Victim vs. Victimizer
Readers often pity literary characters who play the role of a victim. In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Heathcliff: an outsider brought into the wealthy Earnshaw family, Hindley: the eldest Earnshaw child with a strong dislike for Heathcliff, and Hareton: the orphaned child Heathcliff takes in to raise, are victims, yet they evolve to perpetuate the abuse they suffered. Being able to be or become a victim or victimizer show the complexity of these characters. Emily Bronte manipulates readers to pity Heathcliff, Hindley, and Hareton, in spite of the hideous pain they inflict on others. John Hagan states, “Wuthering Heights is such a remarkable work partly because it persuades us to forcibly pity victims and victimizers alike”. Though the reader is aware of the crimes against others at the hand of the abuser, the fact that the perpetrator was once a victim himself bore sympathy.
Jealousy fuels Hindley’s hatred for Heathcliff. Hindley’s father, Mr. Earnshaw favors Heathcliff, an orphan found on the streets of Liverpool, over his son. Hindley’s sets out to make his adoptive brother’s life a nightmare. Heathcliff threatens to tell Mr. Earnshaw about the abuse he has been receiving from Hindley if he does not trade horses with him. Hindley says to Heathcliff, “be damned you beggarly interloper! and wheedle my father out of all he has; only afterwards show him what you are, imp of Satan” (Bronte 32). This shows Hindley’s abusive behavior and unnecessary brutality. However, his victimizing personality is a result of the lack of attention he received from his father. Belittling Heathcliff is a way to cope with the emotional hurt he experienced as a child. Hareton, Hindley’s son, becomes a victim of his father’s violence and addiction to alcohol and gambling, which is a result of his wife’s death, Frances. Abuse of alcohol causes this behavior and Hareton is almost dropped from a stairwell as a result. As Hindley holds his son over the...
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