Heathcliff - Hero or Villain

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Emily Bronte also convey’s aspects of the class system within Victorian society through the use of imagery. Bronte depicts two English households which both resemble slightly different classes but for which could not be further apart. The heights is described as “narrow windows being deeply set in the wall” and then Thrushcross Grange as “the large, half curtain windows allowing the sun to come in from the outside” - these two pictures painted by Bronte show the contrast between the two households. Thrushcross Grange is a place of pure sophistication, calmness and complete comfort and relaxation and the Heights is seen as a place of violence, despair and complete and utter chaos. Because the Grange’s occupants are of a higher class then of that of the Heights, Bronte suggests that higher classes lived in far more comfort and peace then the lower classes; this further suggesting that the idea of equal opportunities (especially that related to education) was complete rubbish and a false portrayal of what Victorian society actually was. The fact that the occupants of the Height’s are of a lower social standing and the connotations related to them are of that of dirt, hard work and chaos suggests that the Lower classes compared to the higher classes were less comfortable and found it much harder to succeed within a completely class ridden society. The fact that the two households are virtually parallel to each other further suggests that poverty and wealth lived so close beside one another, but the wealthy were reluctant (either out of ignorance or pure selfishness) to act and demand change, because it would have not been beneficial to them. This further suggests that the wealthy victorians who saw themselves as being religious, good human beings were actually people who lived off the fear and vulnerability of the poor and therefore were everything they so claimed to despise.

When Catherine returns from the Grange she has this sense or aurora of sophistication and therefore to impress his love, Heathcliff smarten’s up and tidy’s up his appearance in order to try to please Catherine. The fact that Heathcliff attempted this change suggests that the upper classes were barricaded by a wall which strongly objected change and therefore it was up to the rest to try and fit within the social “norm” - this action by Heathcliff suggests that the working classes viewed the upper classes as having that power/influence which an ordinary person would need to gain access to the education,health service, politics and even just to have fun in the average world. But in striving to achieve this they knew that they had to be willing to change, because there was no prospect of the upper classes changing due to them being very conservative and maintaining their traditional views regarding how society should be run.

We also see evidence of class as the central theme or focus in relation to the idea of marriage between Heathcliff and Catherine. Throughout the novel there is no doubt that Catherine and Heathcliff are unconditionally in love for one another and therefore are each other’s soul mates; but when the topic of marriage or even the slightest sense of an official relationship pops up Catherine’s response is one of which is blurred by false assumptions; which have been stated there by the class of which she was living in.

“Would degrade me to marry it”

This quote basically sums up the snobbery which surrounded the upper classes during the Victorian era. By using the word “degrade”, Catherine suggests that just because of Heathcliff’s status or role in society he is not fit to marry a person who emulates beauty, elegance, wisdom, stardom and of whom is “superior” just because she is of a higher class. By marrying him it would lower her influence/status in society. This quote also suggests that the upper classes usually married with fellow upper classes to increase their influence in Victorian society and to...
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