‘My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!’
Catherine describes to Nelly the different types of love that she has for Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. While her love for Edgar will change over time, Catherine sees her love for Heathcliff as solid and eternal, as if she and Heathcliff inhabit the same body. Catherine refuses to give up either relationship: Edgar brings her the comfort and status she’s always desired, but Heathcliff satisfies her passion and completes her soul. This love triangle and conflict becomes the intertwining theme of love throughout the novel.
‘You know as well as I do, that for every thought she spends on Linton she spends a thousand on me! . . . If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could be as readily contained in that horse-trough as her whole affection be monopolized by him…It is not in him to be loved like me . . . ’
Here, Heathcliff passionately speaks with Nelly about how his capacity to love Catherine far exceeds Edgar’s ability to experience love. This discussion comes as Nelly tries to convince Heathcliff to leave Catherine alone in order to save her from physical and mental distress. Heathcliff’s declaration echoes Catherine’s passionate description of her love for him at the beginning of the novel. Their passion consumes them, depicting a detrimental and destructive aspect of love.
The intimacy thus commenced grew rapidly; though it encountered temporary interruptions. Earnshaw was not to be civilized with a wish, and my young lady was no philosopher, and no paragon of patience; but both their minds tending to the same point—one loving and desiring to esteem, and the other loving and desiring to be esteemed—they contrived in the end to reach it.
Nelly describes to Mr. Lockwood how young Catherine and Hareton Earnshaw fell in love. She depicts a thoughtful, mutual relationship, where both young Catherine and Hareton Earnshaw accept each other’s weaknesses while giving to one another what they need. The balance in their relationship contrasts with the destructive love of Catherine and Heathcliff. Young Catherine and Hareton Earnshaw represent the theme of healthy true love in this novel as their newfound love ends a decades-long conflict between the Linton and Earnshaw families.