Discuss the portrayal of Heathcliff and Hareton Earnshaw in WutheringHeights.
Are they products of nature or nurture?
I am going to look at the nature and nurture of both Hareton Earnshaw
and Heathcliff, of Emily BrontÃ«'s 'Wuthering Heights', and try to
decide whether these two characters are products of their nature or
their nurture. A person's nature is the way they are born, their 'raw
state of mind', the parts of their character unaffected by outside
influence. A person's nurture is the way they are brought up, and they
way they are influenced and shaped by society.
The Lintons and Earnshaws are part of the Gentry class of Victorian
England; they are both landowning families, fairly high up in the
class hierarchy. But the genetic natures of the families are entirely
different: the Lintons are well behaved, subdued, spoilt, steady,
sensible and arrogant; in comparison, the Earnshaws are strong willed,
moody, generous, free spirited, easily influenced, laid back and
non-formal. The nurture of the characters is connected very strongly
to social status: Heathcliff is denied social status initially by his
birth and subsequently by Hindley, which creates great hatred in
Heathcliff: this denial of status is perceived much more seriously
than what we consider serious today. Catherine chooses Edgar over
Heathcliff for reasons of social status, even though she and
Heathcliff are so similar. Hareton is also denied social status, which
turns his attitudes against the Gentry class and creates rifts between
him and other characters: for example, it makes Cathy and Linton, who
would be his equals, look down on him. Social status is so important
to the characters it is used as a weapon against enemies, and a tool
for becoming more self-aware.
The first time Lockwood meets Heathcliff he is very aware of his
suspicious and defensive nature: 'the solitary neighbour that I shall
be troubled with', 'his deep black eyes withdraw so suspiciously'.
This is not necessarily entirely due to Heathcliff's nature; it could
also be attributed to nurture. This suspicion could be due to his
cruel treatment as he was growing up; by Hindley especially, teaching
him to trust no-one. This effect of nurture could also explain why
Heathcliff doesn't welcome Lockwood into his house, or apprehend the
dogs when they attack him. Heathcliff is looked upon favourably by
Lockwood at first, he says he is a 'capital fellow', but this opinion
changes as Lockwood is subject to Heathcliff's cruel and cold hearted
attitude. He describes Wuthering Heights as being 'completely removed
from the stir of society' and 'a perfect misanthropist's heaven': he
soon realises that Heathcliff could be described in similar ways,
especially after he is refused a guide home in a storm and is attacked
twice by Heathcliff's dogs. Lockwood changes his mind about Heathcliff
being a capital fellow; he goes on to describe him as a 'rough fellow'
to Nelly Dean, who...