is Mr. Earnshaw’s bastard too. This is never confirmed, but the point really gets hounded. Heathcliff – who doesn’t have a name when Mr. Earnshaw finds him (or won’t share it, anyway), gets named after Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw’s firstborn, who died in infancy. This is canon in Wuthering Heights but gets extra attention in Nelly Dean, as does the overall strangeness of Mr. Earnshaw’s actions, as does Mr. Earnshaw ordering everyone in the family to treat Heathcliff as if he their brother/son, and Heathcliff rising to be Mr. Earnshaw’s favorite. In the end, when Nelly finds out her true paternity in a letter from her mother, her mother mentions that she thought Mr. Earnshaw taking in Heathcliff was a kind of atonement for how things had gone wrong with Nelly and that whole situation. (Though it’s important to note that Nelly wasn’t conceived through her mother fooling around with Mr. Earnshaw for fun – it was a lot more complicated than that and had in part to do with Mrs. Earnshaw not being able to handle another pregnancy so soon.) This explanation doesn’t confirm the theory either, but I felt like it supported it. I think the author didn’t want to say one way or another, but I think she was pointing towards it being true, at least in the canon of Nelly Dean.

And it’s pretty interesting that that’s the perspective of someone who has spent so much time studying Wuthering Heights (though she does seem to have an incest kink the size of the Chrysler Building). Someone who could be called a professional expert on it. I had heard on the blog and interacting with people there of some who had always headcanoned Heathcliff and Cathy as half-siblings, but it turns out it’s actually a somewhat common literary theory about Wuthering Heights. I’ll get into that theory a little bit more further down, but you can see that it’s canon-ish, or at the very least there was a major nod to it, in Nelly Dean.

I think this would be a good place to establish what the various movie versions are. This IMDB list is a good resource, though it’s a few years outdated. This Wikipedia list of Wuthering Heights adaptations is an even better resource. There are, as I mentioned, eight primary adaptations of the novel that we’ll be concerned with (and one more coming out later this year.) There is also an adaptation from 1920 that is lost forever. There is an Italian version from 2004 that is not easy to find, in English or even otherwise, really, though there are some DVDs out there with German subtitles. As you can see on the Wikipedia page, there have been some stage adaptations and musicals. The world truly loves to tell this story.

And there are five alternate-universe retellings: Abismos de Pasion (1954), Hurlevent (1985), Arashi ga oka (1988), Sparkhouse (2002), Wuthering Heights (2003). I haven’t seen any of these retellings, and it seems like none of them have Hareton/Catherine equivalents, so I wasn’t particularly inclined to see them at this time. The one that did pique my interest was the French one from 1985. If you look at the IMDB page, I think the description is copypasta from one of the other more traditional Wuthering Heights versions, so I don’t trust it. I would imagine it neglects the second generation as well. But this bit from one of the reviews  naturally got me curious:

I found this a fairly involving, even compelling story of unrequited and difficult loves, not just between the central characters of Heathcliff (Roch in this version, an at first bloodless but later quite savage Lucas Belvaux) and Catherine (deceptively strong-willed in Fabienne Babe’s performance)….throughout the film there are hints of incestuous feelings on the part of Catherine’s older brother Guillaume, and all of the characters seem to have powerful love-hate attractions to their landscape and environment, here translated to a remote and rocky pair of farms in 1930s France. The class distinctions between orphan Roch, his on-the-decline adoptive family, and the on-the-rise siblings Olivier and Isabel are subtly drawn and the feelings of entrapment in the remote vastnesses of both the two huge country houses and the wild hillside are always present.

Later in the review, this person also mentions that the second act is after Heathcliff/”Roch” returns, which makes me feel quite certain that there is no second generation. The only way I can figure to be able to see this movie is if I buy the DVD, which with shipping is like $15. I’m not sure that’s worth it for some one-sided incestuous hints. But maybe someday.

This incestuousness between the Hindley-equivalent and Cathy is obviously a very interesting innovation and I’ll get more into that relationship later.

Moving on to the more traditional versions. I’m not going to review them as movies unto themselves, or as adaptations, or even spend a lot of time comparing them to one another to say which has the best Cathy or the best cinematography or anything like that. I can’t even say, “Don’t bother with this one”, because they all have something going for them, and if you read the reviews on IMDB, there’s always someone saying that that one is their favorite, or that one is artistically superior, or that one is the most like the book, etc. And to be clear – I have no problem with adaptations going their own direction, and I don’t think movies that are based on books should be judged on their fidelity to the books as long as they’re telling a good story, especially if they were obviously trying to do something different. But in the case of Hareton and Catherine, the more like the book the better.

I’m going to focus on the cast first – to help you keep them straight from one another – and mention a few things that makes each version stand out. Then I’ll go by relationship once all of the movies have been presented.

1939

n - Wuthering Heights Posters (6)

Heathcliff: Laurence Olivier

o - 1939 characters (2)batchedit

Cathy: Merle Oberon

o - 1939 characters (3)batchedit

Hindley: Hugh Williamso - 1939 characters (4)batchedit

Edgar: David Niveno - 1939 characters (6)batchedit

Isabella: Geraldine Fitzgeraldo - 1939 characters (5)batchedit

Isabella still living with Heathcliff when Mr. Lockwood comes.

As I already mentioned, this version has no second generation. Out of all the movies, it has the most emphasis on the ghost aspect (which I didn’t mention in my summary). This version and the one from 1967 are the two that are in black and white, which I think suits the material very well. One oddity of this version is that it does have Mr. Lockwood’s visit despite cutting Catherine/Hareton/Linton, and Isabella is still alive and and still living with Heathcliff when Mr. Lockwood comes.

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

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1967

Heathcliff: Ian McShane (this really tickled me, as I had never seen him in anything made before 2004)

Cathy: Angela Scoular

Hindley: William Marlowe

Edgar: Drewe Henley

Isabella: Angela Douglas

Hareton: Keith Buckley. (Unfortunately Hareton in this one sounds like Edgar from Men in Black and looks like Billy Butcherson from Hocus Pocus.)o - 1967 characters (7)batchedit

o - 1967 characters (9)

Rare behind-the-scenes photo from Wuthering Heights (1967)

Catherine: Angela Scoular

Linton: Michael Wennink

This version is also in black and white (you were probably able to observe that yourself). As you can see, the same actress plays both Cathy and Catherine (which is also the case in the version from 1992, despite the fact that in the book, Catherine is said to have her mother’s eyes but otherwise not resemble her. I can understand why there was an appeal to having Catherine look hauntingly like her.). This version, the one from 1978, and the one from 2009 are the three longest, however they all still feel very rushed compared to the book, particularly – yes, I’m biased – the Hareton/Catherine part of the story. Heathcliff kills himself at the end of this one, which it has in common with the version from 2009. I think that’s an interesting commentary on Heathcliff at the end of the story so I think it’s worth mentioning. I like this version a lot – I would rank it in the top half. I usually call the one from 2009 “the nice one”, but this has some “nice one” traits itself.

Running time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

1970

Heathcliff: Timothy Dalton

Cathy: Anna Calder-Marshall

Hindley: Julian Glover

Edgar: Ian Ogilvy

Isabella: Hilary Heath

This version has no second generation. (Hareton is born, but he dies.) It has a different ending – Hindley shoots and kills Heathcliff. (Something he threatens to do in the book, but never accomplishes it.) This is the only version that hints strongly at Heathcliff being Mr. Earnshaw’s bastard. It’s a very small part, but in this version Nelly and Hindley are close and she’s dismayed when he returns with a wife, so it’s interesting to see those two things in common with Nelly Dean. This is a very pretty-looking production and the score is A+.

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

1978

Heathcliff: Ken Hutchison

Cathy: Kate Adshead

Hindley: John Duttine

Edgar: David Robb

Isabella: Caroline Langrishe

Hareton: David Wilkinson

Catherine: Cathryn Harrison

Linton: Andrew Burleigh

Despite being the longest version (five 50-minute episodes), it still rushes through Catherine and Hareton! It is probably the version truest to the book (with generally more age-appropriate actors as well) and includes many parts that are not in the other versions, but is still not a perfect adaptation of the book and leaves a lot to be desired aesthetically. It doesn’t do anything interesting. The acting, in particular, does not stand out. Still, it’s nice to have a long version that attempts to be very faithful.

Running time: 4 hours, 10 minutes

1992

Heathcliff: Ralph Fiennes

Cathy: Juliette Binoche

Hindley: Jeremy Northam

Edgar: Simon Shepherd

Isabella: Sophie Ward

Hareton: Jason Riddington

Catherine: Juliette Binoche

Linton: Jonathan Firth

This movie does a lot in less than two hours. It’s the only version that has Emily Bronte as a narrator. I’ve seen it described as “stuffy”, and I 100% understand where that criticism was coming from, though I like it a lot and think it’s a great candidate to be my #1 recommendation (I already mentioned that it’s my top rec for Catherine and Hareton’s relationship). It’s got some great scenes that aren’t in the book, too. It’s another very pretty production with a fantastic score by Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

1998

Heathcliff: Robert Cavanah

Cathy: Orla Brady

Hindley: Ian Shaw

Edgar: Crispin Bonham-Carter

Isabella: Flora Montgomery

Hareton: Matthew Macfadyen

Catherine: Sarah Smart

Linton: William Mannering

Matthew Macfadyen is one of the best Haretons, a character who tends to be over-acted a little bit (Interestingly, he plays the equivalent of Cathy in the retelling Sparkhouse that I mentioned, which gender swaps Cathy and Heathcliff.) And Sarah Smart is exactly how I pictured Catherine while reading. The score is quite good for a made-for-TV movie and the production quality overall is much higher than the version from 1978. There’s this part where Heathcliff is in Cathy’s room just sobbing, while Hareton (visibly distressed) and Cathy are out in the main room listening to it, which I thought was really cool. It made me feel a lot more for Heathcliff than I usually do. I really like Matthew Macfadyen and especially Sarah Smart in their roles here but aside from them this is one of the more forgettable versions. It attempts to include a lot, but for that reason it feels rushed.

