Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a remarkable Victorian novel through its complexity, it is a book that I read twice and it raised my interest to analyse it from a psychoanalytic and feminist perspective.
Freud’s psychoanalytic theory “argues that human behavior is the result of the interactions among three component parts of the mind: the Id, Ego and Superego”. (Prezi, web). The Id stands for the unconscious mind, it seeks desire and it follows the instincts. The Ego stands for the conscious self and it seeks a balance between the Id and the other part of the psyche, the Superego which seems to stand outside the self. There are some processes in the conscious human mind named defense mechanisms that come to defend the Ego against the unconscious mind where the repressed thoughts and desires lie, two important defense mechanisms being repression and sublimation. (Abdulkareem, 2). „Repression involves turning something away in an attempt to keep it out of the conscious mind” (Simon Boag, 75), it is „selectively forgetting whatever is troubling.” (Steven Lynn, 178) Sublimation means „taking a fundamentally antisocial or unacceptable desire and channelling the energy into socially valued activities.” (Baumeister, Dale, and Sommer, 1103)
There are three characters in the novel who are representative for the three parts of the human psyche, Heathcliff represents the Id, Catherine the Ego and Edgar Linton the Superego, Heathcliff and Catherine experiencing in the same time repression and sublimation.
Heathcliff is non-rational, impulsive, counter-social with a mischievous morality, he “illustrates the most primitive drives or desires, seeks pleasure and excitement and avoids pain”. (Gao, 9) “He falls into an intense, unbreakable love” with Catherine (Sparknotes, web) and her marriage with Edgar Linton shows her betrayal that makes him almost crazy and it determines him to seek for revenge. Thus, he later interrupts Catherine’s life with Edgar Linton and also tempts Isabella Linton to elope with him and to take Thrushcross Grange by marrying her. Being attracted by his beauty and his good manners she accepts this, discovering by herself his cruelty, considering him “a beast, not a human being”. (Gao, 6) He was “afraid of nothing and never felt guilty” (Gao, 7), but all his plans for revenge showed that “what he wanted was to fill the emptiness of his wounded heart and soul.” (Gao, 7) The repression in this character can be seen through his disappearance after hearing Catherine telling Nelly that marrying with him would be degrading. Thus, “he has escaped from the reality that Catherine has rejected him because of his inferior social status.” (Abdulkareem, 14-15) During his three years absence, he becomes a rich gentleman and his confession to Catherine that he “struggled through a bitter life” just for her suggests that he experienced sublimation. (Abdulkareem, 21)
Catherine is representative for the Ego as she longs for the high social position of Linton and also her deep love for Heathcliff. She is “influenced by the background of society” (Gao, 10), choosing to marry Linton. The conflict of choosing between the two men leads to the repression into her unconscious of the thought of becoming unhappy after marrying to Linton. Also, she is very proud to admit that she made a fateful mistake in terms of marriage. Moreover, “Catherine has sublimated her love and passion to respectability. Sublimation has made her channel her desire towards reasonable behavior concerning her choice of Edgar.” (Abdulkareem, 23)
Edgar Linton represents the Superego because he is an educated gentleman, cultured, calm and tolerant and he “devoted his life to taking care of his family on the basis of morality and conscience.” (Gao, 16), his manners being adequate to society’s expectations.