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Monday, October 25, 2010

Heathcliff and Cathy -- The Bad Boy & Bad Girl In Romance Roots

Heathcliff was my first gothic hero, which I differentiate from the romance hero of today's genre. Traditional gothic heroes are monstrous and angst-ridden creatures, and their fates are usually tied to something horrible about their pasts.
Bronte did something unusual. She made Heathcliff very human and yet, still retain his monstrosity. He loved beyond death, which was ultimately romantic, and his madness for Cathy was both passionate and awesome scary at the same time. Yet, I liked him better than some of the revenge rakes of today's bad boys--"men" who play cards and walk around attended by their servants, the ones that kidnap the heroines and force them to submit to their control. Bah, they aspire to Heathcliff's bad boyness!

Also, Cathy had a power over Heathcliff that rivaled his batshit crazy revenge plan, and she knew it too. She was the ultimate bad girl, a pre-Scarlett O'Hara, always thinking about herself, yet giving in to the wildness in her whenever she was with her Heathcliff.
As you can tell, I'm batshit crazy about Heathcliff :). He had many qualities of the romantic hero--alpha, arrogant, too sure of himself, ultimately brought down/tamed by love of a woman--but being a gothic story, of course, his story ends tragically. But there was hope too at the end, with the love of the "new" young Cathy and the boy Heathcliff brought low, like he was.
Finally, if you look at urban fantasy and paranormal series today, there are seeds of Heathcliff and Cathy in the characters, except, of course, you get more blood and gore, mixed with magic. Angst-filled, anger-ridden powerful hero out to get revenge; super-controlling males who want to bind their women to them; the call of death and loving beyond; the cold power of the heroine capable of killing her man; the inability to communicate beyond verbal fighting--all these themes arose from Wuthering Heights.

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4 comments:

Mo said...

Ooooh Cathy and Heathcliff! :) I do believe I liked him more than Rochester growing up. He really was the original truly bad boy, and when he was bad, he was very very bad. I think it was Heathcliff who taught me that love was a double edged sword and forever made me more tolerant of the "men behaving badly because of love/jealousy/etc." theme.

Gennita said...

Definitely he was the original bad boy who won me over. I'm writing this because of thinking about Anne Stuart's Breathless, wherein the hero is so bad he arranged (paid for) for the heroine to be seduced, raped, and ruined, and yes, it happened, so he's guilty of being an accomplice, if nothing else. It's a revenge story too, with the hero (anti-hero) really out to destroy the heroine's family. And you know Heathcliff did a similar crime.

Mrs Giggles said...

I personally imagined Emily Bronte would be aghast at how we perceive Heathcliff today, since she wrote her story as a morality tale with Nelly as the Voice of Reason in the story, lol. But I think this is the reason for WH's success - Bronte didn't sugarcoat Heathcliff's actions or Catherine's selfishness. If Bronte had tried to pull what most authors today - peg a convenient "Aww, his childhood is sad so you shouldn't blame him" justification or whitewash her characters' behavior.

I also think WH works because Heathcliff has a strong counterpart in Catherine. They are both equally insane and increasingly out of control as the story progresses. Whereas, when Anne Stuart's heroines are doormats or weak compared to the bad boy heroes, which happens often, those books don't work.

Gennita said...

Mrs. Giggles,

True, without the strong Cathy character, Heathcliff would be just an insane maniac. WH isn't a romance, but there are so many romantic elements in the story that are so loved by romance readers. And I truly believe that there is a Heathcliff in all the revenge monsters in paranormal/UF romance these days.

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