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

2009

Heathcliff: Tom Hardy

Cathy: Charlotte Riley (I included two pictures because I couldn’t choose between them. The bottom picture is just so Cathy, but the top one represents the more relatable Cathy in this version.)

Hindley: Burn Gorman

Edgar: Andrew Lincoln

Isabella: Rosalind Halstead

Hareton: Andrew Hawley

Catherine: Rebecca Night

Linton: Tom Payne

Despite being described as a miniseries, this version is barely over 2 hours. Being the most recent “normal” version (as you’ll see, 2011 is more experimental), the cast is pleasantly familiar and the production style is appealing. (That is to say, it doesn’t look or feel oudated.) This version takes a lot of liberties in filling in more obscure parts of the narrative – such as Heathcliff and Cathy actually falling in love, and Heathcliff’s relationship with Mr. Earnshaw, and giving more concrete explanations for how characters died. (Heathcliff commits suicide, for example.) I don’t think any of the characters are at all unrecognizable, but I have taken to calling this version “the nice one” because of its more charitable characterizations, extenuating circumstances, and glossier look. I realized as I was reading Nelly Dean that I kept picturing Hindley as Burn Gorman, so apparently he’s my Hindley. (But I’ve also been rewatching Jamestown, which might have contributed.) There’s a lot of buzz in the town around Heathcliff’s adoption and they all suspect that Heathcliff is Mr. Earnshaw’s bastard. So that topic does come up in this version. I find this version has the most emotional appeal to me and is more likely to make me feel like crying, but it lacks that vibe of haunting creepiness.

Running time: 2 hours, 17 minutes

2011

Heathcliff: James Howson

Cathy: Kaya Scoledario

Hindley: Lee Shaw (featuring Amy Wren as Frances)

Edgar: James Northcote

Isabella: Nichola Burley

I used the adult actors for the images of Heathcliff and Cathy because that’s more applicable for shipping. but their younger versions are in it at least as much, if not more. This version is fascinating. With seven proceeding it, it made sense to try something different. It’s entirely from Heathcliff’s point of view. Because of that, it lacks coherence, but it’s easy enough to follow if you know the story well, and it’s kind of interesting seeing only what Heathcliff saw. Like I said, it spends a lot of time on Heathcliff and Cathy when they’re young teens, with young teen actors playing, which is very different. In terms of the ages of the characters, it’s the most faithful to the book, perhaps with the exception of 1978. It’s also very visceral filmmaking, with lots of close ups on bugs, no background music, but really stunning scenery. (Probably the best scenery out of all of them.) As I mentioned earlier, there’s no second generation, although Hareton is around as a child. Rumors of Heathcliff having sex with Catherine’s dead body were not exaggerated. I would describe this version as a curiosity more than an option for a favorite version. It’s also relentlessly dark, without the redemption of Catherine and Hareton or even the tragic romanticized Heathcliff/Cathy love story. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would, though. It does capture that creepy hauntingness/haunting creepiness that I mentioned that the 2009 version definitely lacked.

Running time: 2 hours, 8 minutes

2018

As for the new version coming out later this year, the IMDB page says the release date will be in July. I don’t recognize anyone in the cast but the good news is that Catherine and Hareton are definitely in it. There is a trailer out for it, and you can tell from the trailer that it seems to be something of an indie production. Hopefully they’ll compensate for their budget by doing some interesting things.

Here’s the description from the official website:

Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate tale of the intense and demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, allegedly a Gypsy foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is degraded and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man to find he is too late and that Cathy has married Edgar Linton. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his miseries.Unable to bear being parted from his love he curses her on her deathbed to never rest and always be with him and so begins 20 years of her haunting his every waking and sleeping hour. A tale of love, hate, horror, haunting, but most of all a story about human nature. Emily Bronte wrote the greatest , most terrifying love story of all time. This is our film of that story…

Did you note that interesting bit? “Allegedly a Gypsy founding adopted by Catherine’s father”. Don’t know if they’ll confirm the incest but it sounds like they mean to introduce the question of exactly where Heathcliff comes from. Though IMDB lists the genre as “horror”, so maybe what they really mean to suggest is that he’s some demon or something!

There’s an interesting BTS photo that I think must be of Heathcliff and his mother and Mr. Earnshaw:

 

Looks pretty promising, right? In the novel, Mr. Earnshaw explicitly states that he could not find Heathcliff’s parents. In the words of Cesare:

There are some great photos of Catherine and Hareton that I wanted to share:

More photos and info about the film here.

OK, now I’m going to delve into the relationships.

Cathy and Hindley

First, I’ll just say something about Cathy and Hindley. While I am going to take a moment to mention a few things, generally-speaking, it’s not very shippable. I think Hindley gets a wonderfully nuanced characterization in the novel (apparently it’s possible that Bronte’s inspiration for Hindley was in part her own brother, who abused alcohol) and he’s treated about as well as possible in the 2009 movie (“the nice one”), but even so there is clearly nothing special or even of average tenderness in the relationship between these two siblings.

The 1967 version was the one I watched last, and it is probably the most favorable towards Cathy and Hindley’s relationship. For quite a while after Heathcliff arrives, Cathy and Hindley play only with each other, and giggle with each other over their lessons.

This goes from when they are children all the way to showing the same actors who play them as adults (though it’s still the first part of the story). Cathy even yells at their father for favoring Heathcliff over Hindley. And then when Hindley throws something (something very heavy) at Heathcliff, Cathy begs Heathcliff not to tell on Hindley. The tide only seems to turn because Heathcliff positively worships Cathy and it seems to win her over, and this is right at the time when Mr. Earnshaw sends Hindley off to school.

Some other moments that appear mainly in the 1992, 2009, and 1967 versions are Cathy showing sympathy towards Hindley when Frances is dying and afterwards, and being auntly towards Hareton. Typically one of the best Cathy/Hindley moments is when Hindley welcomes Cathy home after she has spent five weeks staying with the Lintons. It’s usually a very warm reception and he’s proud of what a lady she has become and is happy to have her back again.

Sometimes Hindley’s return home from school is greeted with love.

In the 1967 version, Cathy expresses a deep sympathy for Hindley when he is in denial about Frances dying, after they talk about Hareton:

There’s a sweet moment in the 1992 version when Nelly visits Wuthering Heights and tells Heathcliff that Cathy has had a daughter. Hindley appears to have overheard, and after Heathcliff leaves the room he comes out, holding Hareton in front of him and actually being very sweet with him, and asks Nelly what they’ll name Cathy’s daughter.

 

In the 2009 version, Hindley is made significantly more sympathetic. Rather like in Nelly Dean, it is explored more how Heathcliff is favored over him and a lot of his anger comes from the rumors in town that Heathcliff is his father’s bastard. He tries to warn Cathy about it.

Cathy is not happy to see him when he returns from school (unlike in the 1970 version, when she is thrilled for some reason), but they share some nice scenes later on. After Frances dies, she tries to reach out to him, and reprimands Heathcliff for delighting in it.

And at her wedding to Edgar, when he helps her out of the carriage and walks her down the aisle.

He gets drunk at the reception and starts to draw attention to himself and Cathy gets him to calm down.

She also visits Wuthering Heights after Heathcliff returns. She has a moment with Hareton and then a conversation with Hindley, as Hindley remembers Heathcliff’s arrival in their lives and how it was when everything started to go wrong for him.

 

It’s actually fascinating how little feeling there is between the two of them. Like there wasn’t any room for Hindley after Heathcliff arrived. And I love the idea, presented in that 1985 French retelling, of Hindley having incestuous feelings towards Cathy, because it makes his virulent hate of Heathcliff make more sense.

Nelly Dean makes Hindley a slightly more sympathetic character without ever changing the terrible things that he did. (He’s very abusive not just to Heathcliff but to the entire household after he becomes a drunk following Frances’ death.) And Nelly herself within the novel continues to feel quite a lot of sympathy for Hindley. He gets mad at Nelly for hiding Hareton from him, and then when he does something endangers Hareton, he gets mad at Nelly for not managing to keep Hareton away from him. And when he dies, you can tell Nelly feels a sort of sadness. That’s what I meant, really, when I was talking about the nuance with his character, and it’s probably why the 1970 movie and Nelly Dean both did something with the Hindley/Nelly relationship. I do think it’s significant that Hareton is his son, not only because that gave Heathcliff reason to raise him the way he did, but also because Hareton is said to resemble Cathy significantly, not just having her eyes (like Catherine does), but all over. To take after her quite strongly. Which is an interesting nod to the relationship between Cathy and Hindley and the work of blood in their family.

Which leads me into the interesting and potentially shippy fact that Cathy’s daughter and Hindley’s son fall in love and marry. Catherine Earnshaw becomes Catherine Linton. She has a daughter, also Catherine Linton. Who then becomes Catherine Heathcliff. Who then becomes Catherine Earnshaw once again, the happy ending. I mean, that’s interesting, right? Cathy and Hindley also both have children who are much better people than they are.

This part from the book about Cathy’s funeral makes me feel a little something:

Yesterday, you know, Mr. Earnshaw should have been at the funeral. He kept himself sober for the purpose—tolerably sober: not going to bed mad at six o’clock and getting up drunk at twelve. Consequently, he rose, in suicidal low spirits, as fit for the church as for a dance; and instead, he sat down by the fire and swallowed gin or brandy by tumblerfuls.

