Selfishness

Emily Bronte accompanies her siblings, Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell, in a series
of romantic writings. Emily stayed at various boarding schools but lived most of her life in
her family’s secluded home in Yorkshire, England. Biographers indicate that she enjoyed a
solitary lifestyle in the natural beauty of the moors when not in her home. Emily Bronte
devoted her life to her father because her mother’s tragic death left him helpless. She and
her sisters were not introduced to the idea of marriage but instead were taught that they
must be fully attentive to their father’s needs. As she did not leave her house, Emily wrote
poetry and short stories to fill her time. She became passionate about her writings and sent
them to a publisher to be published. In trying to publish her book, a friendship and
correspondence developed between Emily and an editor. Emily’s infatuation with the
editor grew, but their relationship was platonic as he was a married man. She remained his
mutual correspond till her early death at the age of thirty.
Emily Bronte’s passionate style of writing has bewildered many biographers,
because they cannot imagine such writing coming from such a reserved person. Emily
Bronte incorporated into her works of Victorian writings “... the horror and mystery of a
gothic novel, the remote setting and passionate characters of a romantic novel, and the
social criticism of a Victorian novel...” (Cerrito 107) She transformed her stories of
Victorian times, to ones of marvel by incorporating elements of all times. Bronte’s only
novel, Wuthering Heights, is considered one of the most powerful and original work of
Victorian literature. In Wuthering Heights, Bronte “...demonstrated the conflict between
elemental passions and civilized society...” (Cerrito 107) Wuthering Heights is a
compelling work that shows the direct effect of selfishness on happiness. Selfishness
directly effects happiness in that an increase in selfishness leads to torment, while a
decrease in it leads to happiness and peace.
Fulfilling your desires at the cost of others leads to torment and a lack of
happiness. Catherine’s selfishness leads to her torment and that lack of happiness.
Catherine’s selfish character is depicted when she desires both Edgar and Heathcliff at the
same time. She wants Edgar for his life and Heathcliff for his soul. Catherine’s seeming
altruistic motives do not lead to the happiness she seeks. Instead, she tortures herself by
the results of her own actions. Catherine’s devotion to her husband clashes with her love
for Heathcliff. Catherine’s nature rests in Heathcliff, while her superficial love rests in
Edgar. Her devotion to Edgar comes from the status she acquires in marrying him. She
claims that she married Edgar to help her true love, Heathcliff. ‘...despite her noble
assertions to the contrary, she is a creature of this world after all. She will marry Edgar
because he is rich and handsome.. not because she loves him.” (Shapiro 153). Though she
claims to love Heathcliff, actions speak louder than words and her marriage to Edgar hurts
Heathcliff and disturbs the two houses dramatically. Catherine does the most selfish thing
a lover can do by marrying another person other than her true love for mere individual
stability. “...by marrying Edgar, Catherine betrays herself as well as Heathcliff, creating an
emotional unrest which prevents her from finding contentment...” (Cerrito 107). In
marrying Edgar, Catherine kids herself in thinking she can be happy. Likewise, she
continues seeing Heathcliff, thinking she can control her happiness. Her retaining contact
with Heathcliff hurts Edgar since he views Catherine’s love for Heathcliff as betraying his
love for Catherine. Because selfishness has consumed her soul, Catherine reacts to
Edgar’s understandable jealousy by attempting to afflict pain on him. She will hurt herself
as much as possible, so that she can hurt Edgar. Catherine locks herself in her room, and
starves, knowing that Edgar’s love for her will lead him to return to her despite her
actions towards Heathcliff. In her solitude, Catherine truly falls ill and she torments herself
by the realization of the lack of happiness she seeks. She feels extremely distressed as a
result of the realization that she has made the wrong decision. Catherine desires to remain
in preferable position with her marriage to Edgar, yet she longs for Heathcliff and attempts
to keep both men in her life. She does not want to choose between the two, and therefore
never does. Thus she causes pain and hurts both men. She disregards the feelings of Edgar
and keeps in contact with the hated lover. Selfishness eventually deteriorates Cathy, and
she falls terminally ill.