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Characterisation of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights Essay


Every novel needs an overly eccentric character to add a splash of color and spontaneity to the plot. In the case of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is that character. But instead of a splash of color, Heathcliff adds a shroud of darkness. He may be spontaneous and eccentric but unlike the common person, his mind is twisted and his actions are evil. Throughout the novel, he is portrayed as a madman. Brought up as an adopted child from the streets, Heathcliff always had a strange and unnatural disposition. As he aged, this disposition grew into a form of passionate madness. His mind was bent solely on seeking revenging on those who wronged him, in any way he could.

As a child, Heathcliff was treated as the favorite by his adopted father Mr. Earnshaw (much to the displeasure of his adopted brother Hindley). From a young age, Heathcliff found that he could get away with almost anything. While recounting the history of Heathcliff to Mr. Linton, Ms. Dean recalls the day when Mr. Earnshaw bought two ponies for Hindley and Heathcliff. She tells how Heathcliff took the better looking one but when it went lame, he forced Hindley to give him his pony otherwise he would tell his father of how much Hindley beat him up. Mr. Earnshaw always turned a blind eye to Heathcliffs unkind and cruel actions. But if he ever heard of Hindley doing anything mean to Heathcliff, Hindley would always get in trouble. There was nothing but hatred between the two boys. After Mr. Earnshaw passed away, everything went to Hindley. Heathcliff was treated horribly by the new head of house. Heathcliff left for a three years and when he returned, he was now more successful than Hindley. Through trickery and manipulation, Heathcliff eventually gets his revenge on Hindley one night by getting him drunk. While Hindleys judgment was impaired, Heathcliff gained control of Wuthering Heights by getting Hindley to bet it. Heathcliff would stop at nothing to get revenge on those who made life miserable for him.

Heathcliffs madness continues throughout the whole story and affects almost every single character. Linton, for instance, marries Catherine (Heathcliffs love and soul mate) and Heathcliff holds nothing back while trying to make his life more miserable than his own. No one but a mad man would go to the extreme of seducing a mans sister and marrying her just to spite him and to gain control over everything near and dear to him. But this is exactly what Heathcliff does. Not to mention, trying to hang her dog from a tree in the middle of the night for no apparent reason. One would think that Heathcliff has gone far enough in causing heartache and misery for Linton. That would be incorrect. Catherine and Heathcliff have always loved each other. They will never stop loving each other. Linton can see this as plain as day and this is possibly the worst thing Heathcliff does. He comes back into Catherines life again and steals back her heart, much to the dismay and heartache of Linton.

Some of the things Heathcliffs says and does are not only mad-they are disturbing. When Catherine died, Heathcliff did not respond in the way most people would. He cursed her to never rest and to haunt him forever in any form. Now think about this for a second he cursed someone he loved after they died. Does that classify as madness? Yes. As a matter of fact, it does. This is not the end of Heathcliffs unusual behavior. One night, he digs up Catherines grave just because he is so overcome with an urge to be near her that he would lay with her decaying corpse to satisfy it.

Though Heathcliffs reasoning for his actions make almost no sense to the reader, he believes them to make perfect sense. With every part of his soul, Heathcliff believes that the way to happiness is through making everyone around him more miserable than himself. This thought process is reasonable to a certain extent, but Heathcliff takes these thoughts too far and to extreme. The madness that controls his mind has compromised his judgment and reasoning skills and turned him into an uncontrollable, chaotic monster who the reader cannot help but hate and almost pity.

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