In Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, revenge is one of the most prominent themes within the novel. This theme plays into a recurring literary theme of the war between passion and responsibility, seen specifically within Brontë’s character Heathcliff. In this case, Heathcliff’s passion is his overwhelming desire for revenge on the Earnshaw and Linton families in order to gain what he believes is rightfully his. With his mind solely focused on seeking vengeance on those who have hurt him, Heathcliff is unable to maintain the responsibilities of an adult, a father, or even a human being. Brontë demonstrates throughout the novel the destructive nature of Heathcliff’s passion for revenge and how this passion conflicts with his humanly innate characteristic of morality.
As a child, Heathcliff was subject to a multitude of negative emotions, resulting in the eventual build-up of intense hate as an adult. This hate served as a driving force behind Heathcliff’s quest for revenge. Because vengeance and abhorrence are the dominating forces within Heathcliff, he becomes narrow-minded and is unable to address or act upon any of the other feelings a normal human being would, such as sympathy, remorse, and kindness. Even the almighty force of love, which arguably was Heathcliff’s prevailing emotion at one time, is concealed by his controlling passion for revenge. This passion makes it impossible for him to act or think outside his realm of hate and unable to discern between right and wrong, preventing him from conducting his responsibilities as a father, a friend, and a human being. Heathcliff refuses to help his dying son, Linton, because he believes his “life is not worth a farthing, and [he] won’t spend a farthing on him,” (223) demonstrating his complete lack of responsibility as a father and lack of compassion as a human being. This cruelty originates from his desire to inherit Thrushcross Grange and ultimately from his craving for revenge. Nelly explains how...
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