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The Dual Character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights


外国语学院 2009-2 班 钱洪敏 学号:2009304752

The Dual Character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights Wuthering Heights is the masterpiece of Emily Bronte, the gifted English writer of the 19th c

entury. In the novel, Emily shows her ideals of getting rid of the conventional restricts and longing for mental freedom through the love of the hero and heroine as well as the revenge of the hero. According to the novel, “Wuthering Heights” is a place located in a mountainous area ravaged by fierce winds and stormy weather. The description of the setting sets the basic tone of the story: rough, mysterious, and tragic. Indeed, the mysteries of the land cannot be separated from the mysteries of the characters, and the physical landscape of the novel is often used to reflect the mental and emotional landscape of those who live there. The protagonist’s name “Heathcliff” carries a similar meaning. It is a compound of “Heath” and “cliff”. “Heath” means a moor, an extensive tract of uncultivated land; “cliff” refers to a high, steep, or overhanging face of rock. The name suggests wilderness, roughness, and ungoverned passion, which

are exactly the personalities of the main character –Heathcliff. We can easily come the conclusion that Heathcliff has a dual character which can be divided in terms of his attitudes towards Catherine and other people. To Catherine, his true lover, he is just an ordinary man who wants to possess her. However, to

others, he is a devil, a destroyer of peace, just like the strong wind in Wuthering Heights. I .An ordinary man Heathcliff is a child adopted by Mr. Earnshaw who treats him as his own son. But to Hindley, he is an intruder, so from the very beginning, he hates Heathcliff very much. So after the death of Mr.Earnshaw, he degrades him to a servant. But Heathcliff”s peculiar experience makes him different from other servants. He is loved by Catherine. As long as he is together with Catherine, he can bear any humiliation and they form a union to support each other and to fight against Hindley, which can be embodied as follows: the little souls were comforting each other with better thoughts than I could have hit on, no parson in the world ever pictured heaven so beautifully as they did, in their innocent talk, and while I sobbed and listened, I could not help wishing they were all there safe together.” For Heathcliff, the days with Catherine are the happiest times in his

life. However, when Catherine is attracted by Edgar, a handsome, civilized, and wealthy gentleman, Heathcliff can clearly feel the distance between he and Catherine. He becomes jealous and finally cannot accept Catherine’s betrayal so that he leaves Wuthering Heights out of anger. As an ordinary man, he may have no courage to face the fact that Catherine will be the wife of Edgar for he has no ability to give Catherine the genteel life she longs for, just as she has said, “it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now,” and “become the greatest women of the neighborhood.” Catherine may not think of the results of her marriage and she does not realize what she has meant to Heathcliff. She is the only hope, the whole world of Heathcliff, thus, when this only love disappears, there will be nothing left in Heathcliff”s mind but hatred and revenge. Even so, he still cannot suppress his deep and passionate love for Catherine. Three years later, he returns and decides to take revenge on everyone except Catherine. When Catherine falls ill, he tries every means to visit her and he is driven crazy and then to death by the idea of old Catherine’s haunting ghost. From the foregoing, we may know that Heathcliff has a great power for love. And we readers will not be surprised at his enormous changes of Heathcliff and

gradually our hearts go to him for he cannot do but take revenge on his so called enemies to ask for a balance in his inner world after he loses the ability to love. When Catherine dies, he curses that Catherine’s soul should never be in heaven and should never rest till he dies. As an ordinary man, it not only shows his overwhelming sorrow, but also indicates that his future without Catherine: wandering on the moors and searching Catherine’s ghost. He is a true man teeming with love and strong emotions. Just imagine what we would do if we were Heathcliff? II. The devil in the mundane world Heathcliff is always tortured by his ardent love for Catherine, by the feelings evoked from Catherine’s heartless betrayal, and especially by his hatred of Hindley and the Linton family for making him inferior. These torturous thoughts contort his mind and compel him to carry out his plan of revenge mercilessly. And he seems so powerful, villainous, and cruel in the execution his plan. He makes Hareton hate his father Hindley and drives away the curate who teaches Hareton; he pretends to accept Isabella’s affection although he doesn’t love her; he disturbs the peaceful life of Catherine and Edgar. Furthermore, he cheats Isabella into eloping with him. But after marriage, he tortures her, abuses her and calls her a “genuine idiocy”, a “pitiful,

