Edgar Linton: Character Analysis in Wuthering Heights

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      Edgar Linton is presented as a contrast to Heathcliff from the very beginning. We meet him first as a child in Thrushcross Grange, when he is crying because his sister would not let him play with the dog. Thus, our first impression of him is as a gentle, but weak person and his behavior offers immense amusement to Heathcliff and Catherine who are outside the window. His weak character is emphasized when during the dinner on Christmas Eve, Edgar begins to weep as Heathcliff throws a plate of hot apple-sauce on his face.

His Gentle Love for Catherine

      The contrast between Heathcliff's passionate nature and Edgar's almost passive nature is emphasized in their love for Catherine. Edgar lacks the intensity of Heathcliff, but loves Catherine in his own gentle manner. His calm nature helps him put up with Catherine's swinging moods and mercurial temperament. He shows remarkable tolerance in satisfying the wishes of Catherine in her last days. There is no doubt that Catherine does bear affection for him, but she does him an injustice by marrying him for her own social status in spite of recognizing her irrevocable spiritual bond of heart and soul with Heathcliff. She herself tells Nelly that she loves the ground under Edgar's feet and the air over his head but the difference between her love for Edgar and her love for Heathcliff is definitely a big one.

The Conflict between Edgar and Heathcliff

      With Heathcliff's return, Edgar's chance of happiness with Catherine is definitely marred. He does show a lot of forbearances but realizes very soon that Heathcliff's presence "is a moral poison" that would contaminate the most virtuous. He therefore, refuses to allow Heathcliff into Thrushcross Grange and this leads to a major scene between him and Catherine with Catherine becoming hysterical.

Edgar's Caring Nature

      When Edgar finds out Catherine's serious state he is annoyed with Nelly for having misinformed him and nurses her with gentle loving care. Nelly says: "No mother could have nursed an only child more devotedly than Edgar tended her. He knew no limits in gratitude and joy when Catherine's life was declared out of danger; and hour after hour he would sit beside her tracing the gradual return to bodily health."

      Edgar's love is deep and sincere and it is creditable that he cares for her even after knowing her preference for Heathcliff. But Heathcliff has another view of this and talk of Edgar's concern as merely a "sense of
duty" and says "he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in a day." There is some truth in what Heathcliff says but one can't doubt Edgar's love for Catherine.

His Calm Nature

      Edgar unlike Heathcliff, is not the one to work himself up into a violent rage or passion. When Isabella, his sister elopes with Heathcliff, he is not passionately vengeful. Rather he calmly breaks off all ties with his sister. Yet, when she dies, he is forgiving enough to get her son Linton and is apprehensive about handing him over to Heathcliff.

      Even on Catherine's death, he does not rant and rave as Heathcliff does but becomes almost a recluse, a hermit, whose only joy in life in his little daughter Catherine.

Edgar — A Contrast to Heathcliff

      From the beginning, the novel portrays a contrast in the characters of Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. As a child Edgar Linton appears weak and pampered and our first impression is not a favorable one. We look at Edgar through the eyes of the two rebels - Heathcliff and Catherine who are scornful that Edgar is in tears quarreling with his sister over a young dog. Our estimate of him does not improve very much as we see him more and more in Cathy's company.

      On Christmas Eve, when Heathcliff throws hot apple sauce on Edgar's face, on being provoked, Edgar begins to so much to Catherine's and the reader's disgust. His tears prompt Hindley to punish Heathcliff who has to do without supper or Christmas Eve. Edgar thus, does seem a despicable cry-baby as a child and is responsible for Heathcliff getting punished. The contrasting natures of Edgar and Heathcliff is very evident from the beginning. Edgar cries for every small thing while Heathcliff according to Nelly has almost super human capability of bearing the greatest injustice and punishment with a quiet fortitude.

      The contrast between Edgar and Heathcliff is all the more marked as they grow older. Heathcliff is the child of storm while Edgar is the child of calm. Gentle and well-bred, Edgar stands for civilized decorum as against Heathcliff's wild passionate intensity. Their love for Catherine also varies. Edgar loves Catherine and Catherine too loves him but what Heathcliff and Catherine share is something elemental—something beyond the merely living; Heathcliff and Catherine are one soul, one heart and one being. Heathcliff and Edgar differ in their reaction to disappointments too. While Heathcliff's nature becomes warped and twisted by his desire for revenge after his love for Catherine is thwarted, Edgar withdraws into himself almost becoming a hermit in his grief over Catherine's death. Heathcliff dominates the novel to such an extent (and Emily Bronte creates a picture which is patently sympathetic to Heathcliff) that we are inclined to overlook the merits of Edgar Linton. But there is much that is praiseworthy in Edgar Linton.

Catherine's Good Opinion of Edgar

      Our impression of Edgar improves as he grows up. Nelly distinguishes Edgar from Heathcliff by pointing out that the contrast between the two young men is like in exchanging a bleak, hilly, coal country for a beautiful fertile valley. Catherine's love for Edgar also raises Edgar in our estimation.
Catherine tells Nelly that she loves the ground under Edgar's feet, the air over his head, everything he touches, and every word he speaks.

Edgar—A Devoted Husband

      As a husband, Edgar is unfailingly kind and considerate trying to fulfill every wish and whim of Catherine and avoids annoying her. To see Cathy vexed is to him worse titan being knifed.

