Wuthering Heights: Sympathy with the Villain

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Heathcliff, the main character in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, has no heart. He is evil to the core - so savage that his lone purpose is to ruin others. Yet at the very moment at which the reader would be expected to feel the most antipathy towards the brute -after he has destroyed his wife, after he has degraded the life of a potentially great man, and after he has watched the death of his son occur with no care nor concern, the reader finds himself feeling strangely sympathetic towards this character. The answer to this oddity lies in the presentation of the character himself, which causes us to be more pitying of him than we otherwise might.

Bronte's describes the young boy, Heathcliff, as"dark, almost as if he came from the devil," immediately spurring the reader to view the character as evil and immoral. His actions from thence forward largely tend to enhance this notion. From the very get go he hates Hindley, and although the feeling is mutual, Heathcliff certainly does his just portion of cruel deeds. In one incident Mr Earnshaw has given both Hindley and Heathcliff a colt. When Heathcliff's colt goes lame, he threatens to blackmail Hindley if he does not trade with him. At a young age, he begins to plot revenge against Hindley. "I'm trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back," he says, "I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last. I hope he will not die before I do!" And in his adult years, we find him teaching Hindley's son Hareton to swear desiring that the boy become just as foul as he. As the novel continues, Heathcliff develops another aversion. This time, to the man that married his lover, Edgar Linton. In one particular scene Edgar, Catherine, and Heathcliff are all involved in a passionate dispute. "I wish you the joy of a milk-blooded coward," he says, "....I compliment you on your taste. And that is the slavering, shivering thing you preferred me too. I would not strike him with my fist, but I'd kick him with my...
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