Much meaning that was not overtly written into Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights can be discovered by using Freudian interpretation. This meaning was not consciously intended by Bronte, but can be very interesting and helpful in finding significance in the book. Freud used dream analysis, symbolism, and psychoanalytical techniques to find meaning that was not apparent in his patients the other subjects of his analysis. In his book, Darwin's Worms, Adam Phillip says that Freud was "involved in taking God out of the picture, leaving nothing between us and nature" (Phillip 1). This statement directly correlates with the story and the characters of Wuthering Heights. One of the main themes of the book is that of natural, instinctual desires.
The passion between Catherine I and Heathcliff has been called "semi-savage" (Jerrold 302) because of the rawness and naturalness of it. Heathcliff himself is also very close to nature. He is unrefined and acts solely on instincts and desires. Although there are many religious references in the book, God is not portrayed as a being with sole control over the lives of the characters. Nature plays much more of a controlling factor than God in the story.
Natural instincts, as well as physical nature itself drove the lives of the characters of Wuthering Heights. They acted on passions and desires and were affected by the external world around them. For example, when Lockwood fell ill, it was not a work of God, but a direct consequence of nature. Dreams play a large role in the story of Wuthering Heights. During Lockwood's first visit to the Heights, he has a night full of dreams and nightmares. Each one related to what Heathcliff had just read on the windowsill or in Catherine I's diary.
Although all of the dreams came from the text and are therefore somewhat understandable, many predicted what Lockwood would come to learn. Lockwood immediately drifts off to sleep after reading the names on the windowsill. They were in no particular order, only scribbled around the windowsill. Even in Lockwood's dream, the names are in no particular order.
They just swarmed about in front of his eyes. However, when Lockwood awoke, he narrated them in the order "Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff, Catherine Linton." Read forward, they tell the order of Catherine I's loyalties, and read backward, they tell the order of Catherine II's loyalties (Jacobs 356). This is a kind of predictor of what Lockwood is to learn and experience while living at Thrushcross Grange. In Lockwood's second dream, he and Joseph are traveling together across the moors. Lockwood learns that he would need a pilgrim's staff to be able to enter his home.
He turns to Joseph and sees that Joseph has a staff. This could symbolize that Lockwood feels he is inferior to Joseph or the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. He feels that they have something that Lockwood does not: perhaps knowledge of the events that have gone on in Wuthering Heights. The staff could be a representation of the knowledge or experience of the history of the mysterious house that he has entered. Lockwood may feel that, figuratively, he can never enter into the center of Wuthering Heights without this knowledge.
In the dream, Lockwood and Joseph are later forced to listen to a sermon, and one of them is to be excommunicated, although Lockwood is not sure whether the guilty one is he or Joseph. This relates to Lockwood's experience at Wuthering Heights in multiple ways. For one, Lockwood is not really a part of the lives of those who live at the Heights. Even when he is there and interacting with Heathcliff, Catherine II, Hare ton, and Joseph, he does not belong there. He does become a part of the plot of the story but is always an outsider at Wuthering Heights. After his night at the Heights, Lockwood gets sick and is stuck at Thrushcross Grange.
He is not able to return to the Heights until he is better, and this is another example of his dream relating to what happens in the story. He physically is unable to return to Wuthering Heights, and so in a way, is excommunicated from the house. Lockwood's uncertainty of who is to be excommunicated in this dream could represent his uncertainty as to whether he will be exposed and banished from the Heights, or whether he will expose the history of Wuthering Heights himself. After Lockwood awakens from his second dream, he begins to doze off and hears a noise at the window. In an attempt to quiet the noise, he goes to the window. There he sees a ghost of Catherine I, who grabs his arm and begs him to let her in.
