C O N T E N T S
II THE DEVELOPMENT OF HEATHCLIFF’ S CHARACTER
III CONCLUSION IV BIBLIOGRAPHY
Heathcliff arrived in the Earnshaw family by accident. Mr. Earnshaw found a boy who looked like a gypsy and had been apparently abandoned on the streets of Liverpool. He brought the child home with him, to join his own family. He named the boy after his son who had died. All the members of the household were opposed to the introduction of a strange boy, especially the Earnshaw children, who detested the darked-skinned Hindley. But Catherine quickly comes to love Heathcliff, and soon they become inseparable, spending days playing on the moors. After his wife’s death, Mr. Earnshaw grows to prefer Heathcliff to his own son, and when Hindley continues 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. Once an orphan, later a pampered and favored son, Heathcliff now finds himself treated as a common labourer, forced to work in the fields. However, he continues his close relationship with Catherine. One night they wander to Thrushcross Grange, hoping to tease Edgar and Isabella Linton, the cowardly, snobbish children who live there. Catherine is bitten by a dog and is forced to stay at the Grange to recover for five weeks. By the time she returns, she has become infatuated with Edgar, and her relationship with Heathcliff grows more complicated.
Hindley’s wife dies after the birth of their son Hareton, and Hindley descends into the depths of alcoholism, and behaves more cruelly and abusively toward Heathcliff. Catherine’s desire for social advancement prompts her to become engaged to Edgar Linton, despite her overpowering love for Heathcliff. Heathcliff runs from Wuthering Heights, staying away for three years, and returning 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 DEVELOPMENT OF HEATHCLIFF’S CHARACTER
Wuthering Heights centers around the story of Heathcliff. The first
paragraph of the novel provides a vivid picture of him, as Lockwood describes how his ‘black eyes’ withdrew suspiciously under his brows at Lockwood’s approach. Nelly’s story begins with his introduction into the Earnshaw family, his vengeful machinations drive the entire plot, and his death ends the book. The desire to understand him and his motivations has kept countless readers engaged in the novel.
Heathcliff, however, defies being understood, and it is difficult for readers to resist seeing what they want or expect to see in him. The novel teases the reader with the possibility that Heathcliff is something other than what he seems – that his cruelty is merely an expression of frustrated love for Catherine, or that his sinister behavior serves to conceal the heart of romantic hero. We expect Heathcliff’s character to contain such a hidden virtue because he resembles a hero in a romance novel. However, he does not reform, and his malevolence proves so great and long-lasting that it cannot be adequately explained even as a desire for revenge against Hindley, Catherine, Edgar, etc. As he himself points out, his abuse of Isabella is purely sadistic, as he amuses himself how much abuse she can take and still cringing 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 gratuitous violence and still, masochistically, insist on seeing him as a romantic hero.
But was he always like this?
Having arrived at Wuthering Heights, he found a creature alike him; wild, free and energetic. Catherine and Heathcliff are the carriers of great,
unrestrained sentiment of biological energy; they act according to the dictation of passion. They possess magnificent human strength , plentitude and freedom of human being that everyone long unconsciously. But their great love, strength and energy will produce unhappiness and suffering to people that surround them.
After the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff suffers great humiliations from Hindley. But every hard work, insult or blow is easy to bear because he has his Catherine to wander freely through the moors. But she chooses the other man and the life of a lady even though she knows she won’t be happy, but that man isn’t a servant. All insults didn’t offend Heathcliff as the marriage to Edgar. Still, when he returns from a three-year exile and starts to avenge people he considers as his enemies, his revenge isn’t directed towards Catherine. His love survives her rejection of him and despite her marriage to Edgar, his love continues undaunted. He suffers much emotional rejection, but at no point does he waiver in his loyalty to her. When Catherine gets ill, he exclaims that life without her would be hell. After her death, his lust for love is gone and his existence is focused on exacting revenge. His great passion, so suddenly thwarted, transforms into great passion for destruction and revenge.
Catherine Earnshaw is a character dominated by obsession and her single obsession is love for Heathcliff. It is this that gives food to her soul, which controls her life and gives sense of meaning, purpose and direction to her existence. The love which she professes for Heathcliff is not mere romantic love; neither is it based on mere physical attraction; it is an identification, a union of souls. Her marriage to Edgar and her rejection of Heathcliff is a rejection of herself. In going to the Grange, she has turned back, not only on Heathcliff, but on the carefree lifestyle she enjoyed at the Heights. She becomes fully aware of the error committed by marrying Edgar. Her illness and death represent a natural and predictable result of her movement from the Heights to the Grange, by not staying true to her nature and by swapping the door life that she had with the outdoor life that she had with Heathcliff for
the role of the lady of a manor. She has in a sense cut off her own oxygen supply, instead of the wild air of moors she now breaths the stifled air of the Grange, like a flower without light she eventually withers and dies, a situation of her own making. Having rejected Heathcliff, in favour of marriage to Edgar, she lived among the people so much unlike herself and Heathcliff. Once this course was chosen, there was no going back. Although she realized the error of her ways, she had placed herself in a situation in which death could only extricate her. Therefore, when she died she was buried at the edge of the kirkyard where the border between it and surrounding moors was ill-defied. In death, she had returned to nature and regained freedom, the dire consequences of her failure to remain loyal to her true self.
