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Parallels of The Garden of Eden in "Wuthering Heights"

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“Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil,” Genesis reads (Gen 2.9). In the Genesis story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, a serpent, the Satan figure, coerces Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of “knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2.17), which God specifically tells Adam and Eve that they “shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” The apple from this tree gives Adam and Eve “knowledge of good and evil,” and they begin their fall from innocence. In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, there seems to be endless parallels to the story of the Garden of Eden, with recurring patterns of innocence and unity, then seduction and fall. The most definite parallels of Eden in Wuthering Heights stem from the stories of Catherine and Heathcliff and their love for one another. Catherine and Heathcliff experience the story of Adam and Eve several times, with various events representing their own blissful innocence, temptation, and fall from grace. Interestingly, the story of the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve continues with Catherine’s offspring, Cathy, and her relationship with Hareton Earnshaw.

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One of the first examples of Eden in Wuthering Heights begins with the childhood friendship of Catherine and Heathcliff. As children, Catherine and Heathcliff are innocent and oblivious to the prejudices and expectations their society holds as custom. One night, while Catherine and Heathcliff are “banished from the sitting-room, for making a noise, or a light offence of the kind,”(Bronte 50) they decide to escape and “‘have a ramble at liberty’”(Bronte 51). During this “ramble at liberty,” Bronte skillfully hints at aspects of Eden and the story of the garden. Thrushcross Grange, with its walled park and fruit trees, is a very peaceful almost paradise like place. Bronte rarely mentions the servants and the labor they do when describing the Grange, making it seem as though inside the house the inhabitants always live in leisure (Burns 184-5). Attracted by curiosity, Catherine and Heathcliff run to Thrushcross Grange where they spy on the Lintons. While there, Catherine is bitten in the ankle by the bulldog that guards the Grange, and is taken in by Mr. and Mrs. Linton. When telling this story to Nelly Dean, Heathcliff explains, “ ‘the devil had seized her ankle, Nelly… I got a stone and thrust it between his jaws, and tried with all my might to cram it down his throat.’” (Bronte 52). This is an obvious parallel to the serpent in the story of the Garden of Eden. After the serpent tempts Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, and God finds out, He curses the serpent: “ The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘because you have done this, cursed among all animals and among all wild creatures… I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers, he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel,’” (Gen 3.14-5). The use of the word devil to describe the bulldog that bit Catherine’s ankle is a Biblical allusion, for in the story of the Garden of Eden, the serpent was the devil figure. Also, in having Heathcliff exclaim that “ ‘the devil had seized her ankle,’” and that “I got a stone and thrust it between his jaws,” (Bronte 52) Bronte parallels Eden after God’s curse on the serpent in which the serpent would strike at man’s heel, and man would strike at the serpent’s head.

The next example of Eden in the story of Catherine and Heathcliff is the fall from innocence Catherine experiences after being cared for inside Thrushcross Grange. After Catherine is bitten by the bulldog, she is brought into the house of Thrushcross Grange while Heathcliff is thrown out, beginning Catherine’s fall from the innocence of childhood. Luxury seduces her. Catherine eats the goods of Thrushcross Grange, the ‘plateful of cakes’ and drinks the spiced, warm ‘tumbler of negus’… The taming of Catherine has begun, a process which will bring her to leave behind her rough girlhood ways and take up manners… The girl who five weeks before raced barefoot in the dark… is now hampered by fashion and airs (Burns 186).

This so called “taming” marks the beginning of Catherine’s fall from innocence and her introduction to adult life. Catherine’s Eden could be seen as the freedom of childhood on the moors with Heathcliff, or even childhood itself. When Catherine returns to the Heights, she seems very sophisticated to the world around her. Inhabitants of the Heights claim that they “ ‘should scarcely have known’” (Bronte 55) her and that she looks “ ‘like a lady now’”. Also, with Catherine’s new found manners, she even contemplates sacrificing her and Heathcliff’s deep love for one another for class and rank in her social community. Edgar Linton is rich, handsome, and socially acceptable so much that Catherine even says that she would “ ‘be the greatest woman in the neighborhood’” (Bronte 80) if she married him. Over time, Heathcliff and Catherine grow farther and farther apart, and when Edgar proposes to Catherine, she accepts. While talking to Nelly about Edgar’s proposal, Heathcliff overhears Catherine saying “ ‘it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now,’” (Bronte 82) and the fall is complete. It does not matter that she says she loves Heathcliff more than Edgar, the damage is done. Heathcliff flees the Heights and the childhood it represents, and, by himself, will gain the “wealth and outer trappings of civilization that Catherine has come to value,” (Burns 186). In this Catherine and Heathcliff reenact the part of the story of Adam and Eve in which Adam shares in Eve’s fall. Heathcliff, like Adam, will bite the fruit Catherine (Eve) has bitten, and fall from his innocence of childhood like Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of what is good and what is evil (Burns 186).

