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Wuthering Heights (Heathcliff Symbolism)

By marleesells May 08, 2012 806 Words
April 25th, 2012
Word Count: 818

The gothic novel, Wuthering Heights, is designed to both horrify and entertain readers with scenes of passion and cruelty. The novel is set around the time period of the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, with most of it taking place on the two neighboring houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The lead character, Heathcliff, is a huge part in making the novel seem cruel. Heathcliff symbolizes evil while Emily Bronte portrays him as a jealous, controlling, and revengeful man, who through his actions ruins the lives of numerous characters. One may believe that Heathcliff is very jealous of Catherine and Edgar’s marriage. An example to support this is when Heathcliff hears Catherine agree to marry Edgar Linton “it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now” (Bronte 114) he leaves Wuthering Heights. The degrading of Heathcliff by Hindley, of forcing him into a lower social status results in Heathcliff’s unworthiness in Catherine’s eyes. This leads him into a jealous lifestyle that causes him to carry out his evil actions. Returning years later, Heathcliff still very jealous of Catherine and Edgar’s relationship, marries Isabella Linton. However, Heathcliff is not only jealous of Catherine and Edgar’s relationship but also of Cathy and Hareton’s. Cathy and Hareton’s love matures and grows stronger as they become older. This is much the type of love and relationship that Heathcliff desired to have with Catherine years ago. Heathcliff did not get to experience this feeling of love so his jealousy would not allow Cathy and Hareton to have that kind of bond. However, not only is he jealous of Cathy’s relationship but also holds a grudge against her which is another example of his evil doings.

Holding grudges is a distinct characteristic that symbolizes the evil Heathcliff exhibits toward several of the characters in the novel. Heathcliff never forgives others for their past actions therefore he is good at holding grudges and making revenge stretch out over long periods of time. Heathcliff puts Cathy through so much because of her parents’ choices. She is forced to marry and care for her first cousin, she is tormented and trapped by Heathcliff, and only lives a happy, joyful life when the cruel man finally dies. Thus, Heathcliff symbolizes evil because he never forgives people as time progresses even if they have no control in the actions taken by others. Because of Heathcliff’s characteristic of holding grudges this leads him to live a revengeful lifestyle.

This revengeful lifestyle is shown as Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton as a way to get back at Edgar and Catherine. Heathcliff marries Isabella only to make her brother turn against her and to get the revenge he believes they all deserve. One may think Heathcliff is never taught that sometimes life just is not fair. Heathcliff is willing to do anything within his power, as long as he hurts Catherine and Edgar as they once hurt him. Yet another example of Heathcliff’s revengeful nature is how he raises Hareton after Hindley dies. Heathcliff forces Hareton to be an uneducated field worker just as Hindley had done to him. Heathcliff does not take the high road to be a better person; instead he takes Hareton as an opportunity to further his revenge on the Earnshaw family. Thus, Heathcliff symbolizes evil by not limiting his wicked actions when carrying out his revenge.

A characteristic that plays into Heathcliff’s revengeful plan is his controlling attitude which further proves his evil symbolism. Heathcliff’s wicked plans of threatening to keep Nelly a prisoner unless she allows him to see Catherine is an example of his control. Nelly is scared of what the cruel and controlling man may do therefore she agrees to help him see her up until her death during child labor. Later in the novel, Heathcliff forces Linton and Cathy, who are also first cousins to marry each other. His controlling nature forces the couples’ marriage in order to allow him to own Thrushcross Grange at the time of Linton’s death. His controlling attitude does not cease with Linton’s death. He continues his controlling frenzy on Cathy by trapping her and allowing no outsiders to come in contact with her, fearing they may help her escape his possession. These few examples show the control that Heathcliff possess over everyone at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.

In conclusion, Heathcliff explains to Nelly that he is a changed man and “I [Heathcliff] am within sight of my heaven” (Bronte 472). Nelly replies to Heathcliff, “You are aware…you have lived a selfish and unchristian life...and how unfit you will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place before you die.” (Bronte 479). Nelly who has known Heathcliff his whole life, explains that his lifestyle is a symbol of evil and in no way is worthy of heaven.

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