Heathcliff Monster or Victim

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Is Heathcliff a monster, or just misunderstood?

Heathcliff. He is character that perplexes many with his enigmatic ways. With many film adaptations he is played in near enough the same as how he is in Bronte’s book – as a monster. But what is a monster? Is it that he is a vicious murderer? Is it someone with no sympathy for others? Or is it someone without a care in the world? Arguably Heathcliff is all of these and more.. Throughout Wuthering Heights, it can be seen that Heathcliff is a social outcast, not fitting in with anything the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights do. Any reader of the book produces a completely different view of Heathcliff showing even more so that he is misunderstood by many people. There are different characteristics that critics have used to labelled Heathcliff; some include a social misfit, a devil from hell, or something completely different by labelling him a romantic or gothic hero. The different characteristics indicate that there will never be one ‘label’ for Heathcliff. As the main character of Emily Bronte’s novel, there are some interesting things that revolve around Heathcliff from the time that he arrives at Wuthering Heights as a complete outsider until he dies as a powerful landlord of both Wuthering Heights and Thurshcross Grange. Heathcliff encounters many events that affect him as a person and transforms his rage deeper into his soul, from which he is unable to escape. But does this mean he is a victim or monster?

Following the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff suffers cruel mistreatment at the hands of Hindley. In these tender years, he is deprived of love, friendship, and education, while the treatment from jealous Hindley is crude and disrupts his mental balance. ‘He drove him from their company to the servants, deprived him of the instructions of the curate, and insisted that he should labour out of doors instead; compelling him to do so as hard as any other lad on the farm.’ He is separated from the family, reduced to the status of a servant, undergoes regular beatings and forcibly separated from his soul mate, Catherine. The personality that Heathcliff develops in his adulthood has been formed in response to these hardships of his childhood.

The final sense of alienation and the biggest effect occurs with Catherine's marriage to Edgar, Heathcliff considers this a betrayal of his love for her, although she just wants the social status and existence at the Grange. Heathcliff is however proud and determined and does not cower when opposed by those who consider themselves to be more superior than himself. Finally, when he realizes that Catherine has chosen status, wealth and position over him, he disappears for three years and returns in the manner of a gentleman. ‘So much had the circumstances altered their positions; that he would certainly struck stranger as a born and bred gentleman.’ This clearly wasn’t the case though, at this point in the book the reader knows him well enough to see this is just a ploy. As he returns to Wuthering Heights, he is engulfed with a passion to revenge himself on all those who have abused him as a child. He ruins Hindley by encouraging his excessive drinking and gambling. His revenge is also directed towards Edgar Linton, who he sees as having stolen Catherine from him. His sullen, vengeful, cruel and impatient characteristics still exist, which have been present since childhood, but they have grown deeper. He is, in reality, a man torn between love and hate. With his depth of passion, he hates as deeply as he loves. As Heathcliff approaches death and a reunion of Catherine, he no longer has an interest for revenge. He falls deeply into a spiritual torment.

Heathcliff is a many faceted character. In his early years he is characterized by his hot temper, his irritability, his fierce attachment to Catherine, his limit for hatred; however he has a way to make people to sympathise with him. The adult Heathcliff, who returns to...
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