How The Lack of Fulfillment Drives An Individual’s Course of Action: Polished Critical

Discuss the ideas developed by the text creator in you chosen text about the nature of motivations that direct an individual’s course of action. 

The desire to fulfill one’s goals and achieve one’s wants is a dream that dictates the lives of many. The idea of living a comfortable, satisfying life is what encourages an individual on a path to work towards their wants. When an individual is able to get a taste of satisfaction, it is often the taste of this self fulfillment that motivates them, as these victories are able to feed their ambition further. However, when an individual is neglected satisfaction, the need to accomplish is what dictates their lives – and furthermore their actions – as they yearn for a sense of completion in themselves. In the novel Wuthering Heights, the character of Heathcliff may be described as a character who feels a lack of fulfillment in himself, due to the lonesome and abusive nature of his childhood. He fixates himself on Catherine, and thus sees her as the image of accomplishment, as he believes having her is what will bring him a sense of fulfillment. This obsession that he develops for her dictates his actions throughout the course of the novel, even when she marries another, as Catherine – the object of Heathcliff’s greatest desires – is what dictates his entire life, and carries him to his grave. The fatal love that Heathcliff has for Catherine is what Emily Brontë uses to justify the idea that the lack of fulfilment an individual feels in themselves is what directs their course of actions, as they feel as though accomplishing their goals is what may satisfy their needs for completion in life.

Initially, Heathcliff’s want to achieve status and wealth was driven by his love for Catherine. In his eyes, he was not worthy of her as he was a poor “gipsy” like individual, and so he strived to achieve success in hopes that he may win her hand in marriage. To Heathcliff, marrying Catherine was his ideal of fulfillment. He saw himself as complete with her, and it was due to lack of satisfaction that he had with himself and his social standing that he decided to go and attempt to achieve wealth, so that he may be worthy of a lady such as herself. Upon Catherine’s return from Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff’s admits to Nelly, “I wish I had light hair and a fair skin, and was dressed, and behaved as well, and had a chance of being as rich as he will be!” [59]. Through this, readers can see the yearning he has to improve his financial status in order to match his rival Edgar Linton, but by his wishing to have “light hair and fair skin” he suggests that he had succumbed to the prejudices of English societal standards, and thus envied Edgar who, in almost all aspects, had the fulfillment that he yearned for. It is plausible that Heathcliff’s desperate want for Catherine derived from the idea that she would be the only satisfaction he would ever be able to achieve. He believed that having something that Edgar did, not such as a passionate love between he and Catherine (at the time being), would bring him the feeling fulfillment that he lacked due to his poor societal standing. It was at this point that he was, like many, inspired by an idea – an image of what his life could be and so, he set off on a course of action with the belief that if he succeeded, he would accomplish his goals, and be able to get a taste of fulfillment, and satisfy the feelings of emptiness he had within himself.  Being that Heathcliff was raised an orphan and brought in by the Earnshaw family as an outcast initially, it is understandable why the need to feel fulfilled was so important to him. He lived a lonesome life, and the discovery of Catherine was in many ways, his saving grace. She became the most important thing to him, partly because of his love for her, but mostly because within her, Heathcliff saw a window of opportunity for himself to live a happy life that after a lifetime of neglecting, he felt he would never find. By going away for three years to become successful, he focused his actions on the want he had, and was motivated by the idea that in his return, he would be fulfilled.

