“The Swing,” a Rococo era painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, depicts a gentleman and his wife enjoying a bucolic afternoon in the woods. Unbeknownst to the former, however, his wife’s lover lurks in the bushes glimpsing up her dress as she kicks off a shoe towards a statue of the Greek god of discretion and sports a coquettish grin.
Reading of Catherine’s transformation at Thushcross Grange, my mind immediately drifted to “The Swing,” an inkling which was reinforced by witnessing the return of Heathcliff and her subsequent neglect of Linton. It is never doubted that Catherine loves Heathcliff – some of the most romantic prose I’ve ever read backs up this sentiment – yet, superficially, she chooses Linton as her husband. This does nothing to negate her feelings; her marriage is a masquerade, and she indulges blissfully in Heathcliff’s company as soon as he returns. We glimpse a similar indulgence in “The Swing,” an intentionally playful painting which nonetheless portends ill when scrutinized with an eye for tragedy.