His Displeasure Towards Heathcliff

      It is only natural that Edgar is displeased at his wife's rapturous welcome of Heathcliff. As a self-respecting husband, he does the right thing in forbidding Heathcliff to ever enter Thrushcross Grange. He is right in reading Heathcliff's character when he says to Heathcliff, "Your presence is a moral poison that would contaminate the most virtuous." Edgar is no coward either and is ready to take up a fight with Heathcliff when he is insultingly abusive. Edgar is not wrong in telling Catherine, "It is impossible for you to be my friend and his at the same time". The kind, honorable trustful Edgar, as Nelly describes him, has too much of a refined sensibility to be able to accept Catherine's relationship with Heathcliff. In fact, Edgar is the helpless victim of the high-strung Catherine who has wronged him by marrying him even when she knows that her bond with Heathcliff is something elemental and basic to her very existence.

Edgar's Continued Concern for Catherine

      It is indeed admirable that Edgar does not stop loving Cathy in spite of her refusing to give up Heathcliff. He is annoyed with Nelly for not having told him of the serious condition of Cathy. Indeed his kindness and concern for Cathy are touching. This kind, considerate man is unfortunately let down by Catherine. In spite of his concern and love, she is very offensive and tells him "you are one of those things that are ever found when least wanted ... I don't want you Edgar. I'm past wanting you". Edgar shows remarkable forbearance at this by Catherine and he nurses her with loving care. Nelly says in this connection, "No mother could have nursed an only child more devotedly than Edgar tended her." All this definitely raise Edgar in the reader's estimation.

Edgar's Reaction to Catherine's Death

      Edgar is so grieved over Catherine's death that he loses all interest in life and becomes almost a hermit, leading a secluded life at the Grange. He gives up the office of the magistrate and stops attending the church at Gimmerton. His silent grief is a contrast to Heathcliff's passionate — animal-like grief over Cathy's death.

Edgar - Principled and Gentle

      Edgar is a principled person and so warns Isabella not to have any relations with Heathcliff but when she elopes with him, he breaks off all ties with Isabella. However, he does not get into a fit of rage or swear vengeance on Heathcliff. He reacts as a principled but gentle person. It is also noteworthy that when Isabella is about to die, Edgar does not stand on false pride and dignity but goes to her immediately and brings back Isabella's son, Linton with him. He has every intention of looking after Linton but Heathcliff as the natural father claims him and Edgar is helpless about it.

His love for His Daughter

      Edgar is a loving and indulgent father. He protects her from any contact with the evil Heathcliff and Catherine grows up innocent of the facts about Heathcliff and her mother's relationship. Edgar shows his large-heartedness when he has no objections to Linton meeting Catherine, though he makes it clear that Catherine should not visit the Heights. Even when she does, it grieves him but being a fond father, he does not rebuke her. He dies peacefully when he finds Cathy beside him.

Edgar's Misfortune

      Edgar's misfortune was that he fell in love with Catherine who with her wild passions and high-strung nature was too much for his mild-mannered, polite, and gentle nature. Her passion for Heathcliff ruins their marital life. Had Heathcliff not returned, Catherine may have continued to be happy with Edgar. But he returns to disrupt their life and wreak vengeance on the harmless Edgar. Heathcliff may speak of Edgar's love contemptuously, belittling his love as mere duty, yet if we apply normal standards we must admire and appreciate the love and care which he lavishes upon Cathy. Though Catherine comes to despise him and uses words such as "pettish”, "silly", "whining" and "envious" for Edgar, it is Edgar who is more wronged by Catherine. Catherine is wrong in having chosen to marry into the social rank and civility of Edgar knowing fully well that she is bound by heart and soul to Heathcliff. In choosing Edgar she betrays not only Heathcliff and herself, but also brings sorrow to Edgar. Had Edgar heard Catherine's "I'm Heathcliff", he would never have married her. It is thus, his misfortune to have fallen in love with Catherine.


      Edgar appears insipid, even unattractive at times when measured against the passionate character of Heathcliff. But this is because Emily's sympathies itself lay with Heathcliff. Muriel Spark has this to say about Edgar's good nature: "Alone of all the characters in Wuthering Heights, Edgar knows how to conduct himself — his traditions of behavior are not parochial, his sense of goodness not merely superstitious. He stands for the social and domestic side of man, for the principle of co-operation. Neither is his goodness of a coldly rational order. His morality is not utilitarian. To his capricious and temperamental wife, he is affectionate, attentive and forgiving. To his daughter, he is devoted; undertaking her education; friendly and yet thoughtful for her present welfare and her future safety."

      If Edgar, appears a colourless character it is because Emily Bronte strives to present Heathcliff sympathetically. Edgar is always viewed by the lovers themselves and such a view is sure to be biased. Both Heathcliff
and Catherine see him as the barrier that is separating their great love. In addition critics tend to see Edgar as representing a debased social culture of decadence as against the natural life force of Heathcliff. But to judge Edgar merely from this point of view is to do him injustice. As a child, the reader may find him at times despicable, but there is no doubt that Edgar has many fine and praiseworthy qualities which are blighted by his misfortune in having loved and married Catherine.

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