Soon after Heathcliff’s first appearance at the Heights, Nelly observes that he seems willing to endure anything, in order to grant his desire. She begins by calling him ’sullen, patient’ and comments on his ’endurance’ (p.38). She elaborates in the anecdote of the colts, when Heathcliff submits to Hindley’s brutal attack: he had a lame colt, and in order to change this he suffers having an iron weight thrown at him, and being knocked under a horse’s hooves. Mrs. Dean was surprised to witness how coolly the child gathered himself up, and went on with his liking, he is prepared to endure any suffering and privation to change it. He will make things be the way he wants them, or die in the attempt. His childhood has made him a very persistent, but also and an asocial being.
Heathcliff can be understood as the incarnation of pauperizational masses rejected by the system as a human waste; and his revenge as an
accumulated class hatred which tears down the representatives of privileged layers. 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.(p.64)
Unprotected position of children of that time has also influenced, indirectly, the processing of the theme of childhood in Emily Bronte’s novel. Her experience from Lowood has taught her that adults can be very cruel towards a child and she has understood how revolt against oppressors is developed in a young person. The roots of children’s bitterness in Wuthering Heights is in actions of adults towards them.
While Hindley and his wife enjoy in warm premises near fireplace, the children spend their Sunday afternoon in the cold attic and Joseph bores them with endless preaches. They are left to be brought up by this devout servant. But, they are not the passive victims, they are openly rebelling. When Joseph gave them to read some religious books one Sunday, the bitter children threw them into the doghouse. The writer wins over the reader for these spiteful children, whose friendship and alliance develops into permanent love.
The social component is very important in Heathcliff’s revenge. The memories of humiliation which he had experienced in his childhood impressed him like a heated iron; undeserving spanking from Hindley, but the most difficult was the scorn of the Lintons. They were all, both adults and children, astounded when they saw him as Catherine’s companion and they said that there was no place for such a homeless Gipsy in a decent house. The Linton’s daughter, Isabella, has detested him and she suggested to her father to throw him into the basement, while Edgar has compared his curly hair to a horse mane. But the most horrible were Catherine’s words: ’It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…’ (p.80)
Having endured all these insults, Heathcliff accumulated hatred and lust for revenge for his whole life. The basic motivation of Heathcliff’s actions has basically social background. From the beginning of the novel and most likely from the beginning of his life, he has suffered rejection and pain. When he is brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, he is viewed as a thing rather
than a child. Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling him out of doors, while Nelly put him on the landing of the stairs hoping that he would be gone the next day. Without having done anything to deserve rejection, Heathcliff is made to feel like an outsider, and following the death of Mr. Earnshaw, suffers cruel mistreatment at the hands of Hindley. In these formative years, he is deprived of love, sociability and education. He is separated from the family, reduced to the status of a servant, forced to be a farm hand, undergoes regular beatings and is forcibly separated from Catherine. Heathcliff received constant reminders of his lesser status e.g. on his first visit to the Grange, Catherine was taken into the Lintons household, whereas Heathcliff is rejected, made fun of, and alienated. Later, when Catherine returns to Wuthering Heights, her changed appearance further alienates Heathcliff, a point emphasized during the visits of the Linton children, Heathcliff was not considered fit to join the
party. The final sense of alienation and the most damning one occurs with Catherine’s marriage to Edgar. This he considers betrayal of his love for her, in the favour of social status and civilized existence of the Grange.
Also, the tragedy of Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s love has its real support in the social frame. They are not the ethereal lovers who burn out of love, of some kind of mystical love. Their tragedy is the tragedy of this world. A girl didn’t have enough faith in her beloved and she got married to the other man. The poor young man broke down and became rich, but it was useless, she had already belonged to the other man and which was worse, she was expecting his child. She died after the birth of her daughter, and he was left to suffer and to avenge.
