Emily Bronte’s novel is an important work in the 19th century, particularity when describing the nature of people. One of the Characters, Heathcliff, is very interesting because his decent and parentage is never truly defined. Because of this uncertainty, the reader is lead to believe Heathcliff may have a Gypsy heritage. Gypsies were thought to be dark-haired, dark-skinned, dirty, messy and uneducated. Gypsies were often objects of discrimination usually because they look different from the typical whites and because of their traveling lifestyle made them people without a nation or land. Heathcliff’s gypsy ways are commonly attributed to the Irish Travelers. Heathcliff’s representation is based on this native Irish gypsy group. It was a group Bronte was familiar with the history of and she was a well read individual despite her seclusion growing up. This novel was written in a period when the theme of gypsy’s and gypsy-tales were in fashion and may have had some influence on the characterization in this novel. Heathcliff ended up in Liverpool from seeking refuge from the Great Famine of Ireland. The English look at the Irish as animals, this explains the hatred from the family toward Heathcliff. The Irish were represented as the Africans of Europe. This is an ironic representation of the combination of the Irish and the Africans because after Mr. Earnshaw dies, Heathcliff is enslaved and out casted from the family. The first description of Heathcliff’s outward appearance almost exactly mimics the stereotype:
“I had a peep at a dirty, ragged, black-haired child; big enough both to walk and talk - indeed, its face looked older than Catherine’s - yet, when it was set on its feet, it only stared round, and repeated over and over again some gibberish nobody could understand.” (36-37).
When Heathcliff looked like he was old enough to be able to talk, no one could understand what he was saying; a hint at the lack of education. The language he spoke was gibberish and his dissimilarity provoked names such as “gypsy”, “wicked boy”, “villain,” and “imp of Satan.” He quickly succumbs to the abuse and neglect he endures in his new home. Mrs. Earnshaw first suggests the Heathcliff be classified as a Gypsy with her shocking exclamation toward the “thing” her husband brought home “…asking how he could fashion to bring that Gypsy brat into the house…” (37). He is immediately disliked by both siblings Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw.
Heathcliff’s actions follow the stereotype of Gypsies in literature and suggest he was of a Gypsy heritage. Heathcliff runs away a couple of times in the novel. Gypsies do not create a stationary home to live in. The group constantly moves and never defines an exact place to belong to. Wuthering Heights was not a home to Heathcliff and he tried to escape it by running away. The first time Heathcliff ran away, he ran to the grounds of Thrushcross Grange with Catherine. The second time Heathcliff ran...