Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wuthering Heights: Favorite Heathcliff Scenes: Deathbed
Since Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is my favorite gothic novel, I read it every couple of years or so. Each time I read it I feel differently about each character and each scene depending on my mood or stage of life at the time. This time I'm really feeling the isolation of the characters from the rest of the world and how that might effect the way they behave toward each other. Because of the sensitivity I'm having to the isolation of the characters, Heathcliff is really standing out as the most isolated of all of them, whether by circumstance or his own anger and rejection of everyone except Catherine and Nelly.

During his final days, he even refuses to sit at the table for meals with the household inhabitants or allow them in the same part of the house except for the one occasion when he invited young Catherine to sit with him and scared her into hiding behind Nelly who was too creeped out to want to be in the same room with him for very long either. No matter how creepy his behavior during the last few days before his death, the strangest was the way he died alone in his room with a crazed expression on his face.

Lockwood retells Nelly's experience:

I peeped in. Mr. Heathcliff was there--laid on his back. His eyes met mine so keen and fierce, I started; and then he seemed to smile. [ ] I combed his long black hair from his forehead, I tried to close his eyes; to extinguish, if possible, that frightful, life-like gaze of exultation, before any one else beheld it. They would not shut; they seemed to sneer at my attempts; and his parted lips and sharp white teeth sneered too!

And then Hareton kissed the corpse!

This isn't my most favorite Heathcliff scene, but it's a striking one, no pun intended. I don't know if there is any description of a corpse in 19th century literature as vividly creepy as this one. What put that expression on his face at his time of dying? Did Catherine come to guide him into the afterlife or is it like annoying Joseph said, that the devil came to take his soul?

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