Everyone must have one novel which has moved them greatly; mine is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. This classic novel encompasses a love triangle as well as a twisted variation of negotiation.
The two main protagonists, Healthcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are childhood sweethearts who are deeply in love. Healthcliff has no social status and earns his way through his childhood as a servant boy to Catherine’s family. Catherine, a woman of middle class status starts to place her interests elsewhere, in an honourable, wealthy man named Edgar Linton. The alternative Edgar provides for Catherine is complete opposite of what Healthcliff provides and it is this extreme in alternatives. The use of a BATNA (best alternative to the negotiated agreement) leads Catherine to marry Edgar despite her passionate bond with Healthcliff (Felmlee et al, 1990; Brett et al, 1996). A series of twists and turns occur in the plot until eventually, Catherine dies from heartache.
Research into relationship dissolution has shown that when an individual perceives that they have access to an available alternative partner, they are likely to leave their current partner to try to attract and maintain the alternative partner (Simpson, 1987). Catherine’s character is alive in the context of 19th century Britain. Women of a middle class status were encouraged to marry wealthy men of a similar or higher social status to themselves. Therefore, Catherine’s pre-marital contact with Edgar gave her a glimpse of how luxurious her life would be if she married him. Catherine’s character was aware that if she remained with Healthcliff, her social status would go down as well as her aspirations to live a lavish life filled with chandeliers, a mansion and servants. In psychological terms, Catherine was aware of her alternatives and this is how she negotiated with her heart to choose money over love. According to the equity theory, the relationship between Catherine and Healthcliff’s characters would have been inequitable as Catherine would have been losing a lot more than she would have been gaining (Michaels, Edwards & Acock, 1984).
Michaels et al (1984) conducted research into the levels of satisfaction in romantic relationships with an emphasis on females (who were predicted to report lower levels of satisfaction). The comparison level, equality and relationship satisfaction were all rated on self-report likert scales. The findings showed that females held a more advantaged position in their relationships. The overall result supported the notion of relationship satisfaction being a direct outcome of an equitable relationship. In Catherine’s position, giving herself to Edgar (who was strongly in love with her) for a lifetime of riches was her way of maintaining equity.
Brett, J. F., Pinkley, R. L., & Jackofsky, E. F. (1996). Alternatives to having a BATNA in dyadic negotiation: The influence of goals, self-efficacy, and alternatives on negotiated outcomes. International Journal of Conflict Management, 7, 121 – 138.
Felmlee, D., Sprecher, S., & Bassin, E. (1990). The Dissolution of Intimate Relationships: A Hazard Model. Social Psychology Quarterly, 53, 13 – 30.
Michaels, J. W., Edwards, J. N., & Acock, A. C. (1984). Satisfaction in Intimate Relationships as a Function of Inequality, Inequity, and Outcomes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 47, 347 – 357.
Simpson, J. A. (1989). The Dissolution of Romantic Relationships: Factors Involved in Relationship Stability and Emotional Distress. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 683 – 692.