When discussing the psychology of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and more specifically, the psychoanalysis of the central character Heathcliff, critics are quick to use the aid of the theories brought forth by Sigmund Freud. Freud states that people’s personalities consist of three parts: the id, ego, and superego. It is only when these parts of a person’s psyche are in balance, that that individual can be mentally healthy. If some traumatic event causes a shift in power between these elements, it will lead to personality contortion. This is what occurs to Heathcliff in Wuthering Height; Catherine chooses Linton’s status over Heathcliff’s love, which in turn causes Heathcliff to lose ...view middle of the document...
Frustration of the basic needs arrests development and leads individuals to develop defensive strategies for making to their deficiencies.”
When Mr. Earnshaw finds Heathcliff, his id is the most dominant element in his psyche. Mentally, he is submissive to his instincts and cares only about himself due to having no one to care for him as an orphan. He has been forced to live in a world barren from love, belonging, and safety. This causes him to withdraw into the comforts of his own insanity.
When he gets to Wuthering Heights he disliked by everyone except Mr.Earnshaw, who treats him like a son. This causes his id to go into overdrive in order to protect Heathcliff from those that dislike him. However, over time, his psyche is able to begin to repair itself. This is due partly to Mr. Earnshaw’s kindness, but mostly due to Catherine’s acceptance of him. This is when Heathcliff begins to fall in love with Catherine starts to open himself up to both Catherine and Earnshaw. To him, this is the best way he knows to show how grateful he is to them for welcoming him into their lives.
Now Heathliff’s desires change from simply needing to survival into more conventional wants. He now wants to live a better life. He sees an opportunity to improve his life. Most of all, he decides he wants to be with Catherine.
However, according to Freud, these desires originate from Heathcliff’s hedonistic id. In Heathcliff’s mind, Catherine is already his wife, and nothing can or will change that. Although his psyche is beginning to try and reach balance between his id, ego, and superego; his id is still the most dominant aspect of his mind. This is why he is able to bear Hindley’s torment. All he is focused on is being with Catherine which just strengthens his id even more, and when Catherine betrays him and chooses Linton over him, his superego (which in a normal person would have more power than, or at least would have balanced out, the id) is unable to convince his ego to make a rational decision. Instead his ego listens to his id, which urges him to leave Wuthering Heights and plan his revenge. It is also his id that gives him the drive to see his revenge to the end.
A person’s ego is driven by the id, and working with the super ego, it attempts to turn the id’s longings into behavior which brings benefits to the person in the long run. However, when certain instabilities are present, the id has greater power than the ego and super ego. When this occurs, the ego is under the influence of the id. But, Freud has stated that besides the id and super ego, the ego has a third master: the external world. This is because the ego is in contact with the external world; therefore it can be influenced by it as well.
In Wuthering Heights, Hindley becomes the master of his father’s estate when Earnshaw passes away. Since he has hated Heathcliff from the first day Earnshaw adopted Heathcliff, he sees this as an opportunity to wreck havoc on Heathcliff and make him...