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Heatchcliff

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
story, in the words of Nelly, is "a cuckoo's story", Heathcliff is the usurper. 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. Nelly recorded "From the very beginning he bred bad feelings in the
house". His language is "gibberish" and his dark otherness provokes the labels "gipsy," "wicked
boy," "villain," and "imp of Satan." This poor treatment is not much of an improvement on his
"starving and houseless" childhood, and he quickly becomes a product of all of the abuse and
neglect. Racially different, he can and will never be accepted by his adoptive family or the
villagers of Gimmerton.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".
The role of the usurper leads to Heathcliff's suffering at the hands of Hindley and it is the
treatment neated 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. During a three-year absence, Heathcliff is physically
transformed. No longer a beaten-down street kid, he has become, as Nelly puts it:
. . . a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom my master [Edgar] seemed quite slender and
youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of his having been in the army. His
countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton's; it looked
intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation. A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the
depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued 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
reek 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 recognises
the source of Isabella's infatuation that-: "she abandoned this under a delusion" - "picturing in
me a hero of romance". He also capitalises on Linton's poor health by inviting the pity of Cathy
so that her affection and sympathy would facilitate a marriage that would leave he, Heathcliff, as

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master of the Grange.
As Heathcliff seeks his revenge, he becomes fiendish and is constantly associated with
diabolical feelings, images and actions. The use of the imagery reinforces the inhuman aspect
of Heathcliff. He regrets saving the infant Hareton. Nelly recalled that his face bore the greatest
pain at he being the instrument that thwarted his own revenge. He takes perverse pleasure in
the fact that Hareton was born with a sensitive nature which Heathcliff has corrupted and
degraded. Heathcliff's pleasure at this corruption is increased by the fact that-: "Hareton is
damnably fond of me". Heathcliff's cruelty is also evident when he hangs Isabella's dog despite
her protestations. His attitude is devoid of fatherly feeling. He sees him only as a pawn in his
revenge and his main consideration lies in calculating whether Linton lives long enough to have
married Catherine so having acquired Thrushcross Grange-: "We calculate it will scarcely last
'till it's eighteen." Once the marriage has taken place, Linton's life is seen as worthless by
Heathcliff-: "His life is not worth a farthing, and I won't spend a farthing on him" His cruel
treatment of Isabella is, for him, a source of enjoyment. He tells Nelly-: "The more the worms
writhe, the more I yearn to crush the entrails" Isabella recognises the sadistic treatment by
Heathcliff and asks- "Is Mr. Heathcliff a man - is he the devil?"
There is, however, another side of the novels leading character. At no point in the novel can
we doubt Heathcliff's eternal faithfulness to Catherine. His love survives her rejection of him-: "It
would degrade me to marry Mr. Heathcliff" and despite her marriage to Edgar, Heathcliff's love
for her continues undaunted. Heathcliff suffers much emotional rejection, but at no point does
he waiver in his loyalty to her-: "I seek no revenge on you...the tyrant grinds down his slaves
and they don't turn against him, they crush those beneath them" His genuine concern for
Catherine prevents him from exacting direct revenge from Edgar. He says to Catherine-: "I
would of died by witches before I would have touched a single hair of his head." When hearing
of Catherine's illness, he exclaims-: "Existence after loosing her would be hell" In this statement,
we can see the extent of Heathcliff's dedication and loyalty to Catherine and the sense of
desolation her death would bring to him.
At times in the novel, Heathcliff is portrayed as a tormented spirit. After the death of
Catherine, Heathcliff's lust for love is gone. His existence is then focused totally on exacting
revenge. As his death approaches, he confesses to Nelly the extent of Catherine's hold over
him, though she's now been dead 18 years-: "I cannot look down into the floor, her features are
shaped in the flags...in every cloud, in every tree." The degree in which Heathcliff is tormented
by Catherine is reflected when he said-: "Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy?...you love
me, what right had you to leave me?" The sense of despair following news of Catherine's death
is a good example of Heathcliff's tormented spirit-: "I cannot live without my life, I cannot live
without my soul" He, said Nelly, howled not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded
to death with knives and spears. Life for Heathcliff after Catherine's death is an unnatural
existence. He feels he belongs with her both in body and in spirit and has already arranged with
the Sexton to be buried beside her. Life for him is "like bending back a stiff spring". The young
Cathy recognises that Heathcliff has rejected all society although she doesn't realise that his
attachment remains to her late mother-: "Mr. Heathcliff, you have nobody to love you...your
cruelty arises from your greater misery."
From the beginning of the novel and most likely from the beginning of his life, he has
suffered pain and rejection. When he is brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, he is

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viewed as a thing rather than a child. Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors, while
Nelly put it on the landing of the stairs hoping that it would be gone the next day. Without having
done anything to deserve rejection, Heathcliff is made to feel like an outsider, 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, according to Nelly, Hindley's treatment of
Heathcliff was "enough to make a fiend of a saint". He is separated from the family, reduced to
the status of a servant, forced to become a farm hand, undergoes regular beatings and is
forcibly separated from Catherine. Personality that Heathcliff develops in his adult life has been
formed in response to the deprivation of his childhood. Heathcliff received constant reminder of
his lesser status e.g. on his first visit to the Grange, Catherine is taken into the Linton
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
emphasised 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 occurs with Catherine's marriage to
Edgar, this he considers a betrayal of his love for her, in favour of the social status and civilised
existence of the Grange. Heathcliff is however proud and determined and does not cower when
confronted by those who consider themselves to be superiors, his determination was evident
when taking advantage of Mr. Earnshaw's favouritism and exchanging horses with young
Hindley, though his situation and position is somewhat worsened after the death of Mr.
Earnshaw, Heathcliff's pride nevertheless remains intact. When Catherine returned to the
Heights after her five week stay at the Grange, she is much changed in appearance and makes
fun of the ragged Heathcliff, when ordered to shake hands with Catherine by Hindley, Heathcliff
refuses, saying-: "I shall not stand to be laughed at, I shall not hear it". Similarly, when insulted
by Edgar during one of his visits to the Heights, Heathcliff empties a toureen of applesauce over
him. Finally, when the realisation dawns on him that Catherine has chosen status, wealth and
position in preference to him, he disappears for three years and returns in the guise of a
gentleman.
Part of Heathcliff's survival mechanism during the period that he is being terrorised by
Hindley, is the thought and prospect of revenge, he is determined to have is own back and
confesses to Nelly-: "I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last, I hope he will not die
before I do".
As Heathcliff approaches death and a reunion of Catherine, his resolve for revenge weakens
until he no longer has an interest in that former preoccupation-: "I have lost the faculty of
enjoying their destruction". This dousing of the flames of Heathcliff's revenge is a catalyst not
just in the novel but in the histories of the Earnshaw and Linton families. Hareton and Cathy are
spared, the sense of evil visited upon them by Heathcliff is removed and there occurs a spiritual
renaissance within Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff is a many faced character, in his early years he is characterised somewhat by his fiery
temper, his sulleness, his proud nature, his fierce attachment to Catherine, his spitefulness and
his capacity for hatred. The adult Heathcliff, who returns to Wuthering Heights after a three year
absence, is a super-human villain driven by revenge, distorted by the sense of the wrongs done
to him and made emotionally unstable by Catherine's marriage. This later Heathcliff is
characterised by callousness by an incapacity to love and eventually by an all consuming
passion for revenge against those who have wronged him and for unification with his beloved

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Catherine.