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Wuthering Heights Heathcliff Essay

1834 words - 7 pages

Wuthering Heights Heathcliff

Heathcliff is introduced in Nelly's narration as a seven-year-old Liverpool foundling (probably an Irish famine immigrant) brought back to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw. His presence in Wuthering Heights overthrows the prevailing habits of the Earnshaw family, members of the family soon become involved in turmoil and fighting and family relationships become spiteful and hateful. Even on his first night, he is the reason Mr. Earnshaw breaks the toys he had bought for his children. "From the very beginning he bred bad feelings in the house". Heathcliff usurps the affections of Mr. Earnshaw to the exclusion of young Hindley-: "The young master had learnt to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend". Such is the extent of Heathcliff's usurpation that Hindley is sent off to boarding school. As an adult, Heathcliff repeats the process, as he usurps the affections of Hareton and takes pride in the fact that the son in a fight would defend him with the father. Ultimately, Heathcliff parallels the cuckoo in taking over ownership of the Heights, thereby dispossessing the rightful heir, Hareton. Heathcliff destroys the natural familial emotional bonds that previously existed in the Earnshaw household. His presence results in a polarization within the family, at first Mr. Earnshaw and the Catherine become his allies, whereas Hindley becomes his enemy.
The role of the usurper leads to Heathcliff's suffering at the hands of Hindley and it is the treatment handed out by Hindley to Heathcliff after the death of Mr. Earnshaw, that arouses in Heathcliff a deep and abiding hatred and an all consuming passion for revenge. Heathcliff never forgot an injury inflicted on him during childhood and on his return to Wuthering Heights, after a three-year absence, the impulse to revenge himself on all those he regards as having wronged him becomes his overpowering passion. He ruins Hindley by encouraging his excessive drinking and gambling and with him aside he then turns his attention to Hareton-: "We'll see if one tree won't grow as crooked as another with the same wind to twist it". His revenge is also directed towards Edgar Linton, whom he sees as having stolen Catherine from him. He devises a series of schemes to wrest the ownership of the Grange from the Linton family and secure it for himself. He marries Isabella to "gain a foothold in the Grange" and to wreak revenge on Edgar-: "Edgar's proxy in suffering". He forces the marriage between his son Linton and Cathy to secure the ownership of the Grange, his revenge on Edgar is complete, he having lost his sister, wife daughter, estate and in the final analysis, the closest companionship of Catherine in death.

Heathcliff's role as an avenger is helped by his intelligence and understanding, not just of his own motivations, but of the motivations of others. He recognizes the source of Isabella's infatuation that-: "she abandoned this under a delusion" - "picturing in...

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