Throughout the history of literature, there have always been many tragic lovers: Daisy and Jay from The Great Gatsby and Hamlet and Ophelia from Hamlet are only two examples. However, they may be no other couple as tragic as Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights. The two lovers' souls are one and the same, yet they were born worlds apart. Heathcliff, a servant at Wuthering Heights, can never have Catherine, his mistress. The hopelessness of his situation drives Heathcliff from anger and frustration, to tyranny, and finally to madness. The 1939 release of the film version of Wuthering Heights demonstrates this theme exceptionally. The mise-en-scène of the 1939 release of Wuthering Heights demonstrates the theme of the novel, the unfairness of the social caste system, even better than the novel does.
The first scene in the movie that demonstrates the difference between the world Cathy wants and the world she has with Heathcliff is when the two go to spy on Thrushcross Grange, home of the Linton family. The two peer into the window of the manor while their neighbours are enjoying a ball. Catherine sighs and asks Heathcliff, "Isn't it wonderful? ...That's the kind of dress I'll wear. And you'll wear a red velvet coat with silver buckles on your shoes. Oh, Heathcliff, will we? Will we ever?" (Wuthering Heights).
Heathcliff and Catherine spy on the Linton's ball.
Heathcliff only remains silent in response; he knows he cannot grant her wish with what he has now. This scene shows how powerless Heathcliff at that moment: he wants nothing more than for Catherine to be happy, yet he knows he cannot give her that happiness. What Catherine wants is the life of a gentlewoman, like the ladies dancing at the Lintons' ball. Being a mere stable boy, Heathcliff cannot bring her into that world. In the novel, however, Heathcliff and Catherine go to spy on the Lintons to tease the children there. The parallel scene in the novel is used to demonstrate the naughty and impish nature of the two. "'The idiots!'" Heathcliff exclaims to the maid, Nelly. "'...We laughed outright at the petted things; we did despise them!'" (Brontë 43). The movie takes the scene from the novel and uses it to further exemplify the theme of the novel, instead.
The next scene that strongly shows that difference between Heathcliff's and Edgar Linton's social standings is when Heathcliff meets Edgar when Catherine returns to Wuthering Heights. After spending five weeks at Thrushcross Grange with the Lintons, Catherine returns as a changed woman: she is very cold to Heathcliff and comments on his dirty appearance. Heathcliff is first shocked, then indignant at the way she treat him. When Catherine asks him to take care of Linton's horse, he refuses and runs off, instead.
Heathcliff meets Edgar Linton when Catherine returns.
This scene in the movie uses the set to brilliantly display the discord in the room. Catherine and Linton stand at one end of the scene; they represent the...