Heathcliff and Kurtz /Obsession

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Don Buckley
English 161
Professor Jolicoeur
23 November 2010

Heathcliff and Kurtz/ Obsession

The Characters, Heathcliff in Brontes’ novel Wuthering Heights and Kurtz, in Conrads’ novel Heart of Darkness share interesting qualities. Both characters are prideful, passionate, menacing and brooding. Each has been referred to as an “evil genius” at times. Both display qualities of greed and a desire for power and control. These men throughout their individual stories are engulfed in a world of their own. Heathcliff because of his strong desire and twisted love for Catherine succumbs to the evil attempt at destroying the lives of her family members as well as his own. Kurtz on the other hand, is so focused and driven to collect ivory he will compromise his morals and integrity in order to achieve wealth and success at any cost. Through individual analysis of these two men it is clearly seen that they not only resemble each other in personality, but also in character. The main flaw that each one inherits and displays throughout the storyline is one of obsession. Love preoccupies almost all of the characters in Wuthering Heights. The quest for it motivates the actions of Heathcliff and Catherine In particular. Heathcliff, who is at the heart of the novel, is a very romantic and passionate suitor for Catherine. At the beginning of their friendship it appears that he is driven purely by love, but as time passes it is quickly recognized that it is his obsessive behavior that is truly his driving force. Almost from the start, outrage at his mistreatment at Catherine’s hands inflames him. Heathcliff is a prideful man. The turning point of the plot occurs when Heathcliff overhears Catherine speaking to Nelly. “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliffe now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am” (Bronte 75). Shortly thereafter Heathcliff leaves and does not return to Wuthering Heights until approximately three years later. He returns a different man, having come into a vast and mysterious wealth. After Catherine’s marriage to Edgar and her eventual death, fury at being denied the chance to marry her causes him to take drastic measures. In fact his actions can be construed as monstrous. While Heathcliff is best known for his love for Catherine, it is his vengefulness that truly makes him memorable. Paradoxically, Heathcliffe’s thirst for revenge makes him loathed and admired all at the same time. During his return home, Heathcliff is determined to seek revenge for Catherine’s betrayal. His behavior can be at best described as childish and at worst excessively cruel. It is his obsession for Catherine however, that causes him to lose control. Hindley may be half the man Heathcliff is, but nevertheless, the two were raised as brothers. Moreover, whatever Hindley’s childhood sins may be, he is now a broken man, a drunk and a gambler. In light of these facts, Heathcliff still insists on coldly and methodically finding a way in taking Wuthering Heights from him. Heathcliff is also bent on turning Hareton against his own father. Heathcliff treats his wife Isabella equally unmercifully. She is a silly woman by all means, but a very innocent one at that. Heathcliff who thinks of her as nothing more than a pawn in his game of revenge, treats her very unfairly. His professed willingness to punish her for her brother’s crime makes him out to be a maniac. Heathcliff’s quest for revenge is never seemly, but it becomes downright grotesque as the years pass. After Catherine’s death, Heathcliff’s vengefulness is less easier to understand. After all, the woman he loves, the woman he wants to impress and punish is no longer alive. As Heathcliff’s motivation turns sour and confusing, his actions spiral downward also. In an attempt to get Edgar’s estate, Heathcliff manipulates young Catherine and his own son, Linton, into an ill-advised romance and then forces...
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