Hindley makes a comment about how he doesn’t want any women about the place, after Cathy and Nelly move to Thrushcross Grange. That line feels to me like it could have a deeper meaning. Like there’s some underlying reason why he doesn’t want any women around, why he wants to be free from seeing any of them. Is it really because of Frances? (Not to diminish the Frances/Hindley relationship, which I like a lot.)

Edgar and Isabella are, as always, the foils. They are foils to Cathy and Heathcliff but to Cathy and Hindley too. They are very much the opposite of Cathy and Hindley and their dynamic.

So I’ll move into the relationship between Edgar and Isabella now.

Edgar and Isabella

I did not ship Edgar and Isabella nearly as much before as I do now after having spent all of this time writing about them. I actually ship them quite a lot now.

The Linton children are almost always in each others’ company. They are like-minded, cut from the same cloth. Immediately following Cathy’s initial acquaintance with them in the book, they are always mentioned together and in more or less the same way – their beauty, their fair coloring, their gentility, their civilized manners, etc.

It is Heathcliff, and Isabella’s mistaken faith in him, that drives them apart. Heathcliff says he never lied to Isabella about who he was, but he does deceive her and use her and treat her abominably after their marriage. Edgar disowning Isabella when she married Heathcliff is undoubtedly harsh. I can’t defend that action. But it certainly shows how deeply he hurt he was, that she would choose his enemy/rival (who was actively trying to steal his wife) over him. Also, it’s worth bringing up the fact that Edgar is a young man. In the book he is only 19 or so. So of course he’s being dumb.

And the way he sees it, she disowned him by choosing Heathcliff over him.

And while I can’t agree with him being so severe, he wasn’t wrong about Heathcliff. After Isabella marries Heathcliff, and she is quite miserable. She obviously regrets her choice and she misses her brother profoundly. However, she chooses not to run away to him in order to spare him from further clashing with Heathcliff. She is prepared to be quite self-sacrificial in order to do what she can to keep her brother out of her mess. She never goes to Thrushcross Grange, weeping and begging him to help her and telling him what all Heathcliff has done to make her life a misery. (She’s too proud to do that after the way he has behaved towards her. But I think if she knew for sure that it would work, she would have done it.)

In the 2009 movie version she runs into him on the road and attempts to get him to take her back to Thrushcross Grange but he refuses. That’s one of the only examples where the 2009 version is harsher than the others rather than nicer. (Although it’s not quite the same, because Heathcliff in the 2009 version treats Isabella better than the other Heathcliffs.) In the book she is quite vocal about sparing her brother further trouble and more of Heathcliff’s wrath. She feels that she must run far away where Heathcliff cannot find her, so in her mind there’s really no possibility of her living at Thrushcross Grange. But she does ask Nelly for some token or letter from her brother when Nelly comes to visit Wuthering Heights, and Edgar hasn’t given her anything. Isabella is crushed, but she understands. She really comes to worship Edgar after her time with Heathcliff and miss him terribly.

In the 1967 version, he actually helps her settle after she gets away from Heathcliff, and he seems to have been very involved in everything. Heathcliff keeps referring to Edgar and Isabella as “they” – they named him Linton, they want me to hate him, they’re keeping me from my son, etc.

There’s almost a hilarious variation among the eight movie versions in what Edgar and Isabella are doing when Heathcliff and Cathy spy on them through the window. In the book they seemed to have been quibbling over a dog (they were both adolescents), but clearly many of the movies didn’t feel beholden towards that. While there is a certain shippiness to Isabella hanging out with Edgar and Catherine after they’ve been married (and sometimes, without context, you wouldn’t even know which one of them was his wife), just another pea in the pod, and Isabella’s longing for Edgar after her marriage to Heathcliff, I do like what we see through the window, before Edgar knows Cathy, and the only true moment of the two of them alone before the story changes their lives.

In 1939, the Lintons are having a party when Cathy and Heathcliff spy on them. (Not much there.)

And the 1967 version is by far the best. They start out fighting (she’s hits him with a pillow, it’s not apparent why she’s upset), but then Edgar picks her up, and throws her on the couch and tickles her or something.

What makes it better is that she just lies there waiting while he stares out the window because he heard a noise. It’s ridiculous – far more so than I’ve described, all the more because they look like adults. (Though in the book Isabella is only 11 at this part. I can’t imagine we’re expected to believe she’s 11 in this scene, though.) It’s really quite suggestive. I didn’t want to gif the whole long thing but you had to see it so I’ve uploaded the clip. (I included the whole scene but the Edgar and Isabella interaction ends after he runs outside, at about 90 seconds in.)

In the version from 1970, Isabella is playing piano and Edgar is turning the pages for her. He makes fun of her when she makes a mistake and she snaps back with a comment about him not being able to do better. It’s a cute exchange and one of my favorite alternate versions of this scene. As you can see, they are hardly children here, which, like the version from 1967, makes it fun that they’re hanging out together and with that kind of dynamic.

And as you can see later in this part of the movie, Isabella clings to him when frightened by Heathcliff’s raging, and Edgar holds her protectively.

It’s funny, they’re one of the sets of Edgars and Isabellas who start out very cute but their disagreement over Heathcliff isn’t pretty. Isabella is a little petulant, and one really has to wonder whether she thinks Edgar doesn’t really mean it when he says she’ll be disowned.

In 1978, this is the version that’s somewhat true to the book, and the two of them are children still, and fighting over a dog.

1992 is nice. Edgar and Isabella are playing some kind of ball and paddle game, and seemingly having a lot fun.

1998 is very similar to 1970. Isabella and Edgar are playing a duet on the piano. Edgar complains that she is not playing “allegro”, and she says that she is. She lets the cover fall on top of his fingers. Edgar tells her that she should practice, and she says she does. Eventually she throws something at him when he goads her more about her practicing. I think his interest in her piano playing is potentially meaningful, especially since he probably wants her to play better for their future duets. If they didn’t spend a lot of time together he wouldn’t care.t

2009 features less brother/sister interaction in the window scene. In fact, sadly, this movie is probably the worst version for their relationship, though Andrew Lincoln does a great job of showing his pain (but determination) at cutting Isabella off, and later at handing Linton over to Heathcliff. Isabella is playing piano, and Edgar is practicing dancing. At least this Edgar doesn’t have anything negative to say about her playing! What an enormous missed opportunity for them to have been dancing together! Despite it being a variation from the book, I can understand why this most palatable of versions decided to do away with Edgar and Isabella’s childish spatting in favor of more actor-age-appropriate behavior.

And then finally in 2011, they’re fighting over the dog again. This version, despite being so wildly different in a lot of ways, is surprisingly faithful in others. This movie really gives almost no attention to the characters aside from Heathcliff and Cathy. It was hard getting even snapshots of Edgar and Hindley because they were hardly ever in the shot, let alone in the shot by themselves as a close up.

The 1939 version does have a few fun things, for Edgar and Isabella. Edgar mentions having made a recent big payment, and he says that he won’t be able to marry Isabella off for a decade because of it.

Maybe he just wants to keep her around? Then Isabella complains about the sort of men who are about, and Edgar teases her.

She leaves the room and Cathy makes a remark about having won the only prize in the county. (Which is a little suggestive if one wants it to be. Like Edgar might have been a good match for Isabella but he had already married Cathy.)

And then there’s a party later, and Edgar is watching intently as Heathcliff and Isabella flirt. He decides not to intervene, thinking that might fan the flames hotter.

The 1967 version is one of the best for Isabella and Edgar shipping because, as I already discussed, Edgar helps Isabella after the escapes from Heathcliff. It’s nice that the version in which he does that is also the version where Edgar and Isabella are having a tickle party when Heathcliff and Cathy come spy on them. In general there is less discord between them, most significantly in leading up to Isabella’s elopement. The only unfortunate thing is that the actor who plays Edgar when he is older underreacts to Isabella’s death. He seems vaguely dismayed, as if the letter he received from her telling him that she was dying was just a notification for a parking ticket.

The 1970 version goes to no effort to show any particular tenderness between Edgar and Isabella but they have a fiery relationship with lots of arguing and they’re both fairly attractive so it can be a little shippy if you’re looking for it. This version has more scenes between them because it focuses exclusively on the first generation. I mentioned their “window” scene at the piano. Later Cathy comes to visit and Isabella is teasing Edgar mercilessly for being in love with her. Isabella gives Edgar a sly look when Heathcliff pays them a call after returning.

The three of them have tea after Heathcliff returns and Edgar is fed up with them both and their bickering.

He gets very angry at Isabella and storms out. And the two of them have tea later – when Isabella is talking about marrying Heathcliff – and she is quite mean and tells him that she’ll give Heathcliff something that Edgar has never had (his wife’s love, presumably).

Again, Edgar gets extremely angry – this time he shoves everything off the table. He reacts with a lot more emotion to Isabella and her actions in this version than in most of the others.

Nelly tells him that she’s had a letter from Isabella, who is very unhappy and very apologetic, and asks him to write a small note for his sister. But you can tell Edgar is still very angry and inclined to continue to take his anger and sense of betrayal out on her. Isabella eagerly anticipates what Nelly might have brought her, sadly.

Also notable in this version is that Isabella stands idly by and lets Hindley shoot Heathcliff. (In the novel and some of the other versions she – not particularly sympathetically – gives Heathcliff a word of warning.) When Heathcliff dies, Cathy is dead too. But Edgar is still alive and Isabella is completely free. Perhaps he takes her back and they live on at Thrushcross Grange? This is the only version where Edgar and Isabella are both still alive when Heathcliff dies.

In the 1978 version – in direct opposition to the one from 1970 – Isabella is properly horrified to learn that Edgar plans to disown her if she encourages Heathcliff’s courtship. (Although she does eventually elope, of course.)

