Date: August 1992
Creator: McGuire, Kathryn B. (Kathryn Bezard)
Description: A modern interpretation of Wuthering Heights suggests that an unconscious incest taboo impeded Catherine and her foster brother, Heathcliff, from achieving normal sexual union and led them to seek union after death. Insights from anthropology, psychology, and sociology provide a key to many of the subtleties of the novel by broadening our perspectives on the causes of incest, its manifestations, and its consequences. Anthropology links the incest taboo to primitive systems of totemism and rules of exogamy, under which the two lovers' marriage would have been disallowed because they are members of the same clan. Psychological studies provide insight into Heathcliff and Catherine's abnormal relationship—emotionally passionate but sexually dispassionate—and their even more bizarre behavior—sadistic, necrophilic, and vampiristic—all of which can be linked to incest. The psychological manifestations merge with the moral consequences in Bronte's inverted image of paradise; as in Milton's Paradise, incest is both a metaphor for evil and a symbol of pre-Lapsarian innocence. The psychological and moral consequences of incest in the first generation carry over into the second generation, resulting in a complex doubling of characters, names, situations, narration, and time sequences that is characteristic of the self-enclosed, circular nature of incest. An examination of Emily Bronte's ...
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