[personal profile] floorpigeon
Ok, so I'm reading 'Wuthering Heights'. As anyone who knows me could probably guess, this is my kinda novel. Heathcliff is also my kind of character. To be honest, I even warmed to Catherine. Give me a flawed character with Feelings, and eventually-- oh yes, I'll be theirs.

Anyway, so I was wondering. Leaving aside the question of my sanity, how would one meet someone like Heathcliff? Also leaving aside the question of whether he's remotely realistic; let's assume 'as close as one can get' and leave it at that.


If one liked a certain ordinary trait-- intelligence, looks, geekiness/hobbies, kinks, dominance or submission, niceness or even assholishness-- all that is easy. But Heathcliff captures me for things I can't even describe properly. Certainly not because he's an asshole, and not because I deny it. That 'pitiless, wolfish' nature-- coupled with intense devotion-- I am not deluded about it, and do not find it pretty, or easy. I am not Isabella.

That said... of course, neither am I Catherine. But regardless. Outside sheer luck and circumstance, how would you look for that sort of man, and is it a sort at all, as opposed to an utter outlier?


I am inclined to the latter, but have not yet convinced myself. I've read that though 'Wuthering Heights' inspired Gothic Romance as a genre, there have been no specific literary descendants in a more nuanced sense. It is viewed as an outlier. Heathcliff, however, while well-wrought, is not unfamiliar at all. It seems difficult to imagine him (the closest thing, as I said) even as a half-way functional person in the modern world. I feel like, perhaps, if 'he' were functional, he'd no longer be recognizable. Maybe I'm wrong.

I had this AU fantasy where Heathcliff is in a hard-rock band with Cathy-- who has a stint as a corporate drone. Heathcliff, he just does hard drugs and plays wicked bass. But I don't think that's quite it; indeed, I'd be rather put off if the major equivalent to his character was the rock star. Most rock stars aren't near so self-possessed-- rather than rejecting people, they yearn for acceptance and attention, often enough, don't they? He also never struck me as a slave to pleasure. Being a musician in itself is no different than any other artistic calling. I can see him doing drugs early on, 'why not', but not as an addict except after Cathy dies, maybe.

He wouldn't be a typical geek or hacker, even though I can see him as a -sort- of intellectual-- but only a sort. I can see him doing criminal acts, but only because there was no other obvious route. Would he just be a Wall Street trader, some stupid money-making job? I could see it. I could see him wanting to just make some money and not caring what he 'does', as easily as I see him pursuing a passion (music is more likely than say, poetry or drawing). I can see him as a mechanic. Engineering-type desk work would change him in a way I'm not sure I'd like. So would any regular modern work, I think; not sure.

I want him to not be so tortured, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't be if Cathy hadn't left him and her stupid brother hadn't harrassed him so much, growing up. In the presence of some parental affection (Mr. Earnshaw) for more of his adolescence, he'd be proud and entitled but not as horridly vicious. More open. He was pretty affectionate and sweet with Cathy, once. I can maybe see him as some Sirius-type shiftless kid, if his parents had money and Cathy could pursue her own dreams of riches independently. I think he'd like status, on his own, but not necessarily money.

It's sort of depressing, 'cause any modern Heathcliff would probably have little genuinely in common with my interests, even if intellectually he'd be a fascinating person to talk to (for me). I don't see him being into reading fantasy-type stuff, comics, etc, though he'd like action movies. He'd probably code-- almost certainly-- and maybe go into security work? I can almost see him work for the government, but he'd have issues while rising through the ranks. He could be in charge, maybe, but I don't know about being one of the rank and file. He'd probably be discharged. Depends on his relationships with his parents.