We hear a little bit of Isabella’s letter, which is in the novel. One key line, which is included in the movie, is, “Inform Edgar that I’d give the world to see his face again—that my heart returned to Thrushcross Grange in twenty-four hours after I left it, and is there at this moment […]” She details some of the horror of living at Wuthering Heights as Heathcliff’s wife, but does not want Nelly to tell all of that to Edgar. At the end of the letter she says, “And bring me something from Edgar. I’m wretched. I’ve been a fool.” We see the follow up to this in the version from 1970 and in this one, when Nelly speaks to Edgar and he won’t give her anything, and Nelly has to tell the heartbroken Isabella that Edgar would not say anything to her and hasn’t softened. (In the 1970 version, Nelly tells Edgar only that Isabella is very unhappy. She does not share with him the full horror of Isabella’s life at Wuthering Heights.)

Isabella stops by Thrushcross Grange after getting away from Heathcliff to speak to Nelly. This is in the wake of Catherine’s death and Edgar is not present in the scene. (She doesn’t want to see him, that’s not why she’s there.) She reaches up and touches Edgar’s portrait lovingly. It’s so sad.

(She also gives Catherine’s portrait a moment of attention. She’s remarkably fond of Catherine, really, though in this context Catherine had recently died, so it’s very understandable.)

When Catherine is trying to defend Heathcliff, and has been told by Heathcliff that Edgar hates him because he didn’t not approve of his marriage to Isabella, Edgar says somewhat impassioned that Isabella might still be alive if it weren’t for Heathcliff. And I do think that Edgar hates Heathcliff a great deal for Isabella’s sake, despite having hated him already before her marriage to him.

In the 1978 version, Edgar goes not warn Isabella about the consequences of her marrying Heathcliff, but when Nelly is asking how they might get her back, he says, “Why? When she has disowned me?” We don’t really find out what happens after she runs away from Heathcliff, and then we jump to the future and she is already dead and Edgar has Linton under his guardianship. So there’s a lot of wiggle room in this one to imagine they might have reconciled, and not just at the end.

This is true also true, in a sense, for the 2011 version. Cathy is dead, but Isabella and Edgar are both still alive. Isabella has left Heathcliff, it seems. Heathcliff doesn’t die – or isn’t shown dying, anyway – he just sort of wanders out onto the moors and the credits roll. So Isabella may have gone back to Edgar. We don’t ever see them speak to each other. Edgar may not even have disowned her. It’s outside of what we see.

The 1992 version doesn’t really have time to do anything particularly special with Edgar and Isabella, but it did make them much more in accord with each other. They’re happily playing a game with each other when Heathcliff and Cathy spy on them through the window, and seem to get on very well. There’s no quarrel about Heathcliff before Isabella elopes – she simply goes and understands her brother won’t approve. There is a sort of curious background moment after Cathy returns home for the first time after her five weeks of staying with the Lintons. For some reason, Edgar takes off Isabella’s cloak for her and their faces are very close together and they’re smiling at each other.

It doesn’t make sense particularly since Nelly and some other servants are standing right there, and it makes Edgar seem like the host, though that’s not his house and he and Isabella live together anyway (and have lots of servants at home). I wonder if he does that all the time.

After Edgar and Cathy marry, there’s a scene of the three of them together. Cathy is playing the piano, while Edgar and Isabella sit together. For no apparent reason they turn to look at each other and smile. They’re pretty cute.

Then Heathcliff arrives, and Edgar seems to instinctively sense there will be trouble with Isabella, and spends more time concerned with her attention on Heathcliff than Cathy’s.

Nelly visits Isabella at Wuthering Heights after Isabella’s marriage. Isabella warns her that Heathcliff is trying to provoke Edgar to desperation, but says she’ll “die first”. Heathcliff has been hitting her, and it seems like he wants to drive Edgar to do something that might get him killed or whatever else, and Isabella is so desperate to prevent that that she doesn’t even want Nelly to tell Edgar what her circumstances are like.

As I mentioned, the 2009 version for some reason is harsher about Isabella and Edgar. They are not shown interacting with each other except for one scene in which Isabella says something mean to Cathy (reacting to Cathy’s jealousy about Heathcliff’s courtship of her) and Edgar chides her for it and makes her apologize. There is a small moment earlier, when they are at Wuthering Heights and Hindley freaks out on Heathcliff and they stare at each other like, “this place is hell”:

Then there is the original scene when she encounters him on the road, running away from Wuthering Heights. She tells him she is pregnant and begs his forgiveness but he spurns her. It’s really quite strange. I can only assume it was meant to make Edgar a more ambivalent character so that Heathcliff wouldn’t look quite as bad? I mean, the movie does not endeavor to re-characterize Heathcliff but it is softer on him. (Not as much as Cathy, who is almost likable in this version.)

You can see that he is actually cruel to her in this scene. I can only think that she must have hurt him very badly for him to treat her this way.

The scene actually parallels a scene between Edgar and Catherine, after Catherine has married Linton. (But she lies to her father and says it was by choice, that they will live at Thrushcross Grange and be happy.) In both scenes they ask him to forgive them, and both times he says, “There is nothing to forgive.” But with Catherine he means it, and with Isabella he was being cruel. I can’t think what the meaning of the parallel is. I’m really at a loss for this entire sad divergence.

Isabella raises her and Heathcliff’s son Linton on her own, but she writes to her brother as she is dying. He goes and stays with her for three weeks towards the end of her illness and they reconcile. I think a lot about those three weeks and how emotional they must have been. After all that time, Edgar had no second thoughts or hesitation about going to see her. If only she had written sooner. He didn’t need 14 years to cool down, just a little while. The sad thing is how they never realized how much better they loved each other than Cathy or Hearthcliff ever did or ever could have loved them, and yet they spent all those years alone. Edgar, in particular, is infuriatingly hung up on Cathy. And you can tell he’s got the wrong idea about her, because he goes on and on about going to join her when he dies, and how she’s in heaven. When there’s tons of dialogue about Cathy believing she doesn’t belong in heaven, and walking the Earth as a ghost to be with Heathcliff. (And Nelly tells us in the book about how much pretending Cathy does with Edgar.)

Edgar brings Linton back to live with him and Linton grows attached to his uncle very quickly, as does Catherine grow attached to Linton. However, Heathcliff comes to claim him. Edgar doesn’t want to give the boy up, but it’s Heathcliff’s son and there’s really nothing he can do. Linton has no interest in meeting his father or living with his father and wants to stay with his uncle, which I think is sweet.

p1 - edgar and isabella 2009 snaps (1)batchedit

p1 - edgar and isabella 2009 snaps (2)batchedit

Edgar and Isabella also have a parallel scene. (At least, it strikes me as parallel.) Heathcliff and Cathy are having a very damning conversation and Edgar overhears part of it. He threatens to throw Heathcliff out of the house but Cathy locks Edgar inside the room so that he can’t run for his servants to help him. He cowers a little in front of Heathcliff but then jumps up and suckerpunches him. And Isabella has a moment that’s a little bit similar. Cathy is mocking Isabella for her crush on Heathcliff while Heathcliff is standing right there with them. Isabella wants to leave the room but Cathy blocks the door so that she cannot get out. Isabella surprises Cathy by biting her arm until Cathy relents, and Cathy says a remark to the effect of, “The cat has claws.” And come to think of it, Catherine has a parallel scene as well. When she has been imprisoned by Heathcliff, he is holding the key in his hand. She tries to get it out of his hand and eventually bites him to get it. He hits her, though, so she doesn’t succeed.

It hurts me, when Isabella chooses Heathcliff over Edgar despite the way Heathcliff has been behaving and the things that have been said about him, both by himself and by Cathy. And it hurts me when Edgar disowns her. But, like I said, I think a lot about those three weeks, and all the time they had after Cathy was dead and after Isabella had left Heathcliff to think about each other. They both spent the rest of their lives alone, save their children. Their children who marry each other!

And I haven’t even mentioned the most significant thing: Isabella names her son Linton. That was probably a revenge on Heathcliff, at least in part. (Also as you saw in that scene from 1967, they ideally hoped that Heathcliff would never even learn about his son.) But she gave her maiden name to her son to make sure that he would always be identified with the family of her birth, and with Edgar. And Linton is described as blonde hair and blue-eyed, and not a single word is said about him resembling Heathcliff in any way. Heathcliff even says, “Thou art thy mother’s child, entirely! Where is my share in thee, puling chicken?” (Quotes like these are another reason to read the book.) Maybe Linton is secretly Edgar’s child? Where’s the literary theory about that? (I would like to think Edgar would have done a lot better by Isabella under those circumstances, though.) In naming her son Linton, was she naming him after Edgar? Even after everything?

Linton has the fair Linton family coloring, as does Catherine. I think it’s interesting that Linton looks like his uncle, and Hareton looks like his aunt.

I also see the relationship between Edgar and Isabella in the relationship between their children, even if the dynamic itself is not a parallel. So moving on, to Catherine and Linton.

Catherine and Linton

Catherine becomes very fond of Linton. Edgar lies to her and tells her that Linton went to live far away, but when she learns that he’s close by at Wuthering Heights they develop a sort of love affair, writing letters and her visiting when she can despite it being forbidden by her father. Linton is preoccupied by his illness and isn’t raised well by Heathcliff in his remaining years, but Catherine loves him anyway, despite him not being a particularly likable person. (That’s part of what’s so important about Catherine – that she chooses to love despite all the obstacles.)

