Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights
Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights is Emily Brontes only novel, published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Wuthering Heights is the name of the manor around which the story centers. Wuthering is also a Yorkshire word which refers to turbulent weather. The novel tells the account of the sweeping and fanatical love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and how this unresolved obsession ultimately destroys them and others around them. The character I chose was that of Heathcliffs, around whom the story centers. The first paragraph of the novel provides a vivid picture of him, as Lockwood describes meeting him;
“A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat.. ”. (Bronte). The novel begins with his introduction into the Earnshaw family, his revengeful scheming drives the whole plot, and his death ends the book. The want to understand his complicated character and his vengeful motivations has kept incalculable readers engaged in the novels since its inception in the literary world.
Bronte spun a complex Heathcliff who defies being understood, and the charm of this multifaceted character has fascinated readers and will continue to do so evermore. The novel torments the reader with the likelihood that Heathcliff is something other than what he seems – that his malice is simply an expression of unrequited love for Catherine, or that his menacing behavior serves to hide the soul of passionate hero. However, his malice proves so great and long-lasting that it cannot be sufficiently explained even as a desire for vengeance against Hindley, Catherine, Edgar, etc.
As he himself points out in the novel, his mistreatment of Isabella is purely sadistic, as he amuses himself how much cruelty she can take and still comes back for more. Critic Joyce Carol argues that Emily Bronte does the same thing to the reader that Heathcliff does to Isabella, testing to see how many times the reader can be shocked by Heathcliff’s unwarranted violence and still, masochistically, insist on seeing him as a romantic hero. (Oates 48). Heathcliff arrived in the Earnshaw family by mere chance. Mr. Earnshaw found a boy who looked like a gypsy and had been apparently deserted on the streets of Liverpool.
He brought the child home to join his own family and named him after his son who had died. All the members of the household were opposed to the introduction of the strange boy, in particular the Earnshaw children, who detested the darked-skinned Heathcliff. But Catherine quickly comes to love Heathcliff, and they become inseparable, spending many a day playing on the moors. After his wife’s death, Mr. Earnshaw begins to love Heathcliff to his own son, and when Hindley persists his cruelty to Heathcliff, Mr Earnshaw sends Hindley away to college, keeping Heathcliff nearby.
Three years later, Hindley returns home after his father’s death to inherit Wuthering Heights and brings a wife with him. Hindley seeks revenge on Heathcliff. Heathcliff then finds himself treated as a common labourer, forced to work in the fields. Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, staying away for three years, and returns shortly after Catherine and Edgar’s marriage. When he returns, he immediately sets about seeking revenge on all who wronged him. He lends large amounts of money to the drunken Hindley, knowing that Hindley will increase his debts and fall into deeper despondency. When
Hindley dies, Heathcliff inherits the manor. He also places himself in line to inherit Thrushcross Grange by marrying Isabella Linton, who he treats very cruelly. Catherine gets ill, gives birth to a daughter, and dies. Isabella flees to London and gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, named Linton after her family. Isabella dies thirteen years later, and Linton comes to live with his father, who treats his sickly, whining son even more cruelly than he treated his mother. Three years later, young Catherine meets Heathcliff on the moors, and makes a visit to Wuthering Heights to meet Linton.
She and Linton begin a secret romance, but it soon becomes evident that Linton is pursuing Catherine only because Heathcliff is forcing him. Heathcliff forces Catherine to marry Linton, who dies very shortly afterwards. Edgar is also dead. Catherine is forced to live as a common servant at Wuthering Heights, while Thrushcross Grange is rented to Mr. Loockwood. Although Catherine originally mocked Hareton’s ignorance and illiteracy (in an act of retribution, Heathcliff ended Hareton’s education after Hindley died), Catherine grows to love Hareton as they live together at Wuthering Heights..
Heathcliff becomes more and more obsessed with the memory of the elder Catherine, to the extent that he begins speaking to the ghost. Everything reminds of her. Shortly after a night spent walking on the moors, Heathcliff dies. Hareton and Catherine plan to be married, and they inherit Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange after Heathcliff’s death. The most hauntingly beautiful aspect about this novel is the extent of Heathcliffs love for Catherine even after her rejection of him (although she professed ever-lasting love) by marrying Edger.
His love survives the rejection and continues undaunted. His loyalty to her is unwavering in spite of the emotional rejection. When Catherine falls ill, he exclaims that life without her would be hell. Her death kills his love for her and he focuses his existence on exacting revenge. His thwarted passion converts into an obsession for destruction and revenge. The love that Catherine and Heathcliff share is not mere romantic love; nor is it based on physical attraction. It is a coming together of souls, as they professed to be soul-mates.
Heathcliffs motivations and brutality can be understood to some extent when one brings into consideration the cruelty he had to endure as a child at the hands of the superior richer classes. He becomes persistent, and anti social to protect himself from the humiliation suffered in his earlier years. He is the incarnation of pauperization masses rejected by the system as human refuse; and his revenge can be seen as that of accumulated class hatred which brings down members of the privileged social class. He was only a child when he wished to avenge Hindley;
‘I’m trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it last. I hope he will not die before I do it. ’ (Bronte 64). The root of his bitterness is the consequences of the actions of the adults towards him. The recollection of the humiliation which he experience in his childhood left a devastating effect on him, impressed upon his soul like a heated iron; the undeserving spanking from Hindley and the contempt of the Lintons who exclaimed that there was no place for a gypsy in a decent house.
Their daughter Isabelle, whom he later married, detested him and suggested to her father to throw him into the basement, while Edgar compared his hair to the mane of a horse. But the cruelest were Catherine’s words: ‘It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…’ (Bronte 80) The basic motivation of Heathcliff’s actions has a social background. From the beginning of the novel and most likely from the beginning of his life, he has endured rejection and pain. When he is brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr.
Earnshaw, he is viewed as a thing rather than a child. The subject of revenge is so important in Wuthering Heights that it is compared to a renaissance tragedy of revenge: Admiration provoked by such a creature fascinates imagination and we are almost terrified by this creature, but still, he was added a trait of kindness which will make us feel compassion, almost respect. (Kovacevic, p. 268 ). Heathcliff’s character is emotionally explicable; from the first memories of Nelly Dean, his portrait was built in front of the reader.
He was a sullen, patient child; hardened, perhaps, to ill-treatment: he would stand Hindley’s blows without winking or shedding a tear. Heathcliff’s revenge occupies the biggest part of the book. His hatred takes on sick proportions and includes even his own son Linton and Catherine’s daughter. His cruelty and embitterers were necessary to Emily Bronte so that his infatuation could be exaggerated to incredible proportions. In spite of that, Heathcliff doesn’t seem to be a man lacking a conscience or a pathological sadist.
At the end of the novel, when Heathcliff’s revenge has subsided in the sequence of crimes, he suffered most: after Catherine’s death he is left without his life’s goal, unhappy, and wished for spiritual peace which only her grave could give him. ? Works Cited Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights, 1847. Kovacevic, I. Istorija Engleske, Wuthering Heights, a Selection of Critical Essays. Beograd, 1979. Oates, Carol, The Magnanimity of Wuthering Heights, Originally published in Critical Inquiry, Winter 1983. Reprinted in The Profane Art : Essays and Reviews.
Subject: Wuthering Heights,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 September 2016
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