Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights - Infanticide and Sadism

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Wuthering Heights: Infanticide and Sadism

I would like to begin by simply defining the terms infanticide and sadism. Webster's Dictionary defines infanticide as the killing of an infant or the suffering of an infant. The same source defines sadism as both a disorder in which sexual gratification is derived by causing pain or degradation to others and simply pleasure in being cruel. Now, while reading Wuthering Heights, I was giving every character the benefit of the doubt. I was accounting their rough life to simple hard times. However, after reading "Infanticide and Sadism in Wuthering Heights" my eyes were opened to the perversion of the world portrayed in Wuthering Heights.

To start off, I would like to take a good look at the suffering of the children. Each child does not have the benefit of their mother for a very long period of time. "Catherine Earnshaw is not quite eight when her mother dies; Cathy Linton's birth coincides with her mother's death; Hareton's mother dies the year of his birth; and Heathcliff is an orphan by the time he is seven. Even the children who receive motherly care throughout childhood do not receive it long after they reach puberty. Linton Heathcliff loses his mother when he is not quite thirteen- Linton, of course, is a child all his life- and Isabella Linton is orphaned when she is fourteen. The only exceptions- and these unimportant - are Hindley Earnshaw and Edgar Linton, who are sixteen and eighteen respectively when their mothers die (and even their mothers are apparently not very motherly)." (Thompson 139). Bronte does away with all of the mothers. Why does she so that? She kills off the mothers to help better accent the children's struggle against all the psycho adults who are all out to kill them. The first child to receive this kind of treatment was Heathcliff when he first arrived and Mrs. Earnshaw wanted to "fling it outdoors." This sort of treatment was subjected to every child in the book, and without their mothers, there was nobody to protect thern. Hareton Earnshaw lives a more dangerous life than most of the children.

He lost his mother the year of his birth and spent a great deal of his childhood hiding from his father, whose first instinct when drunk is to kill his son. Hareton manages to survive, but Linton Heathcliff is not so lucky.

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"Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights - Infanticide and Sadism." 123HelpMe.com. 21 Jun 2018
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His father's only ambition is to kill Linton, and he finally did him in when he was seventeen years old.

When looking at sadism, one almost has to focus in on Heathcliff. Heathcliff, of course, love Catherine, and he is jealous of the relationship she has with Linton. Catherine does not understand why Heathcliff is jealous of her. She simply believes that she loves.Heathcliff differently than she loves Linton. She loved Heathcliff as a child and her love for him has not changed at all over the years. When she is with Heathcliff, she want to go back to hair-pulling and pinching, because that is the only way she knows how to express her affection for Heathcliff. Heathcliff is obviously not satisfied with this relationship. He wants a relationship that normal adults have, with pleasure and eroticism, but Catherine cannot fathom that sort of relationship with Heathcliff. So, in order to get his revenge, he distributes his adult love to other sources. He imposes adult sexuality on Linton and Cathy, who are obviously not adults, but they are good enough for Heathcliff. One of the definitions of sadism was pleasure in being cruel to others, and that is what Heathcliff is all about. Since Catherine would not give him what he wanted he decided to take all of Edgar Linton's possessions by having his son and their daughter marry. This, under Edgar Linton's will, gave all of his property to Heathcliff, and Edgar wanted to change is will but Heathcliff bribed the lawyer, Mr. Green, to arrive late. All of this is done just to spite Edgar, and Heathcliff's only pleasure came from the fact that he had beaten Edgar.

The perversion of the Wuthering Heights world is almost sickening. These are not normal people. All of the children were lucky just to survive. That is insane. This is the first time l have ever read this book, and girls always read it, so l was expecting some boring book about true love or something like that, but that is not what this book is about at all. This book is full of people with a lot of serious problems. Not a single one of them is anywhere near what you could call normal, and l hate every one of them. You would think that somewhere in the lot, there would be somebody who did not want to kill their children, but you would be wrong. They hate their children because they are the source of perversity. "It was the child in Catherine that destroyed the love between her and Heathcliff; and it is the child in Linton that Heathcliff hates." With the type of special family bond that everybody in Wuthering Heights has, who needs enemies?


Thompson, Wade. "Infanticide and Sadism in Wuthering Heights." Wuthering Heights: An Anthology of Criticism. London: Billings & Sons. 1967. 138-151.


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