This is a Brontë PSA.
People in love — on behalf of English majors and book lovers everywhere — please stop using Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights quote to describe the depth of your passion and romance:
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
Here are four reasons this quote, along with Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship, is NOT romantic:
One // Incest
Heathcliff and Catherine are very likely half siblings.
Even if you don’t believe/agree with the — albeit small — evidence that they are biologically related, they were raised together as brother and sister.
In the 1800s, laws prohibited adopted children, foster children, or any children raised together from marrying one another, and Brontë’s 19th century readers would know that. Through the eyes of the law, Heathcliff and Catherine were siblings.
Either way — biological or societal — it’s pretty incestuous.
Two // Co-dependent
Color Heathcliff and Catherine co-dependent.
They both want to be each other. Catherine says, “He’s more myself than I am.” At one point, she says she is Heathcliff. After Catherine’s death, Heathcliff literally and desperately wants his body to be joined with hers, so they can decompose together. That is not romantic, it is not sweet, and more importantly, it is not sexual. It is, however, a blinking neon sign that blasts CO-DEPENDENT.
If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.
Three // Toxic
Not only was their relationship co-dependent, it was violent, toxic, and obsessive. In some respects, they even idolize one another.
Catherine threatens to haunt Heathcliff and drive him to their shared doom. Determined to exact revenge on what he perceives as a lifetime’s worth of injustice, Heathcliff ruins everyone’s life around him (including Catherine’s own daughter).
Spurned by jealousy and fits of rage, these two have a classically and dangerously toxic connection. They don’t want each other, but they don’t want anyone else to have them either. Maybe it’s born out of their isolation, loneliness, and/or social ambition, but whatever the reason, theirs is a destructive relationship.
Four // Platonic
Despite their damaging toxicity, Catherine and Heathcliff are soul mates. They belong together but not as lovers. It’s an idolized, obsessive connection. As this Bustle article explains:
They [Heathcliff and Catherine] strive to transcend the boundaries of human subjectivity and physicality — to become something that is other and only them. Their relationship in the novel is strange and fascinating, but it’s not love.
There is zero indication that Catherine or Heathcliff have romantic, sexual chemistry. They aren’t physically attracted to one another like Catherine is to Edgar Linton (the man she marries), and since she is pregnant and dies after giving birth, we, as readers, know Catherine has had sex.
In fact, if you analyze this story from a historical lens (which is important since mores, morals, and day-to-day living was different), a modern audience might better understand that Victorian-era audiences considered the “opposites attract” rule to be the epitome of romantic love.
… Because he’s [Heathcliff’s] more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and [Edgar’s] is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.
Heathcliff and Catherine are the same; therefore, theirs is a platonic love, while Catherine and Linton are opposites and therefore more symbolic of Victorian-era romantic love.
I am Heathcliff. 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.
And that, straight from the horse’s mouth, carries the weight of the point: this is not a romance. Catherine and Heathcliff, though linked by their souls, have an eerily incestuous, deeply codependent, dangerously toxic, and (at times) hostilely platonic relationship.
The only reason we consider Wuthering Heights a romance is because of moody film adaptations and bad high school English teachers. So, I plead with you all, the betrothed, married, and stupid-in-love couples of the world, please stop using this quote to describe your relationship.
It doesn’t mean what you think it means.