Another parallel of the story of the Garden of Eden in Wuthering Heights occurs with the Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar love triangle. After Catherine marries Edgar and Heathcliff runs off, the Eden like paradise of Thrushcross Grange returns. Again, the inhabitants stay inside the house and venture out no farther than their beautiful garden. Nelly claims to have seen a “ ‘deep and growing happiness’” (Bronte 93) in the lives of Catherine and Edgar. However, this veneer of peace and paradise is short lived, and this happiness is soon lost. One night, as Nelly was “coming from the garden with a heavy basket of apples,” (Bronte 93) breathing “breaths of the soft, sweet air,” she saw a “tall man dressed in dark clothes, with dark face and hair.” This mention of apples and the sweet warm air in the garden is a biblical allusion to Eden and the fruit in which Adam and Eve were tempted to eat. This dark man in the garden is Heathcliff, and in his return back to the novel, he is transformed into a devil figure or a lying fiend, like the serpent in Eden, as Catherine calls him in chapter 11 (Burns 187). When Nelly sees Heathcliff on his arrival back into the novel, Bronte describes him as dark intruder in the garden of Thrushcross Grange. This parallels with the serpent in the Eden story who was one of Satan’s minions and an intruder in the Garden of Eden. Like the serpent, Heathcliff tries to convince Nelly to interrupt the peace in paradise, or the Grange in context of this story. Referring to Nelly carrying his message, Heathcliff tells Nelly that he is “‘in hell till you do!’” (Bronte 94). Also, Heathcliff, with his hand of the door, “lifted the latch, and I entered,” (Bronte 94). It seems as though Heathcliff willed Nelly to enter the house without her consent. As Nelly enters the house and presents Heathcliff, Edgar Catherine and Heathcliff all get involved in a great quarrel, which ends in Catherine going up into a room extremely sick. Once again, paradise has been intruded upon and is broken up into chaos.

During Catherine’s illness, she longs for the days of her childhood with Heathcliff. This childhood was her Eden, and reminded of her loss with the return of Heathcliff, she is very upset. Catherine is delirious, she wishes she was a child again, and even imagines it, saying, “ ‘the whole last seven years of my life grew a blank!’”(Bronte 124) This longing for her childhood represents her regret of biting the apple of society and losing her Eden as a child with Heathcliff. Now, Catherine sees that social status is worth nothing if it does not make her happy. Also, even though Nelly tells us that it is impossible to see the Heights from the Grange, Catherine still claims to see her “ ‘room with the candle in it, and the trees swaying before it,’” (Bronte 125). This delusional statement shows at what extreme Catherine longs for her past. She has even seemed to have gone crazy for it. (Burns 188).

Allusions of Eden in Wuthering Heights continue with Catherine’s daughter, who is named after her mother. Young Catherine, known as Cathy from here on, is isolated from the world outside the Grange. At thirteen years of age Cathy “had not once been beyond the range of the park by herself,” (Bronte 183). This isolation causes Cathy to become curious about the outside world and frequently asks Nelly about it. Nelly tells Cathy to be content and “ ‘Thrushcross park is the finest place in the world,’” but Cathy is not content, saying that “ ‘I know the park, and I don’t know those,’” (Bronte 184). This hint at the Garden of Eden comes directly before another “fall” in this book. Overcome by curiosity, Cathy scales the walls of her Eden, Thrushcross Grange, into the moors and is tempted into the Heights by our Satan figure Heathcliff (Burns 189-90). Once in the Heights, Cathy eventually, after a long while, comes to like Hareton Earnshaw. Eventually, the two seem to fall in love, and in a reversal of the Eden story, begin to restore Eden again. As Cathy and Hareton become closer, Cathy tells Hareton to clear out some land in order to import some trees from Thrushcross Park. In doing so, Hareton removes the “black currant trees,” which ironically happen to be the “apple of Joseph’s eye,” (Bronte 300). After doing this Joseph complains to Heathcliff, who, like God in the story of the Garden of Eden, threatens to expel Cathy and Hareton from the Heights, “ ‘As to Hareton Earnshaw, If I see him listen to you, I’ll send him seeking his bread where he can get it! Your love will make him an outcast, and a beggar!’” (Bronte 304). This exclamation is much like God’s in the Eden story when he curses man, “ ‘because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, ‘you shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you… By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,’” (Gen 3.17-9). In these two statements by Heathcliff and God, they both threaten to throw Hareton (or Adam) out, and threaten to make him “find his bread where he can get it!” (Bronte 304) Also, both threats are made because a woman, Cathy in Wuthering Heights, and Eve in the Bible, instructs a man to do a forbidden thing. Unlike the Garden of Eden, Heathcliff does not follow through with his threat, and Cathy and Hareton seem to reverse the story of Eden (Burns 190). According to Nelly, Hareton and Cathy seem to be “animated with the eager interest of children,” and “neither experienced nor evinced the sentiments of sober disenchanted maturity,” (Bronte 305). This shows that Hareton and Cathy have regained the common Eden throughout the course of the novel: childhood and the innocence and love that goes along with it. Also, even the Heights’ garden seems to be paradise like. One day Nelly even says that “the weather was sweet and warm, the grass as green as showers and sun could make it, and the two dwarf apple trees, near the southern wall, in full bloom,” (Bronte 309). This description of the garden at Wuthering Heights is very pleasant, and with its two apple trees, fittingly dwarf, like the experience Cathy and Hareton have had with life, seem to be a clear allusion to Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden.

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Through the relationship of Catherine and Heathcliff and also that of Cathy and Hareton, we see many parallels to Eden in Wuthering Heights. Many parallels also come from visual comparisons of the gardens of Thrushcross Grange, Wuthering Heights, and Eden. The most overwhelming parallel of the story of the Garden of Eden in Wuthering Heights however, is the fall from innocence, which is repeated many times throughout the novel by numerous different characters. Catherine’s fall from innocence, Heathcliff’s flight from Wuthering Heights, and Haretons cleaving of Joseph’s currant trees from the Height’s garden, are all parallels to the story of Adam and his fall when “the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life,” (Gen. 3.23-4).

Works Cited

  1. Bible, The. New Revised Standard Edition. Iowa Falls: World Bible Publishers, INC. 1990.
  2. Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: New American Library. 1993.
  3. Burns, Marjorie. “The Shattered Prison: Versions of Eden in Wuthering Heights.” 1986. Rpt. in Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism. Vol. 35. Ed. Cerrito, Joann and Paula Kepos. Detroit: Gale, 1992. 184-194.

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