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. (Kovačević, p.268 )
Heathcliff’s character is psychologically 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, and my pinches moved him only to draw in breath and open his eyes, as if he had hurt himself by accident and nobody was to blame… …However, I will say this, he was the quietest child that ever nurse watched over. The difference between him and the others forced me to be less partial. Cathy and her brother harassed me terribly: he was uncomplaining as a lamb; though hardness, not gentleness, made him give little trouble. (p. 46-7)
When he returned from his three-years leave, it is not that Gypsy brat, a dirty servant who was punished for the slightest fault. He is a well-dressed gentleman, but still, there is muffled cruelty in his ardent look. Nelly describes him:
He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom, my master seemed quite slender and youth-like. His countenance was much older in expression and in decision of feature than Mr. Linton’s; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation. A half-civilized ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, though too stern for grace. (p.92)
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. Linton is odious to him because of his resemblance to the Lintons and his weakness. He can’t stand Cathy because she looks like her father. His feelings are explicable, but we are astonished and confused by his cruelty. He hits Isabella with a knife, slaps young Catherine, abuses his son that so Linton becomes scared and insecure. Then, he keeps his daughter-in-law imprisoned with her husband on a deathbed and doesn’t allow anybody to call for a doctor until unfortunate Linton hasn’t passed away.
The writer has reduced Heathcliff to one and only dominating passion, an obsession which has the unique root, even though it is twofoldly demonstrated: love toward a woman, on one side, and lust for revenge because of a loss of beloved woman. His cruel nature, suspicious origin and embitterness with bad treatment were necessary to the writer so that Heathcliff’s passion could be magnified to the incredible proportions. In spite of that, Heathcliff doesn’t seem to be a man of aberrational consciousness or a pathological sadist, because if he were like this, the impression which had to be accomplished would be lost.
The author has taken care that his normalcy is out of question, because in that case the reaction of a reader couldn’t contain those elements of awe towards a great victim who ‘steps on the worms and enjoys in watching them while they are wiggling’ (Kovačević, p.269). And in that muffled sympathy there is an explanation for exceptional enthusiasm for Heathcliff’s character.
At the end, when Heathcliff’s revenge had abated in the series of crimes, he got revenge to himself: after Catherine’s death he is left without his life goal, unhappy as a man can be, wishing for spiritual peace that only grave can give him.
The general impression that this novel leaves when the last page is read is the picture of constant passing of time and a change which it brings; good and evil are changing as annual seasons change, as generations change, life and death, love and hatred. Dialectics of nature unerringly establishes the balance – storms expire and peace revives. When we read the last chapter, we get the impression that one part is finished and a new will take part. After Heathcliff’s attempt to destroy the Earnshaws and the Lintons, the sun again shines above a young couple, and love and life continues.
Catherine and Heathcliff’s misfortunes, recklessness, willpower, and destructive passion are unable to penetrate the eternal love they share. However, love is hardly the main theme of the book. It is difficult and possibly wrong to consider Emily Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights, as a worldly book. As Romantic authors tend to look into man’s inner nature, so did Bronte glimpse into the mind of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. What she came up with however, is hardly a social commentary on the human mind. These are two unique characters that must exist only in a certain mysticism not found in Liverpool. The sincerely private relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine makes no reference to any social convention or situation. In fact, it is doomed only when Cathy begins to be attracted to the mannerly ways and the social graces of Thrushcross Grange and is led to abandon her true nature. If not social classes, is the privacy of the human experience the theme of the novel? Or is revenge the central and recurring idea? Is Bronte proposing that as humans we have the right to meddle with the cosmic, dark and questioning universe just as Catherine and Heathcliff manipulated with their own lovers and family? Perhaps it is simply a book about characters, each to his own, meandering through puddles, with cloudy morals and mistaken ideals. With a darkness within and beauty without, stumbling back and forth a two-mile stretch of land searching for something they’ve had all along. Maybe it’s a book about reality.
L I T E R A T U R E
1 Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994 2 Marsh, Nicholas. Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights. London: Macmillan Press LTD,1999 3 Puhalo, dr Dušan. Engleska književnost (1832-1950). Beograd: Naučna knjiga, 1976. 4 Hadžiselimović, Omer. Jurak, Mirko. Koljević, Svetozar. Kostić, Veselin. Kovačević, Ivanka. Šerbedžija, Marija. Šoljan, Ivo. Engleska književnost 2. Beograd: Nolit, 1984. 5 Benson, Morton. Srpsko-hrvatski rečnik. Beograd: Prosveta, 1990. 6 www.victorianweb.com 7 www.sparksnotes.com 8 www.pinkmonkey.com 9 www.novelguide.com 10 www.homepage.tinet.ie 11 www.cliffnotes.com 12 www.britishbookshop.at 13 www.imdb.com 14 www.bookrags.com