Wuthering Heights

by: Emily Brontë

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 3

It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and [Edgar’s] is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.

Catherine’s speech to Nelly about her acceptance of Edgar’s proposal, in Chapter IX, forms the turning-point of the plot. It is at this point that Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, after he has overheard Catherine say that it would “degrade” her to marry him. Although the action of Wuthering Heights takes place so far from the bustle of society, where most of Brontë’s contemporaries set their scenes, social ambition motivates many of the actions of these characters, however isolated among the moors. Catherine’s decision to marry Edgar Linton out of a desire to be “the greatest woman of the neighbourhood” exemplifies the effect of social considerations on the characters’ actions.

In Catherine’s paradoxical statement that Heathcliff is “more myself than I am,” readers can see how the relation between Catherine and Heathcliff often transcends a dynamic of desire and becomes one of unity. Heterosexual love is often, in literature, described in terms of complementary opposites—like moonbeam and lightning, or frost and fire—but the love between Catherine and Heathcliff opposes this convention. Catherine says not, “I love Heathcliff,” but, “I am Heathcliff.” In following the relationship through to its painful end, the novel ultimately may attest to the destructiveness of a love that denies difference.