The complex and furious creation of Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights is a powerful novel that fiercely combines many of the greatest themes in literature, such as love and its intricacies, revenge and the its terrible effects, and the contrasts between nature and society. One of the most prevalent themes in this celebrated work is that of crime and punishment, or sin and retribution. One character in particular, Heathcliff, stands apart as a conduit for both of these, es-pecially his sins. His past crimes, both worldly and metaphysical, coincide with his punishments.
Heathcliff, to some, began life as a crime. His foster brother Hindley shunned him as a reject from society while viewing Heathcliff’s very existence a grievous crime, particularly because Mr. Earnshaw’s love and affection were displaced towards Heathcliff instead of himself. Far later in the novel, this terrible attitude backfires upon Hindley, who is misused and cheated out of ownership of Wuthering Heights by Heathcliff. This crime parallels another: Heathcliff’s abhorrent abuse of both Hindley in his weakened state and Hindley’s son Hareton, who is made the stablehand instead of the rightful owner of the Heights. Heathcliff also trespassed when he imprisoned Catherine upon her visits to his son Linton. He coerced her into marrying Linton while her own father was dying, and so gained ownership of Thrushcross Grange as well as the Heights.
These corporeal sins are not without their spiritual counterparts. One of the most prevalent crimes committed in the novel is not by Heathcliff, but against him. Partly influenced by her stay at the Linton’s, Cathy (Earnshaw) sees Heathcliff as lower than herself, and that “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him.” This harsh rebuke according to social structure distorts Heathcliff’s very temperament into a nature even more twisted than it previously had been, and upon...
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