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ARTICLES THE COURTSHIP AND HONEYMOON OF MR. AND MRS. LINTON HEATHCLIFF: EMILY BRONTE'S SEXUAL IMAGERY Juliet McMaster University ofAlberta L· criticism of Wuthering Heights, the second generation regularly plays second fiddle to the first. Heathcliff and the first Catherine steal the show, and for obvious reasons. The tamed and civilized offspring can't live up to the passionate force of nature that drives their parents. In the 1939 Hollywood movie, there was no second generation. Even those readers who do pay attention to the second Catherine tend to focus on the happy ending of her union with Hareton rather than on the first unfortunate marriage to her feeble cousin Linton. Linton is nobody's favorite character. (No more is he mine.) He has been seen as combining the worst characteristics of both his parents: Isabella's petulance without her generosity; HeathclifPs vindictiveness without his passion. We know that the young Catherine is throwing herself away on this mewling puking boy, and her choice of him reflects back on her overly protected upbringing. However, the Catherine II—Linton match has its own intense interest, and carries its share of the force and meaning of the novel. Linton is the bad seed, the degenerate offspring whose death will allow for a new and vigorous growth. And this forced marriage of adolescents, a coming together of children, provides a revealing commentary on the other pairings of minors in the novel: the fierce allegiance of the first Catherine and Heathcliff; the fluttering marriage of the first Catherine and the "sucking leveret," Edgar (WH 100); the unequal yoking of ruthless Heathcliff and star-struck Isabella. All these pairings dramatize thejeopardy ofjuvenile sexuality, but none with such haunting disgust as informs the narrative of the "puppy love" of Catherine II and Linton (Polhemus 100). Victorian Review 18.1 (Summer 1992) Victorian Review The second Catiierine and Linton are no younger when diey begin to love each odier dian were her motiier and his fadier—in fact diey are older. But a crucial difference is that Catiierine I and Headicliff were unhampered by parents (the Earnshaws having died when Catherine was eight), and tiierefore diey achieved, if not maturity, at least of kind of autonomy tiiat confers an authenticity on their relationship; whereas Catherine ? and Linton are the subordinates and pawns of their fathers, and are therefore doomed to a perpetual state of minority up to and even during their marriage. In mis book of love and hatred, terror and violence, the forcible mating of these two babes is no minor constituent of the Gothic dread. And me sexual imagery, as horrifying as anything in The Monk, drives home die horror. "If die child gives die effect another turn of the screw," as we hear in James's Godiic story, "... two children give two turns!" (James 148). As in The Turn ofthe Screw, the horror arises from the sense of the children's becoming mere instruments of more powerful agents. Linton is called at one point "only a feeble tool to his father" (205). In the sexual context he becomes a sort of human dildo, which his father uses to rape and degrade me second Catherine, die child bride whose birth caused die death of die Cadierine whom HeatiicUff loved. Like other Victorian novelists, Emily Brontë presents sexual activity obliquely, tiirough imagery. But more successfully than others, perhaps, she achieves through the sexual imagery a mythic force, and a metaphoric definition of die quality and intricacy of a relationship. Take, for example, the first Catherine's locket. The locket on her breast with the curl of Edgar's fair hair in it metonymically figures forth her marriage. Headicliff, visiting her corpse in secret, revises die metonymy by ejecting Edgar's hair and substituting a dark lock of his own. Now the locket represents his last visit and communion with Catherine, when the two were one, "locked in an embrace" (134). Nelly revises the metonymy again: her dutiful allegiance to "the master," the legitimate husband Edgar, modified by her sneaking sympathy for the illegitimate lover Heathcliff, combine to render a new relation: "I twisted die two, and enclosed diem togetiier" (140). The configuration of the two locks...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 1-12
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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