*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
One of the more common narratives in the romance genre is the love triangle and the question of whom the hero or heroine will choose as their partner. In Wuthering Heights, the love triangle consists of Catherine Earnshaw at the top of the triangle with Heathcliff and Edgar Linton on the bottom of the triangle.
Edgar Linton is everything Heathcliff is not. He is the son and heir of a respectable landowning family who acts as a gentleman of his class and time is expected to act. His lineage is defined and traceable. His status, income and property mark him as a catch. In modern terms, he is the boy next door that many parents would be thrilled to see their child dating.
Even for all of that, he is not Heathcliff. Even after Catherine has accepted Edgar’s marriage proposal, she admits that the man she loves is not Edgar. While the reader knows that Catherine is marrying Edgar for what could appear to be less than honorable reasons, Edgar will only discover this fact later in the novel.
“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Healthcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
To sum it up: For all of his good qualities, Edgar Linton is the loser in the love triangle that is part of the Wuthering Heights narrative. He is the nice guy who may have been in love with the heroine, but she in turn was in love with the bad boy and ultimately chose the bad boy over the nice guy. As a writer, Emily Bronte could have used this very predictable narrative and chose the safe route. Instead she forged her own narrative path and told the story of the conflict between light and dark and how that affects the choices that characters make.