Examination of Heathcliff's character in the plot of Wuthering Heights

Examination of Heathcliff's character in the plot of Wuthering Heights

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Examination of Heathcliff's character in the plot of Wuthering Heights

WutheringHeights centers around the story of Heathcliff. The first
paragraph of the novel provides a vivid physical picture of him, as
Lockwood describes how his "black eyes" withdraw suspiciously under
his brows at Lockwood's approach. Nelly's story begins with his
introduction into the Earnshaw family, his vengeful machinations drive
the entire plot, and his death ends the book. The desire to understand
him and his motivations keeps us engaged in the novel. His many levels
cause us to delve deeper than expected, and the introspection allows
us to fully explore not only Heathcliff but also the novel itself.

Heathcliff, however, defies being understood, and it is difficult for
us to resist seeing what they want or expect to see in him. The novel
teases with the possibility that Heathcliff is something other than
what he seems; that his cruelty is merely an expression of his
frustrated love for Catherine, or that his sinister behaviors serve to
conceal the heart of a romantic hero. We expect Heathcliff's character
to contain such a hidden virtue because he resembles a hero in a
romance novel. Traditionally, romance novel heroes appear dangerous,
brooding, and cold at first, only later to emerge as fiercely devoted
and loving. However, Heathcliff does not reform, and his malevolence
proves so great and long-lasting that it cannot be adequately
explained even as a desire for revenge against Hindley, Catherine,
Edgar, etc. As he himself points out, his abuse of Isabella is purely
sadistic, as he amuses himself by seeing how much abuse she can take
and still come cringing back for more. The author does the same thing
to the readers to us that Heathcliff does to Isabella, testing to see
how many times the reader can be shocked by Heathcliff's gratuitous
violence and still, masochistically, insist on seeing him as a
romantic hero.

Heathcliff drives the plot, as without Heathcliff we would not have
any of the problems needed to be dealt with. Heathcliff is connected
in some way to almost everyone in this novel, and unfortunately in
some way he deals with them negatively. Heathcliff helps to attach all
of these stories together, as he is the reason such misfortune happens
to everyone and thus he sits at the crux of the basic plot. He remains
throughout the novel to be somehow involved in most happenings,
whether it is part of the present day with Mr. Lockwood or when Nelly
recalls of his doings back in the day when Catherine was still
alive.He Considering this historical context, Heathcliff seems to embody
the anxieties that the book's upper- and middle-class audience had

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about the working classes. It is easy to sympathize with him when he
is powerless, as a child tyrannized by Hindley Earnshaw, but he
becomes a villain when he acquires power and returns to Wuthering
Heights with money and the trappings of a gentleman. This corresponds
with the ambivalence the upper classes felt toward the lower
classes-the upper classes had charitable impulses toward lower-class
citizens when they were miserable, but feared the prospect of the
lower classes trying to escape their miserable circumstances by
acquiring political, social, cultural, or economic power.

What lies at the essence of Heathcliff is this question: is he a
product of his circumstances, or is he a product of his conscious
decisions? Can someone really be changed for life by the home that
they grow up in, or do they, at some point in their life, make a
conscious decision to be good or evil? Basically, should we be
somewhat sympathetic to Heathcliff given what he had to deal with in
life, seeing his horrific situation as a young boy? I think not. Yes,
it is quite unfortunate the place from where he has to start from, but
he was given enough of a chance to make up for that and live a
prosperous, healthy life. Instead, it seems he can only find comfort
in revenge for the life he was given, and this revenge knows no
boundaries. The question of whether he is a victim or a villain is
substantial, but in the end it is he and only he who makes his life so
diabolical, and so the only conclusion drawn. Heathcliff is a villain
for choosing to be so vengeful and spiteful, while he is a victim
solely because of what he does to himself by living the way he does.

Heathcliff plays a pivotal role in the novel, and it is his
narcissistic character that allows for this. He feels as if the world
should and does revolve around his life, and his decisions and actions
cement this theory. Only once do we see him act as a loving character,
one who is willing to put someone else before himself. But after he
misconstrues Catherine's conversation with Nelly, he never again shows
that side of him. Heathcliff's narcissism is what drives his life
beyond that point, for he always seems to act solely on his behalf and
thinks only of himself.
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