Samuel Johnson once said that “Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance of justice. Injuries are revenged; crimes are avenged.” This quote is brought to life in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights where we see how protagonist Heathcliff’s childhood affects the fate of those who surround him and wronged him. The novel demonstrates how the presentation of this character makes us more sympathetic than we otherwise might be through the use of description, symbols and motifs.
At the beginning of the novel Bronte describes how Heathcliff was as a child through Nelly’s narration. Inc chapter 4 Nelly says that when Mr. Earnshaw brought him home to Wuthering Heights he was “dirty, ragged, black-haired” and that Mrs. Earnshaw wanted to kick him out of her house, however her husband opposed saying that he had found him “starving and homeless and as good as dumb.” With this description the reader can already set Heathcliff in a position in which one thinks that at that point his life has been bad enough to give him reasons to what he later does in the story. Also, we are introduced to how “Hindley hated him and to say the truth, [Nelly] did the same; and [they] plagued and went on with him shamefully…and the mistress never put a word on his behalf when she saw him wronged.”
This is a powerful presentation of how Heathcliff grows up because it makes the reader pitty the character. In the novel Bronte uses the Moors as a symbol of Catherine and Heathcliff’s love. The moors are places which are often vast and wild. They are infertile and unchanging. Also, they are characterized by their foggy conditions which lead people to get lost easily. Just like the moors, the love of the two protagonists carries all the same characteristics. A love so vast and wild like the one they have the one for the other brings terrible consequences to those who surround the lovers when disturbed.
When Hindley casts Heathcliff down in society he automatically frustrates the possibilities of Heathcliff and Catherine ever marrying. This frustration takes over Heathcliff and soon turns into revenge. What one often does however is not realize that love is benign and therefore does not wish harm upon anyone, even oppressors. Therefore, it is not love what drives Heathcliff’s thirst for vengeance, but passion; which is so powerful that consumes and isolates them to the point where they both die of a broken heart. The presentation of this passion serves to defend the actions the character engages in which standing on their own would make the reader feel no sympathy for him.
Motifs are widely used by Bronte in Wuthering Heights. The author uses many doubles, which help the reader have a clearer picture of the two opposing sides. To start with the majority of the things occur either at Wuthering Heights or at Thrusscross Grange. Thruscross Grange is a “splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, and glass-droplet chandeliers” while Wuthering Heights is described as having a dirty carpet, a raggedy fire place, old curtains, wrenched valances, damages chairs, and deformed wall panels while Heathcliff was in charge of it. This serves to establish the gap between social classes between Heathcliff and the, at this time dead, Lintons. Other doubles Bronte uses are the two Catherines, the two protagonists, and the two narrators.
The violence occurring in the story appears to double also, like when Cathy and Hareton are oppressed by Heathfcliff as they try to enjoy their love. The doubles are used to mark the differences between classes, which is the other main cause of the separation between Catherine and Heathcliff. It was not in any way Heathcliff’s fault to be casted down so low for Catherine to refuse marrying him, for that reason one cannot say that his harsh feelings and evil actions are not justified and thus feel some consideration for the pitiable character.
Emily Bronte shows us how sometimes what causes a person to act in a way that is seen as evil or immoral is often not just pure wickedness, but the experiences they’ve had. By presenting Heathcliff as a kind hearted, innocent person in his youth who ends up getting badly wrong by the people who were supposed to care for him Bronte makes the reader feel more sympathy for her Byronic hero. The use of description, symbols, and motifs are key in convey this truth.
Subject: Emily Brontë,
University/College: University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 30 October 2016
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