[‘]Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!’ He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man but like a savage beast being goaded to death with knives and spears.
Nelly explains to Mr. Lockwood how Heathcliff suffered after Catherine’s death. First, she repeats Heathcliff’s wail of grief and then describes his almost animalistic state. Heathcliff’s desolation at the loss of Catherine contrasts with the calm sadness seen in Edgar Linton’s response. While both men suffer in losing Catherine, Heathcliff’s anguish resonates with the earlier descriptions of the all-consuming love that both Heathcliff and Catherine shared. Self-destruction and suffering continue to haunt Heathcliff throughout the novel.
‘Linton was white and trembling . . . he looked frightful; for his thin face and large eyes wrought into an expression of frantic; powerless fury . . . I took behold of Linton’s hands, and tried to pull him away; but he shrieked so shockingly that I dared not proceed. At last his cries were choked by a dreadful fit of coughing; blood gushed from his mouth, and he fell on the ground.’
Here, young Catherine describes to Nelly how weak and sickly Linton was during her last visit to Wuthering Heights. She continues to describe how Linton suffered at the hands of Hareton Earnshaw, who targets Linton’s weaknesses. The theme of suffering plays out in all stages of the novel as physical and mental illness afflicts many characters. The symptoms of Linton’s obvious physical illness suggest his mental breakdown as he seems to stay in a state of fear and powerlessness.
‘I cannot continue in this condition! I have to remind myself to breathe—almost to remind my heart to beat! . . . My confessions have not relieved me; but they may account for some otherwise unaccountable phases of humour which I show. O God! It is a long fight; I wish it were over!’
Heathcliff speaks to Nelly of his emotional collapse after Catherine’s death. Clearly, Heathcliff faces psychological decline at the end of the book as he realizes that even his revenge does not satisfy him or bring his Catherine back. Heathcliff understands that his mental suffering impacts his physical well-being. He struggles to breathe, rest, and eat. He admits that he cannot go on in this state of existence anymore. Heathcliff’s suffering and the haunting of Catherine’s lost destructive love has become too much to bear.