Feelings Surrounding the Need for Forgiveness in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights

Feelings Surrounding the Need for Forgiveness in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights

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In order to truly forgive it could be said that an understanding much first be reached. An understanding of the feelings surrounding the need for forgiveness; the hurt, the heartache, the confusion, the feeling of being wronged or cheated out of something or in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, someone in life. For the Wuthering Heights character Heathcliff, reaching such an understanding takes a lifetime to achieve and not until that understanding is reached, can forgiveness and therefore peace be found. Heathcliff reaches this understanding of forgiveness and experiences a change both of character and of heart at the end of this novel which allows the mood of the entire story to shift to a much happier ending.
For each of the different characters in the Heights forgiveness comes at different times and at different levels of ease and difficulty throughout their lives but each time it comes when they have learned to understand its importance. From the time Heathcliff enters the story he is immediately resented and by Hindley never forgiven for his existence. Hindley hated Heathcliff from the beginning as Nelly tell us in her narrative to Mr. Lockwood and rightly so since it is because of Heathcliff that Hindley is sent away and is away when his father dies. Being absent for his father's last moments and his death would have been reason enough to cause more resentment towards Heathcliff but his father's death also enabled Heathcliff to push Hindley further out of the picture as it is Heathcliff who is there to comfort Catherine and so their bond grows even stronger. As Nelly tells us "The little souls were comforting each other with better thoughts than I could have hit on".1 When Hindley returns home it is clear he has not forgo...


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... and resentment has not brought Catherine back to him. He tells Nelly, Catherine "did exist, and that I have lost her!"9 and his "single wish" that she may return "has devoured my existence."10 Heathcliff's approaching change is understanding the importance of forgiveness and being at peace instead of constant battles to defeat his enemies. Once Heathcliff reaches this understanding he seems happy and dies peacefully. When Nelly finds him dead she remarks his face held a "life-like gaze of exultation"11 which was frightening and foreign on his face.
While one would assume that Heathcliff would be the one to die in utmost anguish and as far from peace in death as he was in life, it is Hindley who dies as miserable as he chooses to live the last of his life, "drinking himself to death deliberately"12 as Heathcliff says never reaching any understanding of forgiveness.

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