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How the Character of Heathcliff Is Presented in Wuthering Heights

Autor:   •  March 15, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,820 Words (8 Pages)  •  1,959 Views

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Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Bronte and published in 1847 under the pseudonym of Ellis Bell is often considered one of the most powerful first novels written. The book gains its title from the family home of the Earnshaws, Wuthering Heights – a mansion on the Yorkshire Moors ‘'exposed in stormy weather''. When Emily died, her sister Charlotte edited the novel commenting on its central character Heathcliff as ‘'never once swerving in his arrow-straight course to perdition''. It is the enigmatic character of Heathcliff, the archetypal ‘Byronic hero', that many critics believe led to its long-lasting popularity. Wuthering Heights is the tragic love story of Heathcliff, the gypsy child and young, spoilt Catherine Earnshaw.

At the time the novel was written, men were far more dominant in society than women, who were expected to be subservient rather like Isabella Linton and were certainly not expected to write about such passionate relationships and violence which is why Bronte used the masculine pen name. A woman's role in Victorian society was to have children and tend to the house, whereas a man's was to write, and work. The character Catherine Earnshaw is similar to Emily Bronte as they both rebel to what is expected of them. Bronte's own life was somewhat sheltered and isolated from society just like Catherine, but she is heavily influenced by the literature she read which we can see when we compare Byron's poem Lara ‘'he stood a stranger in this breathing world/ an erring spirit from another hurled'' which could of been describing Heathcliff himself.

From the first moment we meet the character of Heathcliff, Bronte forces us to have an opinion about him, she tells us how Lockwood ‘'beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows'' and how he is unwelcoming uttering some of his first words through ‘'closed teeth'' which ‘'expressed the sentiment ‘go to the Deuce'''. He immediately appears evil and dark and yet we are curious as to how he came to be this way. When Nelly Dean starts to tell the story of Heathcliff's childhood we are just as interested as Lockwood.

Heathcliff was adopted into the Earnshaw family when Cathy's father brought him home from a trip to Liverpool, ‘' a little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway'' so immediately he is identified as different: an outsider. He had been abandoned and living on the streets and no name, and the Earnshaw family later named him Heathcliff. He was described as ‘a gift of God; though it's dark almost as if it came from the devil.' Bronte creates a negative impression of him with constant references to how ‘'dark'' or ‘'black'' he is and the words carry with them negative connotations of evil. The use of alliteration


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