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Heathcliffe as a Product of Circumstance

Heathcliffe as a Product of Circumstance

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Published by eleanorpickering
The arguments for and against Heathcliff being 'a product of circumstance'.
The arguments for and against Heathcliff being 'a product of circumstance'.

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Published by: eleanorpickering on Oct 11, 2009
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06/13/2010

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'Heathcliff can be seen as a product of circumstance' How far and in what ways do you agree withthis view?
Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights' rests upon an enigma; her character of Heathcliff. Who, or whatHeathcliff is is open to reader interpretation. It is the questions that the reader chooses to ask thatwill characterise how he is viewed. The enigmatic nature of Heathcliff rests upon the lack of information Bronte gives of his early life. Heathcliff is simply placed at Wuthering Heights withoutany suggestion of who he is and where he actually belongs. Heathcliff, for the reader, therefore iswhat he is due to circumstance. He is placed at Wuthering Heights out of circumstance, he rises to power out of circumstance, and reaches self destruction by the same fate.It can be seen that a theme of the novel is consequence itself. Even in the first page we are given asense of consequence governing the situation through the narrator of Lockwood. Lockwood can betreated as an outsider to the plot yet becomes fascinated by Heathcliff as a character, an it is throughhis enquiries into Heathcliff's life that we are given the story. Yet even this is presented ascircumstance. Lockwood states, 'I think that circumstance determined me to accept the invitation.'The reader later learns that it is through this circumstance that Lockwood becomes embroiled in thedemonic love story of Cathy and Heathcliff. Bronte presents how it is not merely the love of Heathcliff and Cathy that is of circumstance, but that it should even be told is a circumstance initself. The novel is ridden with consequences, and this introduction of such on the first page isextended into Heathcliff's life at Wuthering Heights. After having accepted Linton's proposal, Cathylaments of her love for Heathcliff. She tells Nelly that she loves him because 'he's more myself thanI am', showing the deepest form of love that extends social conventions and superficiality, butcomes from the soul. Heathcliff however hears only the words spoken before, 'It would degrade meto marry Heathcliff'. It is a consequence of this that Heathcliff commits himself to a life of solitudeand misery and that Cathy and himself are never together. The reader asks the question that hadHeathcliff heard comments such as, 'My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath', hisfate would have been quite different.The idea of Heathcliff as a product of circumstance is evident in the contrast between himself andhis nature and the house he has attained and his status, creating the impression of neither truly belonging to the other. The house itself seems to repel Heathcliff as master as described, 'I detectedthe date '1500', and the name 'Hareton Earnshaw' . It is suggested very early on that it is bycircumstance that this house is in the hands of such a man, with the idea created that the house andstatus doesn't 'fit' Heathcliff. Furthermore, Heathcliff's manner does not fit the status acquiredthrough such a property. Heathcliff is still described as wild by Catherine, 'an unreclaimed creature,without refinement – without cultivation', creating the impression that although he has attained property and wealth he is still 'unreclaimed', belonging to nowhere. This wild nature of Heathcliff'sdoes not change in the novel. The idea of Heathcliff as a product of circumstance is created by theunchanging nature of both himself and Wuthering Heights, creating the idea that neither truly belong together.The most prominent aspect of Heathcliff as a character is the supernatural, demonic element that isdescribed, and this provides evidence against the idea of Heathcliff being a product of circumstance.The supernatural element to Heathcliff creates the idea that it is no coincidence or circumstance thathe is as he is, that he is a sub-human force whose origins extend beyond the realms of circumstance.Description of him such as, 'he's a lying fiend, a monster and not a human being' suggest that he issomething to be feared rather than a subject to be rationalised. Furthermore, the words 'not a human being' creates the idea of his existence being supernatural and above the realms of humanity.Therefore, perhaps Heathcliff cannot be described as a product of circumstance, because the verynature of his character rises above circumstance.

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