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Selfishness as Seen in Wuthering Heights

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Consistently throughout Wuthering Heights, the self-indulgent, mercenary tendencies of human nature can be identified in characters such as Catherine, Hindley, Linton, and Heathcliff. These self-aiming qualities result in these characters through past transgressions, mistreatments, illnesses, and cases of simply being spoiled. Further exploration of these characters reveals that they may not be wholly at fault for their selfish behaviors and may simply be victims of past offenses.

In “Altruism and Selfishness”, Roger Scruton simply defines: “A selfish act is one directed at the self” (39). While the selfish acts committed throughout Wuthering Heights are in themselves fascinating, it is the hows and whys behind these characters’ mercenary qualities that carry the most importance and deserve the most scrutiny.

Young Linton is described as having “the self-absorbed moroseness of a confirmed invalid, repelling consolation, and ready to regard the good-humored mirth of others as an insult” (Brontë 252). Already, from a young age, Linton feels sorry for himself because he knows that he is sick, and he demands special treatment because of it. Once sent to live at Wuthering Heights with his father, “utter lack of sympathy” from Heathcliff and Joseph “had rendered young Heathcliff selfish and disagreeable, if he were not so originally” (Brontë 207). Once he stops receiving the special treatment that he has been served with for his whole life, and is treated as Heathcliff would treat anyone else, Linton becomes even more selfish and intolerable to not just his father and servants, but also to Cathy, his young bride.

Since the adoption of Heathcliff into the Earnshaw family, “Hindley hated him” particularly because Mr. Earnshaw “took...

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