Doubling characters

Gothic literature in particular often matches characters in pairs. This may be because of similarities or because the characters offer opposite pictures. Pairings may last through the whole story or may change.

  • Catherine and Heathcliff are similar in many ways, perhaps too similar to exist together. Their relationship illustrates the theme of love versus hatred (see Themes > Love versus hatred) and both emotions are expressed strongly by each of them. They are almost two sides of the same person: as Catherine says, ‘I am Heathcliff’, whilst he says of her: ‘I cannot live without my soul.’.
  • Catherine and Cathy have many similarities, but also some important differences. The daughter is less selfish and the reader probably finds her more likeable. ‘Civilising’ Linton blood has moderated her Earnshaw characteristics. Giving them both the same first name sets up confusion from the start when Lockwood reads the names in the books. Brontë does this deliberately to create a world of uncertainties, a common motif in Gothic literature.
  • Heathcliff and Edgar are opposites: one wild and passionate, the other sophisticated and cautious. Brontë uses each to establish a perspective by which we can understand the other. They are united only by their love for Catherine, though they have very different ways of loving.
  • Heathcliff is matched with both Hindley and Hareton, both being similarly cruel and violent. The difference is that Hindley has little reason to be so cruel and his actions lead to Heathcliff’s vengeful response, whereas Hareton rises out of his cruel conditioning to become a better person.
  • In the first paragraph of the novel, Lockwood describes himself and Heathcliff as ‘a suitable pair’, meaning that they are similar. Although socially both ‘gentlemen’, in fact, they turn out to be completely different, setting up the idea of opposites from the start. Through the two, Brontë juxtaposes qualities such as: South and North, urban sophistication and natural directness, weakness and strength, passion and hesitation.
  • Linton and Hareton are rivals for Cathy (in a similar way to Edgar and Heathcliff for Catherine) but are very different characters. Linton’s unattractive spite makes Hareton more appealing to the reader, even before he really begins to show his kindness and honesty.

Investigating character pairings

  • Try to think of other pairings of characters and analyse how Brontë uses them in the structure of her novel.
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