Explore How Heathcliff Is Portrayed by Bronte

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Explore how Heathcliff is portrayed by Bronte in Volume 1 of Wuthering Heights

Bronte centres the novel on Heathcliff’s story. One of the first things Lockwood, the narrator, mentions is how he beholds Heathcliff’s “black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows”. Straight away the audience pick up on his mysteriousness as the gothic protagonist. The past is hidden deep inside the darkness of his eyes and is reflected in his physical appearance.

One very confusing aspect of Heathcliff’s character is his social position, is he a gentleman or a gypsy? ‘Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman.’ Here, Lockwood attempts to define him by use a seemingly oxymoronic statement with the two opposing ideas of a “gyspy” and a “gentleman”. Bronte employment of Lockwood as a narrator is successful because it allows the reader a companion when trying to comprehend such a complex novel. It is Lockwood’s, as well as the reader’s, first time of meeting Heathcliff. However, Lockwood’s first interpretation of Heathcliff seems slightly facetious once Heathcliff’s history is revealed, he is far from a “gentleman”, taking delight in vengeance. Lockwood’s label as a “misanthropist” is also wrongly placed. He feels he can understand Heathcliff “by instinct” but this turns out to be largely untrue. If a character in the novel who is directly involved with Heathcliff can be erroneous in his judgement then how is the reader, who is learning about Heathcliff through Lockwood, suppose to be any better? This creates a stronger bond between narrator and reader as both attempt to understand Heathcliff as a person. On the other hand, however, Lockwood’s mistakes are a warning to the reader not to rely on their “instincts” by emphasising how easily Heathcliff’s complex character can be misread. Brontë’s implementation of unreliable narrator could be seen as a way of defending her...
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