In the early lives of Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw, their father 's overzealous love for Heathcliff causes a jealous rage in Hindley that starts the chain of disastrous events to come in the future. Mr. Earnshaw fails to remedy the situation, and Hindley, "learnt to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend … and he grew bitter with brooding over these injuries." The envious feelings that Hindley harbors for Heathcliff leads him to treat the orphan with contempt and cruelty. This in turn generates an intense hatred in Heathcliff for Hindley that fuels a craving for revenge that lasts for nearly all of his life.
In addition to Hindley, his sister Catherine also suffers from an inattentive father. Mr. Earnshaw does not understand or appreciate his daughter 's playful behavior; when she attempts to gain her father 's affection, he repulses her by saying, "I cannot love thee; … I doubt thy mother and I must rue that we ever reared thee!" Perhaps her love for Heathcliff is so necessary to her being because of the lack of affection she receives from her father. The other parental figure in her life, Nelly, is equally poor at nurturing. As John Mathison explains in, "Nelly Dean and the Power of Wuthering Heights," Nelly is i...
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...s. Hindley, his biological father, flips between passionate love and utter hatred for his son. Heathcliff delights in the degradation and ignorance of Hareton for the purpose of revenge towards Hindley. “Joseph contributed much to his deterioration, by a narrow-minded partiality which prompted him to flatter and pet him, as a boy, because he was head of the family.” The only reason Hareton receives his happy ending is his redemption by the almost maternal love of Cathy.
The critical theme of paternal figures in Wuthering Heights is shown throughout the novel in all the character’s trials and tribulations. Whether physically detrimental, like Hareton’s near death experience from his father, or emotionally damaging, like Nelly’s dismissal and incomprehensibility of Catherine’s passions, these parental figures in their lives shape their future, for the better or worse.
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