The Notion of a Double in Wuthering Heights
Brontë's Wuthering Heights is the captivating tale of two families and the relationships that develop between them. The narrator, Mr. Lockwood, relates the story as told to him by Ellen, the housekeeper. The novel contains an excellent illustration of the doppel-ganger, the notion of a double. Generally, this concept is applied to specific characters, as in Poe's William Wilson. However, the concept appears in Wuthering Heights in two different ways. The doppel-ganger is illustrated in the story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in relation to that of Cathy Linton and Hareton Earnshaw, but it is also present in the relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff as individuals.
In Wuthering Heights, it is almost as if the story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff is repeated through Cathy Linton and Hareton Earnshaw. There are some discernible differences between these two relationships, but the general outline of the stories share some striking similarities. For example, Heathcliff could not be with Catherine Earnshaw because her brother, Hindley, had reduced him to the status of a brute. After Mr. Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff was treated like a servant instead of a member of the family. Later in the story, Heathcliff does the same thing to Hareton, Hindley's son, but in a subtle way that prevents any animosity on Hareton's part. Hindley loses everything that would have been Hareton's inheritance, leaving Hareton with nothing. Heathcliff takes advantage of the situation and Hindley's wealth is inevitably turned over to Heathcliff. Heathcliff sees part of himself in Hareton and develops a "pleasure for him" (168). Heathcliff goes on to say that he "can sympathize with all of his feelings, having felt them" himself (168). He even goes so far as to consider him a "personification of [his] youth" (245). Thus, Hareton is in the same situation as Heathcliff was at the beginning of the novel. It is evident through Hareton's actions that he has a fondness for Cathy Linton, but his brutish state leads her to ridicule him rather than acknowlege his affections. Consequently, Cathy never considers Hareton a worthy companion until later in the story.
Cathy's life shares some similarities with her mother's life. Like her mother, Cathy marries the wrong man. Her mother seemed relatively happy with Edgar Linton, but it was only because he worshipped her and catered to her every whim. Catherine really wanted only Heathcliff. Contemplating her marriage to Edgar Linton, Catherine tells Ellen, "I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if [Hindley] had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it" (62). Her daughter, Cathy, insists that she does...