There is one thing that amuses me. Catherine and Linton had been writing love letters back and forth – Nelly specifically refers to them as “love letters” – and yet in one of the later moments when they are together Catherine says that she wishes he were her brother. I don’t know if that’s typical Emily Bronte incestuous nonsense or a hint at Catherine’s innocence or a hint that her feelings towards Linton aren’t particularly romantic. I think all three, probably.

(Nelly says this about the letters after she reads them, which made me laugh out loud for a solid minute: “Whether they satisfied [Catherine] I don’t know; but they appeared very worthless trash to me.” Nelly is really hard on Linton, harder on him than Cathy, almost. But I think that’s just her Hareton favoritism showing. And she probably doesn’t think anyone is good enough for Catherine.) And sometimes Heathcliff is showing dictating the letters!

Linton also asks Catherine to hold him and stroke him the way his mother did.

But Wuthering Heights is very de-sexed. I would love to read more literary criticism about that, because I do wonder if it was the because of the time period when it was written or what, but let’s just say it’s amazing any children were born at all.

Linton gets the most favorable characterization in “the nice one” (2009) but the book by far is the version that treats their relationship as the most romantic, even if Catherine becomes disillusioned with him eventually and she doesn’t marry him by choice. She might have married him by choice after some time but Heathcliff had to force things because of all the imminent death. Linton is terrified of his father and is forced to carry out his command, which makes him unlikable because the things he has to do are very bad. Perhaps things would have gone better if their romantic relationship had been allowed to develop organically.

In their second meeting, after Linton has been living with Heathcliff some time and Heathcliff gets Catherine to come back to the house, Heathcliff is disappointed that Linton would rather sit by the fire than take Catherine outside and show her some things that would interest her. He sends her out with Hareton instead, and Linton does grow jealous eventually and goes out there even though he would much rather sit inside.

Also, he plays a role in Catherine’s kidnapping and is not very helpful afterwards either but – at least from a shipping perspective – it’s slightly interesting that his father has told him that if he does this, Catherine will stay always at Wuthering Heights and love him more than anyone.

Their relationship actually reminds me a lot of Mary and Colin from The Secret Garden. (I even accidentally typed “Colin” instead of “Linton” a few paragraphs up.) Colin/Linton is sickly and complains a lot, and Mary/Catherine is attentive but also is the only one with the freedom to call him out on it. Catherine is more patient than Mary, but then Linton isn’t getting better like Colin – he’s at death’s door.

Linton’s characterization is rather steady across versions and true to the book. Most of the versions, especially the shorter ones, don’t include the love letter interlude. Cathy learns that Linton is at Wuthering Heights – sometimes meeting him for the first time there – and then she makes several trips back to visit him. It’s not clear how much time goes by but we see Linton getting sicker and sicker, until she visits him and Heathcliff kidnaps her.

1967:

1978:

Linton is slightly more palatable in the 1992 version than those that come before but there’s no particular effort to make him an upstanding character or anything like that.

Catherine, happy to see Linton

 

There’s not much to say about the version from 1998.

The 2009 one is the one that treats him the most kindly. Definitely too kindly, if we’re talking about book fidelity, but that’s why we like this version. We get to see lots of the affection between Linton and Catherine.

Catherine watches sadly as Linton leaves

 

And when Heathcliff wants to kidnap Catherine, Linton tries to get her to leave before Heathcliff returns.

There’s also a moment where he says, “I’m 18 and I’m dying!” and he sounds so angry and broken. That’s a lot more appealing that his typical fussy-invalid characterization. He’s also better looking than the other versions of him and he’s much nicer to Hareton and doesn’t make fun of him.

Linton being a douche

In the book and all the movie versions, Catherine takes care of Linton after their marriage, while he’s bed-bound and dying. Heathcliff will do nothing for him – won’t even spend the money on the doctor. But in the 2009 version, you can really see that Catherine cares about Linton.

In the book, when Heathcliff talks about how horrible Linton is and how Catherine must be thrilled to be married to him, Catherine says that she’ll love him and be a good wife to him. She’s determined to love him, to defy Heathcliff by loving him and caring for him. And when he dies, Heathcliff asks her how she feels, and she says, about Linton: “He’s safe.”

I feel bad for Isabella, that her son turned out to be a character so disfavored by the narrative. One gets frustrated with her for not seeing Heathcliff for what he truly is, but she’s actually very impressive. She abandons all of her wealth to marry Heathcliff for love, she gives back just about as good as she gets (at least verbally) when Heathcliff turns abusive, and then she runs away, pregnant, and raises her child all on her own, without even the help of her brother, her only living family. All in 1780s England. She was truly made of steel. It hardly seems fair that she dies young, and her son is sickly and unpleasant and dies young as well. But I think it was important that Heathcliff’s own son be distasteful to him, and to show how quickly be bent under Heathcliff’s abuse, while Hareton didn’t.

Catherine and Edgar

I do want to talk for a moment about Catherine’s relationship with her father. Edgar doesn’t want Heathcliff to get anywhere near her, so Catherine is essentially raised on Thrushcross Grange and never leaves it. Her entire world is her father and the servants. She adores her father. And he’s very young and good-looking in book-canon, though obviously that varies in the movie versions. (Both Edgar and Isabella are described as being very good looking). He’s in his late 30’s when he dies if I’ve done my math right, still a young man. (Again, that’s book canon.) He was very young when she was born. Nelly says that this is the happiest time in her life, while Catherine is growing up, and Catherine turns out a good and well-educated girl. This is basically the only time or place when there isn’t some kind of lurking misery – until the very end after Heathcliff dies. Edgar and Catherine just love each other very much. And when Edgar is dying and Catherine has been kidnapped, she’s willing to do anything in order to be able to see her father one last time.

Catherine isn’t said to resemble Cathy, except for her eyes. Both Catherine and Linton are described as having the Linton family coloring and very much appearing to be progeny of that family. Cathy probably resembled Isabella quite a bit. And Edgar, even though he wasn’t Cathy’s great love, loved her enormously. I wonder if he saw who he wanted Cathy to be in Catherine, if she was his Cathy and his Isabella and the versions of them that he wished they were all in one. (And Catherine being played by the same actress as Cathy certainly casts a suggestive shadow on the Edgar/Catherine relationship, especially with both of them being attractive and young and living in isolation. I didn’t do any side-by-side comparisons of Edgar/Catherine and Edgar/Cathy from the movies when they are played by the same actress but you can imagine.)

Catherine tells Linton that she could never love anyone as much as she loves her father. And when Edgar becomes ill and must stay in bed more, Nelly describes how Catherine is very bored without his company.

I really like the part when Edgar corrects Catherine, and says that he has forbidden her from going to Wuthering Heights not because he hates Heathcliff, but because Heathcliff hates him. It shows that he is very wise, and that he would indulge Catherine if he wasn’t deeply afraid of what Heathcliff might have planned. He says something like, “Do you really think I would favor my own feelings over yours?”

After Edgar dies, Catherine doesn’t seem to care much about losing all of her wealth and Thrushcross Grange to Heathcliff and being forced to live at Wuthering Heights and care for Linton as he dies. It’s obvious she’s in a deep depression and life means very little to her without her father. After Linton dies, she says she sees and feels only death. It’s only her relationship with Hareton that restores her.

In the 2009 version, Catherine gets very angry at her father for keeping her from Linton, but after she gets held prisoner and told that if she wants to see her father she must marry Linton, she starts screaming and fighting Linton and saying, “You think I would ever love you before my father?” (I actually feel bad for Linton here. It wasn’t his idea, and that wasn’t even what he said.)

 

The screen adaptations don’t really do justice to the potential I identified in the book – not based as much on their actual interactions as on the circumstances of their situation.

Before I move on to Catherine and Heathcliff, which is obviously a big one, and Catherine and Hareton, which is my #1 ship OTP ultimate fave for this story, I do want to spare a minute for Heathcliff and Hareton.

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Heathcliff and Hareton

This is such a nuanced and unique relationship, and the most fascinating relationship in the novel, if you ask me. All of the movies (except for 1978) leave out this precious moment from the book when Hindley is holding Hareton (who is one year old or so) and being a beast about everything and then he accidentally drops him from upstairs and Heathcliff, who is coming along down below, instinctively catches him. And then Heathcliff just has this moment where he likes, “Oh shit, did I just do something good?” and Hindley feels obligated to not murder him for at least 3 years.

Hareton is characterized as having a sort of intrinsic worth and goodness that continues to exist despite never having been cultivated by Hindley or Heathcliff, and that especially Cathy, Heathcliff, Hindley, and Linton don’t seem to have. And Heathcliff, in spite of himself, seems to recognize it in Hareton. He even says that he wishes Hareton had been his son instead of Linton, and that he could have loved Hareton if Hareton hadn’t been Hindley’s son. He doesn’t treat Hareton particularly well but Hareton also seems to be the only person that Heathcliff can stand to be around and he actually does like him. It’s all so gloriously ironic. Heathcliff sets out to have his revenge on Hindley through Hindley’s son but can’t resist having a tender spot for the boy. He sets out to crush him down but ends up being his father.

Heathcliff also says that he knows Nelly thinks he’s soft on Hareton because Hareton reminds him of Cathy (remember, he’s said to resemble Cathy a lot and especially to have her eyes), but then he says that’s not why, because everything reminds him of Cathy. (Though he does have a line about looking for Hindley in Hareton’s face but seeing Cathy more and more each time.)

There’s no canonical biological relationship there but Heathcliff is his uncle and his father, at least when it comes to essentials. Hareton views Heathcliff as his “true” father, and, as I already mentioned is “damnably fond” of him. There is such a twisted, unexpected, ironic relationship here and it is just TOO GOOD.

