The presentation of childhood is a theme that runs through two generations with the novel beginning to reveal the childhood of Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw, and with the arrival of the young Liverpudlian orphan, Heathcliff. In chapter four, Brontë presents Heathcliff’s bulling and abuse at the hands of Hindley as he grows increasingly jealous of Heathcliff for Mr. Earnshaw, his father, has favoured Heathcliff over his own son, “my arm, which is black to the shoulder” the pejorative modifier ‘black’ portrays dark and gothic associations but also shows the extent of the abuse that Heathcliff as a child suffered from his adopted brother. It is this abuse in childhood that shapes Heathcliff’s attitudes towards Hindley and his sadistic nature, as seen in chapter 17, “in rousing his rage a pitch above his malignity” there is hyperbole and melodrama as the cruelty that stemmed from his abuse in childhood has been passed onto Isabella in adulthood.
In chapter three, Lockwood opens a window to Catherine Earnshaws childhood through perusing through her books “Catherine’s library was select…scarcely one chapter had escaped a pen-and-ink commentary…scrawled in an unformed childish hand” we can see that her collection of books was limited but nevertheless well used. Two voices also come to the fore one being Lockwood’s and the other the autobiographical elements of Emily Brontë’s voice, ‘pen-and-ink commentary’ and ‘unformed childish’ the pre-modifiers reveal that the Brontë sisters also wrote in the margins of the novels they owned as paper was a scarce material.
However, Heathcliff as a child was a complete opposite to Cathy “Rough as a saw-edge…hard as whinstone” these similes show a hardened Heathcliff through a lifetime of abuse and neglect. The violence he had suffered early in life has made him tough, but sadly he has never been taught how to love for he was never loved in his childhood before Mr. Earnshaw became his adoptive father. “A dirty ragged black-haired child” the triplication of pre-modifying adjectives carry pejorative connotations as Heathcliff had been living on the streets of Liverpool therefore as he had been a homeless beggar, Nelly and the Linton’s believed that he was not fit for decent, well respect homes such as Wuthering Heights or Thrushcross Grange. The vocative “gypsy brat” (Ch.4) also carries pejorative connotations as young Heathcliff is condemned by religious folk and because he seemed to have no parents or a stable home, he was considered a ‘bastard’ child and a devil that “bred bad feeling in the house”
Hindley personified jealousy and cruelty as a child towards Heathcliff for he felt the gypsy was “a usurper of his parent's affections and his privileges” so to carry out his revenge, he physically abused Heathcliff “I shall tell your father of the three thrashing you’ve given me this week” Heathcliff does not retaliate to his abuser, however, but bribes his adoptive brother or he would “speak of these blows”...