Psychological Problems

Greg Doran
Comm. 101-31
10/26/98

Wuthering Heights, published in 1847, is the only prose work written by Emily Bronte, middle of the three famous Bronte sisters. She was 29 at the time and her life should have only been beginning, but sadly it would end a year later (Gaskill 433). The one and only novel that she wrote was a complex story that used two separate houses in an isolated setting as a vehicle to explore the dichotomy of the social class system in nineteenth century England and the impracticalities of the mixing of the two social classes. And in the end we find that the woman who attempts to better her social standing by marrying outside of love is befallen by misfortune, suffers from mental disorders, and dies from depression induced anorexia. The two households that supply the setting for the novel are as different in nature as their names suggest. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange...even to say the names without allowing the least of meanings to cross the mind is to notice a stark difference in connotation, and in environment. One does not need know the stormy, cloud lingering, and damp stench of the word “wuthering” to know that this is a house plagued by dysfunction, abuse, and solitude. And to say the words “thrushcross grange” is to feel the sophisticated warmth of far spread green fields with grazing livestock, white pillars, friendly brick facade, and glorious Crystal chandeliers. It is said that misery loves company, but wouldn’t it be more fitted to say that lack of company causes misery, at least in some cases? It seems that the lead character; Heathcliff who desires the impossible, his child and adulthood love Catherine’s company, is stricken with mental health problems and is left to die because of misery without her.
As a young child, Heathcliff was found on the streets of Liverpool and taken to Wuthering Heights by a very generous man by the name of Earnshaw. Mr. Earnshaw was the master of Wuthering Heights at that time, and he had two young children by the names of Catherine and Hindley. There, Heathcliff was treated like one of the family. He was perhaps even Mister Earnshaws favorite of his three children. But, sadly, not too many years later Mister Earnshaw would pass, and Hindley being his only son would take charge of the Heights. Hindley immediately took a painful revenge out on the dirty street rat that came into his house and took his father away from him. Bitterness ran wild through Hindley’s veins like blood through any person with a heart, and this bitterness would begin a long chain of verbal, and emotional abuse toward poor Heathcliff. Heathcliff was forced to live as a lowly slave and referred by such hollow names a “it” and “that thing”(Bronte 40-51). Such abuse and sudden, perhaps even traumatic change in environment could seriously fowl the development of a teenage child, and it did.
Clearly as an adult Heathcliff suffered from at least one if not multiple psychological disorders, and perhaps the most obvious of these clinical diseases is Adjustment Disorder. Adjustment Disorder is characterized by a “maladaptive response to a psychological stressor (Costello 186),” and its symptoms include: notable impairment in social functioning, depression, feelings of loneliness or hopelessness, apprehensiveness, and restless behavior. In some cases it also causes erratic behavior, which means that the individual ignores the rights of others, and is combative with others as well (Laughlin 637). Clearly Heathcliff displays these symptoms on an alarming red flag that even the most blind of the blind can see without squint or strain. Perhaps the timeliest of places to observe Heathcliff’s personality disorder is after the most traumatic event in his life, Catherine’s death, occurs. Through his son's marriage and death Heathcliff acquired Thrushcross Grange and was renting it out while young Cathy, Hareton, Joseph, his other servant Zilla, and himself were staying at Wuthering Heights. His tenant during this particular period happened to be a fellow named Lockwood. Lockwood was a decent man, of decent social standing and he wanted to discover the demeanor of his new landlord and neighbor, Heathcliff. Upon his first arrival at the Heights Lockwood is quoted as saying, “...his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy