In true Gothic fashion, boundaries are trespassed, specifically love crossing the boundary between life and death and Heathcliff's transgressing social class and family ties. Brontë follows Walpole and Radcliffe in portraying the tyrannies of the father and the cruelties of the patriarchal family and in reconstituting the family on non-patriarchal lines, even though no counterbalancing matriarch or matriarchal family is presented. Brontë has incorporated the Gothic trappings of imprisonment and escape, flight, the persecuted heroine, the heroine wooed by a dangerous and a good suitor, ghosts, necrophilia, a mysterious foundling, and revenge. The weather-buffeted Wuthering Heights is the traditional castle, and Catherine resembles Ann Radcliffe's heroines in her appreciation of nature. Like the conventional Gothic hero-villain, Heathcliff is a mysterious figure who destroys the beautiful woman he pursues and who usurps inheritances, and with typical Gothic excess he batters his head against a tree. There is the hint of necrophilia in Heathcliff's viewings of Catherine's corpse and his plans to be buried next to her and a hint of incest in their being raised as brother and sister or, as a few critics have suggested, in Heathcliff's being Catherine's illegitimate half-brother.
Heathcliff as a Monster/Villain
In order to take his revenge, Heathcliff’s first victims are Hindley Earnshaw and Hareton Earnshaw – Hindley’s son. Heathcliff hits Hindley Earnshaw and brutalizes Hareton Earnshaw (Wiesenfarth 65). Indeed, Isabella’s letter – the letter of Heathcliff’s wife – to Nelly Dean exhibits clearly what happened to Hindley. In this letter, Isabella tells her first day at Wuthering Heights and she depicts Hindley: “… After a short suspense, it [the door] was opened by a tall, gaunt man, without neckerchief, and otherwise extremely slovenly; his features were lost in masses of shaggy hair that hung on his shoulders and his eyes, too, were like a ghostly Catherine’s, with all their beauty annihilated” (100). However, one fact should be borne in mind: before causing this unfortunate end for Hindley, Heathcliff has taken the control of Wuthering Heights by making use of Hindley’s habit of gambling (71). Without a doubt, having taken the control, Heathcliff is the boss and Heathcliff is poor and a big nothing, which is the first of Heathcliff’s revenge. To illustrate, while telling the night when she went to Wuthering Heights to take Hareton, about the situation of Heathcliff, Nelly Dean reports Mr Lockwood
“The guest was now the master o Wuthering Heights: he held firm possession, and proved to the attorney – who, in his turn, proved it to Mr Linton – that Earnshaw had mortgaged every yard of land owned, for cash to supply his mania for gaming; and he, Heathcliff, was the mortgagee” (137)
However, Heathcliff hates so much that he does Hareton – Hindley’s son – what Hindley did him in his childhood. As an illustration, when Mr Lockwood first gets to know Hindley, he portrays him like that “I began to doubt whether he [Hareton] were a servant or not; his dress and speech were both rude; entirely devoid of the superiority observable in Mr and Mrs Heathcliff; his thick brown curls were rough and uncultivated, his whiskers encroached bearishly over his cheek, and his hands were embrowned like those of common labourer…” (7) Moreover, about Hareton’s state after the death of his father Hindley, Nelly Dean informs “… Hareton, who should now be the first gentleman in the neighbourhood, was reduced to a state of complete dependence on his father’s inveterate enemy; and lives in his own house as a servant, deprived of the advantage of wages, and quite unable to right himself…” (137) Furthermore, Heathcliff himself acquaints Nelly with Hareton’s position in a very proud way. “I’ve a pleasure in him. He has satisfied my expectations. If he were a born fool I should not enjoy it half so much. But he’s no fool; and I can sympathise with all his feelings, having felt them myself. I know he suffers now, for instance, exactly: it is merely a beginning of what he shall suffer, though. And he’ll never be able to emerge from his bathos of coarseness and ignorance… I’ve taught him to scorn everything extra-animal as silly and weak” (159) Essentially, Linton confirms the words of his father Heathcliff. He says to Cathy, the daughter of Catherine and Edgar Linton “He does not know his letters. Could you believe in the existence of such a colossal dunce?” (160). In actual fact, Heathcliff’s revenge does not finish with what he has done to Hindley and Hareton. He continues to commit his violence so as o take his revenge on Lintons – his wife Isabella, his son Linton, and the daughter of Edgar Linton – Young Cathy. Wiesenfarth alleges “He [Heathcliff] thinks nothing of beating Catherine Linton, throwing knife at his wife Isabelle, terrorizing his son Linton” to demonstrate Heathcliff’s violence and desire to take revenge (65). He treats his wife so brutally that she eventually escapes Wuthering Heights. She comes to Thrushcross Grange and tells Nelly Heeathcliff’s treatment … After he hit Hindley and thought that he is dead, and due to his belief in my help Hindley, he shook me till my teeth rattle and pitched me beside Joseph… (130) … After he went to the grave of Catherine and came home, we quarrelled… He snatched a dinner knife from the table and flung it at my head. It struck beneath my ear… (132) In addition to his wife, Heathcliff acts towards his son Linton and Young Cathy in a cruel way due to his yearning for revenge. In reality, he wants them to marry because in this way he will also be able to take control of Thrushcross Grange. The most remarkable case of this fact is examined when Heathcliff tries to lock up Young Cathy to force her marry Linton though Nelly has said that Edgar Linton is about to die beforehand. In order to let Mr Lockwood know something about Linton’s psychology she utters what Linton has said
“… I am a worthless, cowardly wretch: I can’t be scorned enough! But I am too mean for your anger – hate my father, spare me for contempt” (193) “Oh! I can’t bear it! Catherine, Catherine, I’m a traitor too, and I dare not tell you! But leave me and I shall be killed! Dear Catherine, my life is in your hands: and you have said you loved me – and if you did, it wouldn’t harm you. You’ll not go, then? Kind, sweet, good Catherine! And perhaps you will consent – and he’ll let me die with you!”(193) Then, she continues to articulate how Heathcliff behaves towards his son. She avows “Linton appeared as if he could not venture to stir, or raise his head…” (194). She keeps on talking “‘But first – get up, Linton! Get up!’ he [Heathcliff] shouted ‘Don’t grovel on the ground, there – up this moment!’” (195). Interestingly, he knows how ailing and frail his son is. When it comes to Young Cathy, it is noticed that Heathcliff does not act towards her as ruthlessly as he behaves towards his son. The most incredible demonstration of his violence is on the day when he tries to lock Cathy in a room in Wuthering Heights to force her to marry Linton immediately because of Linton’s incurable illness. Nelly Dean recounts the struggle between Heathcliff and Young Cathy and what Heathcliff does to prevent her from leaving Wuthering Heights. He [Heathcliff] drew in his breath, struck the table, and swore to himself, “By hell! I hate them.”