It’s really too bad that Hareton wasn’t in the 1939 one because I think Laurence Olivier would have done an awesome job of delivering on that ambivalence and reluctant affection. Ian McShane probably excelled the most, out of the actors that were given the opportunity, to show Heathcliff’s side of it. There are some great scenes with Hareton when he is still a kid, like when Heathcliff is teaching him how to lay a trap for rabbits, and then rubs his head affectionately.

I have to fault the 1992 version for not spending more time on that relationship because you can tell they understood that it was special. But there is a great scene where Hareton sees that Heathcliff is upset and follows him out to the moor and puts his hand on his shoulder, asking him to come back and finish eating. Heathcliff is totes jelly and makes a bitchy remark about how Hareton has someone back at the house – Catherine – and how he’s not sure how Hareton could stand to leave her. Though he’s more resigned than angry, and I think a little touched that Hareton came out there. I think he was mainly just trying to get rid of him because he wanted to dwell alone in darkness.

The 2009 version does a great job of showing Hareton’s side of the relationship and spends more time on this relationship – relative to how long the movie is – than any of the other versions do. Hareton is fiercely loyal to Heathcliff – he even fights with Catherine over it and after Heathcliff grows more depressed they have a long conversation alone. Hareton is a little miffed at Heathcliff for teaching him that love was only pain – because he’s finding out that being in love with Catherine makes him very happy.

Heathcliff points out that if he has been wrong, then everything he has done in his life was for nothing. (He’s basically in too deep to change his mind, which I think is an important insight into his final days.) Hareton tells him that he wants Heathcliff to believe whatever will give him peace, and then expresses concern about his health.

When Heathcliff kills himself, Hareton bawls his eyes out and clings to his body and it’s so flippin’ sad. I’m just…

And, of course, if we go with Heathcliff being Mr. Earnshaw’s bastard, then Heathcliff actually is Hareton’s half-uncle.

Catherine and Heathcliff

This would also make him Catherine’s half-uncle, and he’s her father-in-law (twice over if you count Hareton) and uncle-by-marriage in any case. Of course, Heathcliff treats her worse than anyone. In a lot of ways she’s only collateral damage, but she really is on the receiving end of the worst of what Heathcliff does (except, perhaps, for Isabella). (Though she also gets the opportunity to live happily more than anyone else – more happily, and for longer.) He often speaks about how much he suffers to have her in his sight and how much he despises her. (She really is like a second coming of Isabella in a lot of ways. A lot more than a second coming of Cathy.) Deep within all that horribleness there really is some potential for it as a ship but I’m not going to spend much time talking about it. (Obviously Heathcliff is horrible. It takes a lot of work to ship him with anyone.)

There’s really only a couple of shippy moments between them. There’s one where she gets down on her knees and takes his hand and begs him to let her go see her father. She tells him she’ll do anything – marry Linton, whatever he wants – and says that she knows he’s not really a cruel man. There’s some variation among the different versions about how much emotion Heathcliff shows but he’s definitely affected – disgusted, even – by her sweetness and her appeals and he throws her hand off of him. Maybe he even storms away?

Then there’s another part, this is actually earlier on so I should have mentioned it first and yet I’m not going to fix it, when Catherine realizes that Heathcliff is her uncle (through his marriage to Isabella) and she hugs him and kisses his cheek and he is horrified by her affection and throws her off. But he’s pretending to be nice at that point so it’s kind of hilarious because he’s trying not to be mean about it.

Then there is the short period when Mr. Lockwood thinks that Catherine is Heathcliff’s wife.

‘Mrs. Heathcliff is my daughter-in-law,’ said Heathcliff, corroborating my surmise. He turned, as he spoke, a peculiar look in her direction: a look of hatred; unless he has a most perverse set of facial muscles that will not, like those of other people, interpret the language of his soul.

‘Ah, certainly—I see now: you are the favoured possessor of the beneficent fairy,’ I remarked, turning to my neighbour.

This was worse than before: the youth grew crimson, and clenched his fist, with every appearance of a meditated assault. But he seemed to recollect himself presently, and smothered the storm in a brutal curse, muttered on my behalf: which, however, I took care not to notice.

‘Unhappy in your conjectures, sir,’ observed my host; ‘we neither of us have the privilege of owning your good fairy; her mate is dead. I said she was my daughter-in-law: therefore, she must have married my son.’

‘And this young man is——’

‘Not my son, assuredly.’

Heathcliff smiled again, as if it were rather too bold a jest to attribute the paternity of that bear to him.

I didn’t include the quite funny part where Mr. Lockwood reflects on how attractive he himself is and how Catherine must be feeling sorry for having married Hareton before having seen all the better stuff that was out there.

And then there is the moment towards the end when Catherine stands up to Heathcliff and says whatever the hell she wants to to him because she is certain that Hareton won’t let Heathcliff beat her, and Heathcliff grabs her hair and is about to hit her and then lets go, and tells her not to get him so upset, and one or the other of them leaves.

Arguably, he’s mostly angry at her for turning Hareton against him (or trying to), and seeing that Hareton probably will intervene is part of what makes him back off. But this is a turning point and I think he was looking at her and just had this realization like, “What am I doing?” Not as a matter of right or wrong, but wondering what the point was, why it mattered, all of that. He also tends, during this scene, to catch sight of Cathy, either as a ghost or a vision or her portrait or something. Is it Cathy protecting her daughter? (There’s remarkably little about Catherine being interested in her mother in the book.) Is it Heathcliff’s subconscious – either feeling guilty about what he is doing to Catherine or turning to his familiar grief over Cathy instead of dealing with the present situation?

The 1992 version has a few additional interesting moments. Heathcliff comes upon Catherine gardening and calls her Cathy, staring at her. It’s like he’s confused. (This is towards the end, when he’s starting to lose it and thinks he is seeing Cathy’s ghost everywhere.) Then another after Mr. Lockwood comes. And I never mentioned this, but Mr. Lockwood stays in Cathy’s old room and sees her ghost, or believes he has. In the 1992 version, Catherine and Heathcliff both rise when they hear his terrified cries. Heathcliff asks Catherine to come into the room with him, and then notes her hesitation/refusal, and says, “No. To you I have made myself worse than the devil.” It almost seems as if he regrets it.

And one could argue that he hates her because she’s not his daughter. Because she should have been his daughter and instead she’s Edgar’s.

And obviously there are a lot of factors that complicate this relationship – Catherine as a daughter of Cathy, Catherine as a daughter of Edgar, Catherine as a pawn in Heathcliff’s revenge scheme, her personality, etc. Heathcliff/Catherine is a lot more interesting, at least for me, unsurprisingly, if she really is his half-niece. But that obviously wouldn’t make much difference to him. He treats his own son just as badly as everyone else, even if he does want his son to be waited on and indulged by everyone else because it amuses him.

Heathcliff and Cathy

And that leads me into Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship. I’ll admit, I’m not a big fan. (I guess it depends on what part of the fandom you have been exposed to whether that seems like a popular or unpopular opinion.) I find them both insufferable (though I happily suffer them for Hareton and Catherine’s sake), and “the nice one” is the only version of the story – including all the other movies and the book – where I ship them at all, really, with the exception of maybe a few moments and scenes here and there.

p17 - heathcliff and cathy 2009 (3)batchedit

But it certainly is wonderful to see a relationship that is incest-adjacent at the center of such a famous and classic novel and love story (a story about love, anyway). Cathy is 6 when her father comes back with Heathcliff, and he is slightly older. Although this falls out of my strict “adoptive” range, (which is admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but is based on my own feelings and the Westermarck Effect), it’s still quite young. And Heathcliff is so much a part of the family that he is said to be Cathy and Hindley’s father’s favorite child. Heathcliff is treated as another child and a member of the family until Mr. Earnshaw dies and Hindley becomes the man of the house. (Though, despite Mr. Earnshaw’s wishes, Heathcliff never really is like a member of the family.)

 

p17 - cathy and heathcliff fdjak (2)As stated, there exists a fan and literary theory about Wuthering Heights that Heathcliff is actually Mr. Earnshaw’s bastard son. It explains why Mr. Earnshaw felt such an immediate attachment to him, and why he was willing to bring him home and treat him as his own son (and name him after one of his own sons who had died). How he could even become the favorite child. Obviously I love the theory, my only question is that if Mr. Earnshaw knew where Heathcliff was this whole time, why didn’t he make sure he was being treated better? But we don’t know what happened – how Mr. Earnshaw might have found out that Heathcliff was his, what events led to him taking custody, etc. Heathcliff’s unpleasant childhood prior to meeting Cathy and his ignorance of his own parents are an important part of his characterization but they don’t preclude Mr. Earnshaw knowing the truth. (And if my speculation about the 2018 movie and what we see in that picture is right, then Heathcliff’s upbringing wasn’t so bad in that version.)

 

There’s nothing to support or disprove the theory in the book beyond the fact that it would make sense in some ways and less sense in others. What I mean is, there aren’t any ambiguous lines that could point to it being hinted at or anything like that. There’s just the facts. Obviously I’m a fan of the theory so I’m happy to run with it.

2009 spends some time on the idea. Hindley is upset because everyone in town is spreading rumors that Heathcliff is Earnshaw’s bastard son. Earnshaw never outright says that he’s not, but seems offended that no one thinks him or anyone capable of that kind of charity. I found it interesting how long this movie spent with the theory, but it also is the only one that takes the opportunity to dismiss it. (Even if there’s still room for it to be true.)

The 1970 version also introduces the idea, but never dismisses it. Mrs. Earnshaw, Cathy and Hindley’s mother, believes Heathcliff to be her husband’s bastard son when he brings him home. Mr. Earnshaw never confirms but doesn’t deny it either. In fact, he calls her “smart”, but it’s still ambiguous.