Upon his return however, he was faced with a reality different than the one he had expected. During his leave, Catherine’s love for Heathcliff became muted as she was so heartbroken by his departure. Her love for Edgar began to grow, and as he returned as a new man, equipped with all the necessary social and economical expectations, he still found himself unworthy of Catherine once again. It was at this point that Heathcliff understood that no matter what his doings, he would not be worthy of her. Catherine says, “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary,” [84] thus suggesting how despite how much she loved him, he would always come second to her. By relating their love to “a source of little visible delight” Catherine suggests that the love that is shared between the two is difficult, most likely due to the the fact that their love was not surface level and included many ups and downs. However she admits that it is “necessary” to her, thus showing readers Heathcliff’s second hand importance to Catherine, in comparison to her love for Edgar which she admits will “change”. Catherine’s choice to deny Heathcliff’s love is representative of her want to fit a certain image in society – one that Heathcliff was not a part of – despite his achievements, in order for her to find fulfilment in herself and her social rankings. This utter disappointment is what caused a dynamic shift in Heathcliff’s character. His passion turned to rage, and his hope turned to disdain, and yet, his mind never changed – he still idealized Catherine as his life’s fulfilment. Heathcliff explicitly says to Catherine “I seek no revenge on you,” as he understands her choice, and further says  “That’s not the plan. The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him; they crush those beneath them.” [112] as if to say that he understands the the pains and politics that come with choosing based on social order, as he admits that he knows that Catherine thinks less of him. By him choosing not to exact revenge on Catherine, despite a lack of fulfilment, he bottled his emotions and in turn began to brood internally, thus beginning his spiral towards evil based on his understanding that he would never find satisfaction in what he wanted. One should note the saddening nature that comes with this honest understanding of Heathcliff’s. As a person, he allowed himself to have hope that he may one day achieve his goal and be successful, and allowed himself to be vulnerable. After failing however, he cursed himself for allowing himself to be weak, and with the understanding that he was was destined to be unfulfilled in life, he curled into the dark and damaged man all the characters perceived him to be.

After losing Catherine’s love to Edgar – the only thing he ever wanted – Heathcliff was no longer was motivated by the want to achieve, but rather, by the want to destroy. He was well aware of the fact that he would never have her, and that the feeling of emptiness inside himself (that had always lingered inside him) is what drove him to madness. He closed himself off from all others, in attempts to cope with his his fate, and used hatred as means of coping. Heathcliff inevitably found out about Catherine’s decline however, and in light of her death he cries out in rage, “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” [163/164]. The anger Heathcliff has towards the situation with Catherine can be seen in this quote, but what is also noticeable, is the unchanged nature of Heathcliff’s wants. Even in her her death, Heathcliff still feels as though she is his fulfillment, and despite his anger, he says “I cannot live without my soul!”, as if to ay that she is his soul – a completion of his being, and an image of his fulfillment. He begs to have Catherine, even  if she is only a burden in his life as he wishes to not be left in the “abyss” of a world that in which he is without her, and therefore, incomplete. Catherine’s death causes Heathcliff to be haunted by her memory, and it is through this haunting that he discovers his new objective: to find fulfillment by exacting revenge on those around him. For example, his torment and abuse of Isabella in his marriage is a reflection of the disdain that he has for all other individuals, and as he speaks of her and says “She abandoned [her home] under a delusion,’ and further, ”picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion.” [148], he quite literally explains how she fell for the man Heathcliff crafted himself to be for another (Catherine), and explains how his “chivalrous devotion” was exhausted in his relationship with Catherine – the result of wasted actions towards an idea of fulfillment. Through his torment, Heathcliff found a sense of relief through his callous pursuit of his actions, and because he was so used to living an unfulfilled life, this small taste of pleasure acted like a drug. One could say that, his love for Catherine never died, yet his passion towards winning her was the same passion he felt to harm. By the end of the novel, the lack of fulfillment that he remained the nature of his motivations, yet the actions he took were different, based on the harsh realities that came with his wants, and when Young Catherine says to him “Heathcliff, you have nobody to love you, and however miserable you make us, we shall still have the revenge of thinking that your cruelty arises from your greatest misery!” [273], she speaks the true natures of his crimes. Heathcliff’s idea of fulfilment that existed within his love was Catherine was lost, and that inspired his hate (his new idea of fulfillment), so when she said that his “cruelty arises from [his] greatest misery”, she could not have been more true. Ultimately, Heathcliff’s madness and his pain drove him to the grave, and it was in his last moments that he was able to accept his fate, as he wishes to die and be reunited with Catherine – his original idea of fulfillment. His course of action through life was dictated by the want to complete himself, and it was in his last moments that he hoped that if he may not fulfilled in life, he may be fulfilled with Catherine in death.

The human need to satisfy their wants to feel complete in life is what may motivate an individual’s course of action to reach a point where they feel fulfilled, and in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, the sad truth of these attempts are explored through the tragic story of Heathcliff. In it’s simplest form, he was a man who wanted to seek fulfilment in the form of love in order to make up for a life of neglect, and was unfortunately forced to change course of actions, and find the fulfillment that in which he craved so desperately through hatred of the fact that he would never find happiness instead. This realization was enough to break him as a person, and reconstruct him to a man who found satisfaction in pain, solely due to the fact that he was never equipped to find success in love.

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