Wuthering Heights passion-love of Catherine and Heathcliff
The concept that almost every reader of Wuthering Heights focuses on is the passion-love of Catherine and Heathcliff, often to the exclusion of every other theme–this despite the fact that other kinds of love are presented and that Catherine dies half way through the novel. The loves of the second generation, the love of Frances and Hindley, and the “susceptible heart” of Lockwood receive scant attention from such readers. But is love the central issue in this novel? Is its motive force perhaps economic?
The desire for wealth does motivate Catherine’s marriage, which results in Heathcliff’s flight and causes him to acquire Wuthering Heights, to appropriate Thrushcross Grange, and to dispossess Hareton. Is it possible that one of the other themes constitutes the center of the novel, or are the other themes secondary to the theme of love? Consider the following themes: Clash of elemental forces. The universe is made up of two opposite forces, storm and calm. Wuthering Heights and the Earnshaws express the storm; Thrushcross Grange and the Lintons, the calm. Catherine and Heathcliff are elemental creatures of the storm.
This theme is discussed more fully in Later Critical response to Wuthering Heights The clash of economic interests and social classes. The novel is set at a time when capitalism and industrialization are changing not only the economy but also the traditional social structure and the relationship of the classes. The yeoman or respectable farming class (Hareton) was being destroyed by the economic alliance of the newly-wealthy capitalists (Heathcliff) and the traditional power-holding gentry (the Lintons). This theme is discussed more fully in Wuthering Heights as Socio-Economic Novel.