In the end, perhaps it's just hard to imagine Heathcliff, modern or otherwise, without Cathy. To say, 'how do I find a Heathcliff' really denies to the extent to which his character is defined by Cathy-- which is odd, because at the same time, like I said, he's not that unique a character type. At the same time, a 'normal' Heathcliff (ie, brooding bad-boy anti-hero) is too generic. I mean, you could even fit Sirius into that title, and he's totally and completely different, personality-wise. Really, one reason I like Heathcliff is his purity-- it's like before the branching-off point where characters went more into either the Snape direction or the Sirius one. Snape would be the coding/securities intellectual angle, Sirius would be the bad-boy rocker angle, but I see both aspects in Heathcliff. Hm. And like with Snape-- his loss of Lily really defined him, just as the presence/loss of Cathy defined Heathcliff. Maybe one aspect of this sort of character is their relationship to a central person in their lives, that they never get over; usually this occurs in their early youth.

That said, it appears hopeless-- either you're out of luck or you meet them early (a toss-up), without really having any obvious markers (figuring out the adult personality of a teenager, or a young boy-- especially for a rare personality type-- seems ridiculously useless). I don't want to think that, but if that's not true, you'd think that their lack of dependence/fixation on a central figure of attachment either twisted them beyond recognition (ie, totally screwed up) or made them 'normal' and able to fit in (kinda boring). It would probably hard to have them form any serious attachment early enough to define them, and then not be irreparably twisted by its (probably inevitable) end. If it didn't end, then, of course, there's no room for future attachments on anything like the same level.


I think after 30, any 'Heathcliff' type, if he survives with his sanity intact, would be a milder version of him (which isn't a bad thing, either). That is, you wouldn't necessarily find him while looking for the type, perhaps. Further, that type of person doesn't like to be looked for, and would mock you if you did. So you can only 'find' him without looking; pretty frustrating. It's like, the whole point is that Cathy was just dropped on his head and he had to adjust-- she was just there; if someone wants him, he'd have a ridiculously high wall-- he even had one with Cathy, and he was super-fixated on her. Really, any serious relationship with him is bound to be a nightmare which any sane woman should be glad to be rid of. But, of course, while I acknowledge that-- I still find things in that character which I find few other places. Both the best and the worst.


I guess, if you went through all the trials, and managed to be stable (more likely to be dead, but still, not that hard if you never betray him)-- I have that sort of vision of the best of co-dependence without the worst. Probably impossible. But that sort of intense union that's so tight, you pass the stage of inwardness and both turn outward-- a true union of passion and partnership/companionship. This is why I initially obsessed over Vulcans, when I was a teenager. I wanted a Vulcan relationship-- where you're so in tune with the other's mind, so interpenetrative, that you finally transcend your very attachment and remain independent, logical, fiercely individual people. Your respect for each other is so deep and absolute, your need so blinding that it becomes invisible, your passion so innate that it becomes a rationally acknowledged part of your life, and your bond is the foundation for living.

To achieve this without Vulcan mind-melds, you need someone highly intelligent (capable of unique insight into another person), someone who's deeply loyal to the point of insanity, and someone who (with difficulty but with permanence) imprints on people, while remaining an asocial, independent thinker by nature. All these qualities-- theoretically neutral or positive-- become dangerous (in Heathcliff and many other anti-hero characters) because they're taken to extremes, and the difficulty is that you can't really get the right effect without some of these extremes. A mild version would fizzle, more likely than not. I mean, 'relatively' loyal vs 'insanely' loyal? It's a joke. It could apply to anyone. The other difficulty is this personality would depend on a central contradiction of aversion and attachment-- reconciled in the person of another individual. That is, this would be someone who's deeply cautious and self-contained as a default, and yet is capable of intense, passionate, bone-deep attachment that means more to him than everything else (note: this is itself a point of danger). Both qualities need to be constantly and equally in play-- the cut-off part and the bonded part. This is probably why it's hard to conceive of a Heathcliff without his Cathy already there, and there during his developmental stage besides. Without someone to be bonded to, he's just cut-off-- a dime a dozen. Just another Asperger's-type maladjusted guy.


Even so. Even so, I ever wait for him, though without allowing myself to.

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the one who stumbled

January 2015

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