In this essay I will talk about relationships and the theme of love of a novel and a play, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and of Sive by John B. Keane. I will explore the lives of characters such as that of Catherine, Heathcliff, Edgar, young Catherine, Linton and Hareton in Wuthering Heights and that of Sive, Liam and Sean Dota in Sive. In the novel Wuthering Heights, Catherine and Heathcliff’s passion for one another seems to be the center ofWuthering Heights, given that it is stronger and more lasting than any other emotion displayed in the novel, and that it is the source of most of the major conflicts that structure the novel’s plot.
As she tells Catherine and Heathcliff’s story, Nelly criticizes both of them harshly, condemning their passion as immoral, but this passion is obviously one of the most compelling and memorable aspects of the book. It is not easy to decide whether Bronte intends the reader to condemn these lovers as blameworthy or to idealize them as romantic heroes whose love transcends social norms and conventional morality.
The book is actually structured around two parallel love stories, the first half of the novel centering on the love between Catherine and Heathcliff, while the less dramatic second half features the developing love between young Catherine and Hareton. In contrast to the first, the latter tale ends happily, restoring peace and order to Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The differences between the two love stories contribute to the reader’s understanding of why each ends the way it does.
The most important feature of young Catherine and Hareton’s love story is that it involves growth and change. Early in the novel Hareton seems irredeemably brutal, savage, and illiterate, but over time he becomes a loyal friend to young Catherine and learns to read. When young Catherine first meets Hareton he seems completely alien to her world, yet her attitude also evolves from contempt to love. Catherine and Heathcliff’s love, on the other hand, is rooted in their childhood and is marked by the refusal to change.
In choosing to marry Edgar, Catherine seeks a more genteel life, but she refuses to adapt to her role as wife, either by sacrificing Heathcliff or embracing Edgar. In Chapter XII she suggests to Nelly that the years since she was twelve years old and her father died have been like a blank to her, and she longs to return to the moors of her childhood. Heathcliff, for his part, possesses a seemingly superhuman ability to maintain the same attitude and to nurse the same grudges over many years. Moreover, Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is based on their shared perception that they are identical.
Catherine declares, famously, “I am Heathcliff,” while Heathcliff, upon Catherine’s death, wails that he cannot live without his “soul,” meaning Catherine. Their love denies difference, and is strangely asexual. The two do not kiss in dark corners or arrange secret trysts, as adulterers do. Given that Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is based upon their refusal to change over time or embrace difference in others, it is fitting that the disastrous problems of their generation are overcome not by some climactic reversal, but simply by the inexorable passage of time, and the rise of a new and distinct generation.
Ultimately, Wuthering Heights presents a vision of life as a process of change, and celebrates this process over and against the romantic intensity of its principal characters. Simirlarly, the bond between Sive and Liam Scuab in the play Sive is passionate and strong and also a source of conflict throughout the story. A key moment where this love between the two is evident is at Act 2 Scene 1. This is the only scene in the play in which Sive and Liam meet on stage, though their relationship is a central part of the play. Mike sees this relationship as a threat and is insulting to Liam (“like a rat … he came stealing and sneaking”).
This is what helps convince him that the match with Sean Dota would be tolerable, perhaps the lesser of two evils, at least it will keep her away from Liam – prejudice against Liam’s family (“ye’re the one breed”) makes him genuinely think Liam is a danger to her, that his intentions are not honourable. The relationship between Sive and Liam seems good natured, cheerful and romantic – Liam says: “I would marry nobody but you, Sive, I love you”. The fear of Mike puts pressure on the relationship – Sive is afraid of Liam getting caught in the house: “Be careful. Uncle Mike hates you”.
This casts a shadow on the relationship and makes Sive and Liam be secretive about it – she arranges to meet him later. The element of secretiveness in relationships also surfaces in Wuthering Heights– young Catherine exchanges letters with Linton and secretly travels to be with him while Edgar and Nelly were sick. The desire for secrecy can have negative affects on a relationship as trust can be damaged. The secret meetings in Sive may cause Mike to be even more suspicious and protective, but on the other hand, if they don’t meet secretively they won’t be able to meet at all. In many relationships pressure from outside can cause harm.
Here the conflict that blows up between Mike and Liam at the end of the scene (all caused by Mike) threatens the relationship. Mike’s interference (due to prejudice) eventually causes tragedy. We see in Sive how a person can be aware of the pressure and determined not to let it undermine the relationship – “You will not command the lives and happiness of two people who love each other” (Liam to Mike). Liam and Sive are both critical of the idea of matchmaking in relationships – “Imagine making a marriage between two people who never saw each other before” (Liam); “It’s horrible” (Sive).