The Jealous Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights
Throughout Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff's personality could be defined as dark, menacing, and brooding. He is a dangerous character, with rapidly changing moods, capable of deep-seeded hatred, and incapable, it seems, of any kind of forgiveness or compromise. In the first 33 chapters, the text clearly establishes Heathcliff as an untamed, volatile, wild man and establishes his great love of Catherine and her usage of him as the source of his ill humor and resentment towards many other characters. However, there are certain tensions, contradictions, and ambiguities present in Chapter 34 that establish the true intensity Heathcliff's feelings towards Catherine; feelings so intense that they border on a jealous obsession.
Chapter 34 begins with a tension in regard to Heathcliff's disposition. Since Heathcliff's countenance has seldom expressed anything but a sullen disposition, certainly nothing even remotely resembling joy, it comes as somewhat of a surprise when in the last chapter, young Cathy, upon seeing Heathcliff, reports that he looks, "almost bright and cheerful -- No, almost nothing -- very much excited, and wild and glad (276)!" This is entirely unlike the Heathcliff that has been established up until this point. Even Nelly, who is well-accustomed to Heathcliff's personality and dark moods is taken aback by the sudden change, so uncharacteristic of his usual temper --"...anxious to ascertain the truth of her statement, for to see the master looking glad would not be an everyday spectacle, I framed an excuse to go in (276)." Since Catherine has previously almost always been the cause of such wild mood fluctuations, it stands to reason that she has somehow inspired this wild and frightening joy in him as well.
During the final days of his life, Heathcliff's curious behavior continues. He refuses to eat, absents himself from the company of Cathy, Hareton, or Nelly, disappears inexplicably for long intervals of time and refuses to explain his absences. Most disturbing, his strange excitement continues, causing discomfort to all those around him, especially Nelly. When Nelly asks him where he was the night before his he began to exhibit this odd elation, he tells her, "Last night, I was on the threshold of hell. To-day I am within sight of my heaven -- I have my eyes on it -- hardly three feet to sever me (278)!" His statement is ambiguous--it does little to explain his sudden change of humor and little to satisfy Nelly's curiosity and wonder at his state. Joy in most characters in Wuthering Heights is an uplifting state associated with happiness and delighted exhilaration. However in Heathcliff, as Nelly observes, it is a horrible, frightening thing. In Heathcliff, the mood arouses wariness and fear in others and indicates some inner change so dramatic that its cause is almost unthinkable.
Heathcliff offers no coherent...