Here is the blurb from the trivia section of the IMDB page:

The script drops hints that Heathcliff is really Earnshaw’s illegitimate son, either by a mistress or a prostitute, and thus is Cathy’s half-brother. While many critics over the years have debated an incestuous subtext in the novel, this was the first film version to be (relatively) open about the issue.

Unfortunately this version could never be my favorite because it has no Hareton and Catherine. Still, mad props. Heathcliff and Cathy may very well be biological brother and sister in this movie.

And then, of course, I already speculated about the Wuthering Heights coming out this summer. Forecast for canon incest looks very good. Bring your sunscreen.

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.I do want to give a shout out to “the nice one”. There’s a scene towards the beginning where Heathcliff is looking up at Wuthering Heights, and into one of the windows. He sees Catherine there, and then he has a vision/memory of seeing Cathy instead, and then he sees Cathy as a girl.

I loved that he was remembering her as a child and their time together as children. The 2011 version also has a flashback to Cathy and Heathcliff at a younger age (though not as young as the other example) as the very last moment of the film. Heathcliff and Cathy very much have that, “We’ve always been in love, we’ll always be in love” aspect that appeals very much from an incest-shipping perspective.

I know, I didn’t talk about Heathcliff and Cathy very much. But there’s not much to discuss for my purposes when it’s all text instead of subtext. I can never quite make myself believe that they are half-siblings, even in the version from 1970. That’s something I need to work on. It’s a personal goal.

Catherine and Hareton

 

Finally, I get to talk about my faves! As I mentioned, for most of my life, I was only familiar with the 1939 movie. And so I had very little interest in Wuthering Heights because, as you just saw me say,  I’m not the biggest fan of Cathy and Heathcliff. It’s also an unsettling story, and the 1939 version, being black and white and a little supernatural-leaning, is particularly haunting and discomfiting. (Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It was certainly what the movie was going for. And I appreciate it much more now than I did then.) But for some reason – and I really can’t remember why – I watched the 1992 version. This film introduced me to the second generation and I developed a new delight in the story. I liked Hareton and Catherine right from the start, but this movie gives you only a glimpse of what is in the novel.

I can’t recommend reading the book for Hareton and Catherine’s relationship enough. I love them in the relevant movies but they’re not a large enough part to say it’s worth watching the entire movie just for them, especially when it always feels like we’re fastforwarding through the part of the story that ought to rightfully be theirs. (1992 might be an exception, as I’ll get into further below.) Although the book is a much larger commitment and takes even more time, the reward is greater when it comes to this ship. (But I don’t want to overexaggerate, it’s not a if the book is 75% about them or anything like that.)

One thing that’s great about the book is that there are a lot of moments that are not about Hareton and Catherine but it’ll be noted that Hareton’s attention was on Catherine or vice verse. For example, Zillah tells Nelly (and Nelly tells Mr. Lockwood) about what it was like when Linton died. She says that Hareton was the only one who actually looked appropriately distressed, but that mainly he watched Catherine. Or in the passage I quoted, when Mr. Lockwood makes the mistake of thinking that Catherine is Heathcliff’s wife. Then he thinks that she is Hareton’s wife, and Hareton is described as blushing. (Possibly also turning red with anger – but given his feelings towards Catherine, either one is relevant.) Even when those scenes appear in the movies you don’t get the shippiness from them that comes from the way they are described in the novel. I think Emily Bronte really shipped it. This may just be in my head, but the way I feel about it is like the movies sort of plod through the relationship out of duty, but in the book (and in the 1992 movie) it’s revered.

I’m not going to break down all of the Hareton and Catherine scenes. They’re canon, there’s not a whole lot of subtext to analyze, like with Cathy and Heathcliff. (I don’t mean that there’s nothing to analyze, just that in the sense of “making a case for it”, it’s not necessary.) They appeal to me quite a lot because of the hostile tension between them. That period when they hate each other just as much as they’re drawn to each other. They’re so caught up in the twisted misery of that place that they can’t break through to realize that they’re already in love.

And it really comes across like love at first sight, when 13 year old Catherine encounters Hareton on the moor. She’s fascinated with him (who is frequently described as being strongly built and handsome, but rough of manners and uneducated) and he’s fascinated with her – she is sweet and beautiful and clean and happy, quite unlike what he’s used to seeing at Wuthering Heights. They are curiosities for each other. And there’s such a pure connection there, but then it falls apart because Hareton is sensitive and proud and Catherine is oblivious and proud. Catherine mistakes Hareton for a servant:

This is deeply insulting for him but he hasn’t been taught how to deal with anything except to swear at it.

When Catherine is told that Hareton is her cousin, she refuses to believe it, and Hareton is – rightly – insulted. Insulted again.

 

I uploaded the version of that moment from the 1967 movie (and Catherine meeting Linton for the first time is tacked on at the end, since it was the following scene). I did this version because it’s the longest and most detailed, and most like the book.

But it all gets compounded by Linton later on – who puts Hareton down for being illiterate.

And Heathcliff pours gasoline on the fire, of course, just by being who he is, but also by kidnapping Catherine. From her point of view, Hareton doesn’t do anything to help her.

Hareton has not been educated at all and does not know how to read. Catherine has little understanding of the circumstances that have led to that and so she looks down on him for it. Her presence makes him aware of his own ignorance (and more importantly makes him care) and he tries to learn how to read but she ridicules him for struggling with this and they become even more at odds than ever.

It is the misery of Wuthering Heights and the influence of Heathcliff that makes everyone there unhappy and rude and makes them lash out at each other.

And then Catherine, after losing everything – her father, her home, her husband, her inheritance, her freedom – is understandably bitter and takes it out on him. So he, in turn, responds to her spurning and grows to hate her (but not really). (And the way that situation gets turned around is really the key to these two being the redemption.)

At this point Hareton and Catherine hate each other – or seem to – but then it becomes obvious that Catherine is picking on him because she can’t leave him alone and he only hates her because of the way she treats him.

Nelly’s (and Mr. Lockwood’s) defenses of Hareton, Catherine’s own interest in him, and her loneliness lead her to finally reach out. He doesn’t trust her (he’s afraid she’s still mocking him) so it’s slow going but eventually he opens up to her and they bond quickly after that. Heathcliff is still a source of tension between them but Catherine comes to understand that Heathcliff is like a father to Hareton. And then Heathcliff dies, not long after. Arguably, it’s seeing Hareton and Catherine rising above his efforts to crush them down that finally takes the spirit out of him. Maybe, in particular, feeling as if he has lost Hareton.

The romance progresses very fast after that and they have plans to be married within that same year, and Catherine teaches him to read and it’s like a whole new house and new people.

They’re going to settle at Thrushcross Grange after their wedding, and Nelly says that on their wedding day there won’t be a happier woman than herself in all of England.

So you’ve got some wonderful angst in the middle and then a wonderfully happy ending.

I do love that Catherine marries her father’s nephew and then her mother’s nephew. Twice the cousincest! As I have mentioned, Catherine and Hareton are both described as having the same eyes – Cathy’s eyes. And Nelly makes an observation about them I believe at their first meeting and the way it’s phrased is wonderful: “He could not stand a steady gaze from her eyes, though they were just his own.”

I’ve already shown quite a lot from the 1967 version. The first time he speaks you’re like “Whoa.” But then you get used to him. There is one original moment that I like a lot. Catherine comes down to get help for Linton, who has taken a turn for the worse, and Hareton can’t stop staring at her, to Heathcliff’s annoyance.

still staring

It seems to me he’s staring at Catherine, but it’s also possible he’s troubled by Linton’s situation. That seems to be part of why Heathcliff is annoyed.

The 1978 version has a moment from the book that isn’t in any of the other adaptations. Catherine is sitting by the fire and Hareton is near her, watching her. And then he can’t resist reaching out and touching her hair. She’s outraged and he’s embarrassed, of course. Sadly, it’s not a particularly well-done scene. It just goes by too fast. It needed to be built up more.

This one also has a great scene (unique to this version, though some of the others have variations on the same idea) where Catherine is watching Hareton shoot and gets really thirsty for him.

need me some of that

Then there’s this dramatic cut to her throwing herself at his feet and telling him to own her as his cousin.

There’s a lot I like about Cathryn Harrison’s Catherine, especially in these two scenes. She really goes for the sexual tension and Catherine’s desperation to have him.

The gun kink scene is couched in between two Catherine and Hareton scenes that take place in the kitchen area. In the first, Catherine is giving him a hard time, but in the second she is begging him to be her friend. He doesn’t believe that she means it.

And Catherine kisses Hareton on the forehead. This is in the book but I like how embarrassed she is about it in this movie. It’s a nice parallel scene with when he touched her hair. They both just couldn’t resist doing it.

And this is her face after she offers him a book, hoping he’ll take it:

And some other scenes from 1978:

I think I’ll always have a special predisposition towards Hareton and Catherine in the 1992 version because it was my first exposure to them. But I also think it’s the best version of them because they get the full love story treatment: lots of longing looks, always being aware of each other, lots of tiny moments. Going in chronological order, it’s our first Hareton who isn’t an over-acted caricature of himself and matches, in my opinion, what he was supposed to be like in the book. This movie takes special care to show the attraction and interest between the two of them right from the start.

Catherine seems far more intrigued by him than Linton and they spend a lot of time staring at each other.

This and the versions that follow deal with the reality of what Hareton did or didn’t know or how involved he was with Catherine’s kidnapping. In 1967 and 1978, Hareton is conveniently not shown during those parts. One presumes he couldn’t have been totally ignorant, and yet he might have been, or he might have been away on business. Catherine blames him for not helping her and for being loyal to Heathcliff, but she doesn’t actually know. And he tells her that he has taken her part 100 times and made Heathcliff angry. Her kidnapping might have been one of those times when he stood up for her with Heathcliff. But in the version from 1992, Hareton brings her food while she is kidnapped. And then locks her back in. But we see him standing outside her door, quite troubled.

