Lovengeance

January 30, 2019 by Essay Writer

Emily Bronte, in her novel Wuthering Heights, characterizes the protagonist Heathcliff as both a recipient and a perpetrator of the continually domineering forces of both love and revenge existing within the novel. Through complex interrelationships between all of the characters, the two forces culminate to synthesize an atmosphere of fear, hate, and confusion in the contained universe between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, and simultaneously emphasize Bronte’s indictment of a man who allows the normally sanguine force of love to recklessly control an utterly pernicious desire for revenge.As Nelly’s account of the events at Wuthering Heights begins, the conflict that Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship brings to the surrounding characters quickly becomes apparent. Mr. Earnshaw, as Heathcliff’s adoptive father, is the only character except Catherine who sees Heathcliff as a positive influence. Hindley detests Heathcliff for being the object of the majority of Mr. Earnshaw’s affection, as Nelly describes, “…the young master [Hindley] has learnt to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend, and Heathcliff as a usurper of his parent’s affections…”(p.27) and consequently incurs revenge on Heathcliff upon Mr. Earnshaw’s death by essentially enslaving Heathcliff to manual labor on the premises of Wuthering Heights. While other factors of his life, such as his early social position, contributed to Heathcliff’s bitterness later in the novel, this first act of vengeance by Hindley unquestionably played a significant role in the type of character that Heathcliff soon develops into. At the same point in the novel, the love between Heathcliff and Hindley’s sister, Catherine, is quickly establishing itself as a growing factor in Heathcliff’s unique development.As Heathcliff grows older, gains independence, and realizes his social position in the spectrum of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, his desire for revenge over Hindley continues to proliferate. However, at the same time, Catherine’s love for Heathcliff catalyzes a severe inner conflict leading her to a decision that plagues the rest of her life. Catherine knows that she loves Heathcliff, as she confides to Nelly. “My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath – he’s always, always in my mind – not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself…” (p.60) Heathcliff, though not so vocal about his feelings, clearly loves Catherine in an equally strong way. Though Catherine feels that marrying a wealthy, educated, socially adept man such as Edgar is the most advantageous path for her, she also knows that the nuptial cannot separate the intense compassion between her and Heathcliff. This decision concurrently marks the commencement of Heathcliff’s plan for revenge, which begins to unfold following Catherine’s announcement to marry Edgar.Heathcliff’s quest for revenge over everyone who has wronged him unquestionably influences more characters than any other aspect of the novel. Quickly after returning to Wuthering Heights following his unexplained three year absence, Heathcliff begins his mission by moving in with Hindley, subsidizing Hindley’s affection for alcohol, and teaching Hindley’s offspring Hareton to turn against his father. Thus, Heathcliff has already started to turn the tables on Hindley, who is clearly becoming a weaker character. Copying Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff upon Mr. Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff prohibits Hareton’s tutor from coming to Wuthering Heights, and consequently deprives Hareton of an education. Hareton crudely implies the treatment that Heathcliff has given him during his dialogue with Nelly on her trip past the Heights. “No, I was told the curate should have his teeth dashed down his throat if he stepped over the threshold – Heathcliff has promised that!” (p.81) This form of revenge on Hindley parallels the way in which Hindley abused Heathcliff, and proves to be a highly invective method of waging revenge on his original abusers. On a tangible level, one could argue that Heathcliff has simply become the product of his upbringing, as this could be the only way that Heathcliff knows to treat people. However, as other aspects of his presence at Wuthering Heights would suggest, Heathcliff’s quest for revenge runs far deeper than simply reciprocating the cruelty that Hindley inflicted on Heathcliff’s childhood.While slowly destroying Hindley’s existence, Heathcliff also begins to take steps toward alleviating his desire for revenge against Edgar, the man who pried Catherine away from Heathcliff through his formal education and social status. Isabella, Edgar Linton’s sister, eventually begins to take an interest in Heathcliff. Heathcliff, capitalizing on Isabella’s blind concupiscence, pretends to return the affection for Isabella and leads her to believe that they are falling in love. Isabella, convincing herself that she loves Heathcliff, allows Heathcliff to use Isabella as a tool to exact his revenge on the Linton family, which he partially accomplishes by his torture of Isabella. “I assure you, a tiger, or a venomous serpent could not rouse terror I me equal to that which he wakens,” (p.107) Isabella writes to Nelly. As his plan falls into place, Heathcliff’s marriage to Isabella leads to her estrangement from her only brother, Edgar. By this time Edgar has realized that his wife Catherine is actually in love with Heathcliff, the man who is also destroying his sister Isabella’s life. Heathcliff’s steps towards vengeance over the veritable universe between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange clearly progress very efficiently by his marriage to Isabella. By marrying her in the first place, he estranges her from Edgar; by abusing her horribly, he strikes at the upper class persona that has hurt him in the past. Also, as the result of Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship, Edgar forces an ultimatum on Catherine to choose between him and Heathcliff; as a result Catherine becomes terminally ill. From this perspective, perhaps Heathcliff also casts the ultimate veil of revenge over his lover, Catherine, as he knows that he can be as close to her in death as he can in life. Catherine’s death marks the end of the first phase of Heathcliff’s crusade, and he soon thereafter takes steps toward the second.Lil’ Catherine’s birth introduces a new breath of life into the withering existence of Wuthering Heights, but also brings a new target of revenge for Heathcliff. Upon the debut of Isabella’s son Linton Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is immediately able to hurt Cathy by forcing Linton to live at Wuthering Heights. Through his torturous emotional and physical abuse of Linton, Heathcliff continues his quest against the Linton family, and also indicates a more implicit desire to retaliate against an abusive society by treating a young, innocent child in such a horrible manner. When he sees Cathy, Heathcliff tries to estrange her from Edgar Linton by telling her of her mother’s love for him. While this form of revenge progresses much more slowly than his other methods, it ultimately physically pulls Cathy away from Edgar, causes Edgar to die, and by wedding Linton and Cathy completes Heathcliff’s quest to exact revenge in some method on every character that was related to anyone who ever hurt Heathcliff in the past.The various forms of revenge used by Heathcliff in the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, coupled with the intense love between Heathcliff and Catherine, ultimately affects each character more than any other aspect of the events at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. While Heathcliff’s lack of satisfaction at the end indicates the relatively simple idea that Heathcliff did not accomplish anything positive for himself by hurting so many people, perhaps Bronte also warns the reader that an intense love such as the one felt between Heathcliff and Catherine can ultimately become dangerous, as it drove Heathcliff to create a universe in which hate, fear, and revenge existed with minimal opposition. The two forces violently shaped the exposition and conclusion of the novel, and combined they function to highlight not only key relationships between characters, but also to bring Bronte’s perspective of love and revenge to a tangible level.

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