slavish, mean-minded Brach”. He lends money to Hindley to indulge him gambling. Till at last, he obtains the whole Wuthering Heights from Hindley. He ill-treats and degrades Hareton in the same manner Hindley does to him in old times. And he maliciously tortures Hareton by having young Catherine sneer at him. What’s more, he takes his son, young Linton, as his own property, as a tool of revenge for he intends to make his son the master of Thrushcross Grange through the marriage of young Linton and young Catherine. After that, he kidnaps Nelly and young Catherine and cunningly escapes being accused of kidnapped by spreading a rumor among the villagers that Nelly and young Catherine are sunk in Blackhorse Marsh. He even forces young Catherine to earn her bread by labor. All of these mentioned-above tell us that the savage desperate Heathcliff has become a villain full of wicked and merciless plan to deprive everything of his enemy his own. At this time, his nature has been completely twisted and corrupted by his hatred. We can say that it is Catherine who turns Heathcliff into such a devil. As human beings, we all have the right to pursue what we want but society, to a large degree, press people to repress their desires. As a result, the positive and bright side of human nature has translated into the negative dark side, which will inevitably

bring damage to society. Heathcliff is just the typical example of the social fact. After undergoing the cruelty and ruthless of society, Heathcliff can hardly maintain a reasonable way of thinking. Consequently, he destroys everything around

Catherine morbidly. III. The revival of human nature The deeper Heathcliff loves Catherine, the fiercer he takes revenge on his enemies. But his revenge is so violent that he not only brings sufferings to others but also burns himself. Nevertheless, despite his brutality, there is also something kind left in his heart. When he sees young Catherine and Hareton sitting together, he confesses to Nelly that he exerts himself to seek revenge on the two families and now he has the power to do so, but he has no will to destroy anyone. In his own words, “My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it, and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don’t care for striking: I cannot take the trouble to raise my hand! That sounds as if I had been laboring the whole time only to exhibit a fine trait of magnanimity. It is far being the case: I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing. ” Time has extinguished Heathcliff’s fire of revenge

and he has lost interest in taking revenge. Day and night he is haunted by Catherine’s vision; he sees her in every object around him, especially in young Catherine and Hareton. The boy is to him a reminder of his own lost youth—his immortal love, his wild endeavor to win Catherine for himself, his degradation, his pride, and his anguish. Hareton’s love for young Catherine reflects Heathcliff’s immortal love for the old Catherine. Tired of his own anger and sense of vengeance, Heathcliff now longs for death so he can be united with the woman he has always loved. All of these suggest that Heathcliff finally decides to be an ordinary man who has no way to forget his soul mate, who cannot stop miss his woman, who cannot enjoy his life even though he has both the social status and fortune to turn a new a new leaf in his life. He just cannot do that! He cannot be really happy without Catherine. He just cannot be himself after losing his soul. Therefore, he let everything go and be together with his beloved partner and be an ordinary man again. So it is still Catherine who takes that ordinary Heathcliff again. Love is so powerful a force that it can destroy a man and at the same time turns a man to be himself for a second time. Naturally, the novel Wuthering Heights has a rather happy ending. Young Catherine and Hareton will be married on New

Year’s Day. Heathcliff is now united with Catherine eternally in death. From the story of Heathcliff, we begin to realize that love is really a happy but destructive word. We cannot forget the pain of love, not to mention the joy of love. It is really a sorrowful experience when the two lovers have to part each other because of many complicated social and history reasons. But I certainly believe that the passage of time will cure that pain as long as we are willing to let that pain go and be brave enough to accept our new life. So long as we know that our lover is happy in his or her new life, we will just stay away from his or her lives, just bless his or her happiness, and move on in our life. For one thing, we should never destroy the peaceful lives of our lover, since it may bring misfortune to his or her life; for another thing, revenge is the last thing we should to our enemies, because it will not only do damage to our love but also to ourselves. Love is a pure thing so if we mingle it with hatred and revenge, we must feel regretted for what we have done some time in the future. In today’s world, everyone must act within the limits of law for it is a society governed by law and persons who violate the law cannot escape being punished. So to love what we love and to help those in need is something we can do in our life. These are the revelation taught by Heathcliff in Wuthering

Heights. People should be kind all of his life and never be translated into a devil or a villain since it really does not deserve to do so. In a word, let Heathcliff be a warning in our life and spur us to be sensible, reasonable, generous, and tolerant and especially be kind-hearted. All in all, it is Heathcliff that constitutes the whole story and through his actions we readers can appreciate the indestructible love between him and Catherine. And Wuthering Heights is really a marvelous novel that affirms love’s glory, both in life and in death. We can not value it too much and it is worth reading as well as studying from every perspective.


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