I think this version made the assumption that Hareton must have known and wanted to show that he was definitely not OK with it. Nelly comes to the gate (in this version, she is not kidnapped with Cathy), and Hareton is speaking to her but Heathcliff quickly appears there too. He probably knew he had reason to fear that Hareton might say something. Although from Catherine’s point of view, as she watches out the window, it looks like he does nothing.

Hareton also watches on during the wedding, looking troubled and jealous. This is one of the innovations I mentioned earlier, a scene that’s not in any of the other movies or even in the book.

joyous occasion

just barely holding his peace

You can see in the 1998 version that Hareton just stands there and nothing is made of the fact that he is present:

After Linton has died (and Edgar has only just died too, of course), Catherine comes downstairs to make the announcement and Hareton invites her to come over by the fire but she shoves him off, angry about the kidnapping.

The scene that I remembered best about this movie was Catherine watching Hareton feeding a baby lamb. It turns out to have been an innovation and it’s one of the scenes that makes Catherine/Hareton in this version particularly special. He’s really tender with the lamb and obviously enjoying himself and it makes a big impression on Catherine. It’s only a 30 second scene but it’s pivotal.

The turning point scene is fairly conventional among versions, as you’ll see if you watch the compilation video further down. The one from 1992 resembles quite a lot the versions we saw in 1967 and 1978. The latter two versions vary more.

Talking about Heathcliff:

In the 1998 version also Hareton brings Catherine some food while she’s imprisoned. In this one he has a chance to speak to Nelly alone, and lies to her, but inadvertently passes on her message about Edgar nearing the end of his days to Catherine, which possibly motivates Catherine to give in and marry Linton. He wants to pass on the message but doesn’t exactly say it.

I really like the actors in their roles in this movie but this movie cuts most of the hostile tension between them. She’s grumpy while imprisoned and has one sharp word for him afterwards,

but then immediately begins visibly longing for his company, and actually he runs from her approaches until they finally connect.

There’s a scene quite similar to the one from 1992 (and to some degree the one from 1978): Hareton is playing with a puppy while Catherine watches, moved. Then she finally speaks to him, and he gives her the puppy.

One thing I do like a lot is that this version shows Catherine and Hareton next to each other when Mr. Lockwood arrives. In the book, Catherine tells Hareton to help Mr. Lockwood get back to Thrushcross Grange in the storm, and he snarls back that he doesn’t take orders from her. But then he offers to do it (but Heathcliff won’t let him). Because they’re both good people and don’t want Mr. Lockwood to die. That, and the moment when Mr. Lockwood thinks that Hareton is Catherine’s husband are two of the only moments between them in the very beginning of the story, when Mr. Lockwood arrives. Most of the movies don’t show any interaction between them. (Only the 1978 version, in its fidelity to the book.) But this version at least shows them next to each other.

But actually it’s a larger deviation from the book because at this stage in the 1998 version they’re on much better terms (he has already given her the puppy) than they were in the book. In the book, they’re still on their way down, and one of their nastiest interactions is yet to come.

While this version doesn’t given Hareton/Catherine that special space and intensity that the version from 1992 does, one gift it gives us is a lot of happier/loving Catherine and Hareton scenes. And notably, when Catherine sasses off at Heathcliff about her garden, Hareton stands up immediately and makes it very clear in a deep, intimidating voice that Heathcliff had better not hurt her…or else. In the book, and in all the other versions, Catherine stands up to Heathcliff because she’s confident that Hareton will defend her. This one is a little different. She and Hareton both stare at each other after Hareton speaks to Heathcliff, sort of like, “Whoa…We’re in love, aren’t we?” Even though he had already asked her to kiss him when they had been reading in the garden earlier that day – which correlates in the book to the final moment between them. I guess I think those scenes should have been switched – although that couldn’t have happened without tweaking because Catherine’s gardening is part of this conversation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This version has another scene that doesn’t appear anywhere else. It’s just a short moment, but when Heathcliff goes into Cathy’s old room to call out to her ghost, Hareton and Catherine are standing out in the hallway. Hareton puts a hand on her shoulder to reassure her and says that she should go back to bed.

They’re so cute when he’s reading.

In the 2009 version, Hareton is more actively Cathy’s jailer, but looks as troubled as ever.

There is a lot less tension between them in this one, less even than the one from 1998. Both this one and the one from 1998 speed right through the period when Catherine and Hareton hate each other. Hareton reaches out to her – inviting her to come by the fire, bringing her a book, bringing her flowers.

Hareton is very interested in Cathy when she first comes to the house.

They do have that traditional moment of conflict when he cannot read “Hareton Earnshaw”, which is engraved on the house, and she thinks that he is a servant.

They have a small spat over Heathcliff. Hareton doesn’t defend his actions, per se – just asks her not to speak ill of him.

Nelly gives her some wise words about Hareton and Heathcliff’s peculiar relationship.

In their next scene together (after looking at each other during Linton’s funeral), Catherine apologizes and all is well again. Hareton tells her “I’m sorry”, as in “I’m sorry for your loss.” And then she says she didn’t mean what she said.

Forgive and forget?

No. Resent and remember.

 

Hareton and Catherine do have their reading scene too:

And when Catherine has her traditional scene of sassing off at Heathcliff, Hareton does rise to show Heathcliff that he would defend her.

Each movie does their own version of showing us Hareton and Cathy, happy and together, at the end. In 1967 we see them arm in arm after Heathcliff’s funeral.

In 1978 – true to the book – they are reading together and Hareton wants a kiss but Cathy will only kiss him as a reward for having mastered his reading assignment.

In 1992, Cathy and Hareton are riding horses and they kiss.

The 1998 version has the two of them playing some version of blind man’s bluff outside, and they kiss in slow motion, which is, fabulously, the final image of the movie.

The 2009 version shows the two of them holding hands as they walk away from Wuthering Heights, following carts with the servants and all of their possessions. It’s clear they are moving to Thrushcross Grange.

I did a compilation of the turning point Catherine/Hareton scene for each movie, the scene where Catherine finally reaches out:

It seemed like a good part to focus on, because you get to see the tension between them, but also the longing.

Now I’ll do some Hareton/Catherine superlative awards:

  • 1967 Most rare scenes, Most hilarious Hareton hairdo
  • 1978 Most sexual tension, Most faithful to the book, Most minutes
  • 1992 Most epic, Best love story, Sexiest Hareton, Most bang for you minute, Best Hareton, Best original scenes, Least rushed
  • 1998 Most adorable Catherine, Most puppies, Fluffiest, Best Catherine
  • 2009 Most adorable Hareton, Sweetest Hareton, Easiest Courtship, Least outdated-looking

As you can see, each version has something going for it.

Given this wonderful cousin romance, two cousin marriages, and fostercest between Cathy and Heathcliff – not to mention theories that perhaps Heathcliff is Cathy’s half-brother – one really has to wonder about Emily Bronte’s incest kink, right? Also that famous quote that I mentioned, about Catherine and Heathcliff’s souls being made of the same thing, has a ring of incest to it. And you also have Heathcliff and Cathy marrying into the same family – a brother and a sister who would have been far better off with each other than these two, by the way – and a family that were extremely close neighbors – the only neighbors of note, in fact. Catherine’s first husband has her own last name. Catherine’s second husband turns her into Catherine Earnshaw, and there seems to be a rightness of the return to this. It’s all so…inbred. So endogamous. Gothic literature tends to be very insular and have themes of incest and being cloistered and all that so it’s not such a surprise. But still.

And there’s lots of other interesting relationships that make the book worth reading but that I haven’t discussed because they don’t fall within our purview here – Isabella and Hindley and Nelly and Heathcliff, for example. (Though Nelly and Heathcliff might be half-siblings in Nelly Dean.) Not necessarily ships, but just further illustration of the richness of the story.

I’m already starting to get these eight movies mixed up so I’m afraid I’m no longer a very good judge of what happened in which one and who said it best (etc.) even though that was by far the most useful thing this post might have been for. But I hope to have at least put Catherine and Hareton on your radar a little bit, if they weren’t already. Mostly all I did was make myself care about Edgar/Isabella more than I should.

5 thoughts on “Incest in Wuthering Heights

  1. Thanks so much for this blog! I discovered The Borgias only recently on Netflix and am completely obsessed with the show, especially with Cesare and Lucrezia. Having read your previous posts about them on your older shipcestuous blog, I was wondering if you might post more here. The Showtime series was kind of a sleeper when it originally aired, but now has a lot of new fans because of its popularity on Netflix. The character studies of Cesare and Lucrezia and their fascinating relationship dynamics are rich with possibilities for discussion. It’s depressing how many incest relationships are written/portrayed as villainous and doomed, so it’s a rarity to see that this sibling relationship was loving and endured.

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    • I’m so glad to hear that The Borgias is picking up new fans! Cesare and Lucrezia are definitely a special treasure, especially when taking into consideration how incest relationships are usually written. I think they actually were written as doomed, but fortunately for us shippers, the show was cancelled first, lol. But I think they would have always been in love. I may post more The Borgias here, though I’m not sure. But you can find more commentary about them here on my tumblr. Thank you so much for your interest! And for your comment!

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    • Hi. I didn’t mean for the title to be misleading. I was referring to a discussion of incestuous relationships but not canonically incestuous, if you know what I mean. Non-canon shipping. But also the cousin marriages and theories about Heathcliff being Cathy’s half-brother.

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  2. Pingback: Cathy and Hareton choose peace over remembrance. | Stuff I Done Wrote - The Michael A. Charles Online Presence

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