It is never made clear whether Lockwood dreamt this scene or if it really happened. However, whether it was fiction or reality, Lockwood was put in the position of deciding whether or not Catherine would be allowed into Wuthering Heights. This is a big decision left to Lockwood, considering that he was not a major character in the story. Perhaps this decision was left to him because he was the main narrator of the story, and therefore he could choose, ultimately, which characters would be let into the plot. The decision could, in a way, be symbolic of the fact that Lockwood had the control of manipulating the story however he pleased. All of the dreams that Lockwood had during his night at Wuthering Heights had their base in what Lockwood had read right before going to sleep.
This explains why he had the dreams, but it does not explain the knowledge that his dreams contained. For example, when Heathcliff put the names Edgar, Heathcliff, and Linton in order, he was unknowingly putting them in an order that made chronological sense to the story. However, Lockwood did not know about this order at the time, so the order was either coincidence or a prediction. In the dream that Lockwood had about being excommunicated, he was predicting the banishment that he would experience from Wuthering Heights when he fell sick. When Lockwood refused to let Catherine into the house, she said to him that she had been wandering the moors for twenty years. If this was not a ghost, and in fact only another dream, it was another prediction by Lockwood.
At the time this dream occurred he had no way of knowing how long ago Catherine had died. One of Freud's most famous theories was that of the defense mechanisms. He believed that there was a constant battle going on in the mind between the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the rational part of the brain that is very conservative and wants to do what is right, ignoring all instinctual desires and urges. The superego is the part of the brain that wants to follow all instincts and has no concern for doing what's right. It wants only to be pleased, like a child.
The ego is the part of the brain that balances out the id and the superego ("Defense Mechanisms"). In an attempt to repress the superego's urges, the brain will many times use one of Freud's defense mechanisms ("Division of Mind"). The characters in Wuthering Heights use defense mechanisms to repress their savage or unacceptable desires, and also to protect themselves from pain. For example, Heathcliff uses the displacement mechanism.
This means that while he was upset at Catherine for marrying someone else and Edgar for taking his love, he took his anger out on Isabella who did not deserve his anger. He was so upset with the marriage of Catherine and Edgar that he could not control his anger and took it out on the person who was easiest for him to hurt. Freud believed that the internal struggle among the id, ego, and superego caused unhappiness ("Division of Mind"). This could be an explanation for Heathcliff's outrageous and cruel behavior. Because he was so savage and close to nature, his id had a very strong influence over his mind and behaviors. It is also obvious from this interpretation that Heathcliff possessed a very strong superego.
His cruel and violent behavior reflected the repression that his ego was causing in an attempt to control his raw urges. Only Heathcliff's id and ego are easily apparent in Wuthering Heights, but his use of defense mechanisms shows that he also had to have a very strong superego trying to persuade him not to act on his id. Heathcliff's superego could not accept the desires of his id, and admitting the urges would have caused him anxiety. Therefore, his ego kept the urges out of his conscious mind, and hid it in his untouchable unconscious, where it was acted on only by way of defense mechanisms. Freud would have believed that Heathcliff repressed his desires in an attempt to be accepted in society ("Ethics"). Sigmund Freud believed that people act on animal instincts in terms of sexuality (Spenser).
Heathcliff's sexual instincts seem to strongly resemble those of an animal. Bronte even goes so far as to call him a "wild dog." Dogs come into the story numerous times, and in every instance, they are wild and vicious. They seem to create a comparison to Heathcliff in the way that both the dogs and Heathcliff go after what they want without a thought of who they are hurting in the process. Heathcliff's feelings for Catherine are so raw and instinctual that they could be considered animal-like. Freud developed many different psychological theories that can relate to the story of Wuthering Heights by interpreting the dreams of Lockwood, as well as explaining some behavior of the characters. Heathcliff's behavior, for example, makes more sense when described by defense mechanisms and the three parts of the mind than it does when it is looked at without Freudian theories.
Had Sigmund Freud had the chance to sit Heathcliff down on his couch, he would have been able to explain much of Heathciff's behavior in ways that Emily Bronte could never have imagined.