Cathy and Heathcliff are both curious characters, as is their relationship with each other and the way that Emily Bronti?? portrays them is vital to the plot. Unlike Cathy we know very little at all about Heathcliff’s origins, which is exactly what Emily Bronti?? wanted. On a trip to Liverpool, Cathy’s father Mr Earnshaw finds Heathcliff “starving, houseless and as good as dumb” and as no one on his travels lays claim to its’ ownership he decides, being a benevolent soul, that he must take it home. To realise the significance of this we must take into account the historical context.
At that time Liverpool was the major dock for the whole of the country with goods being imported and exported and ships and people arriving all the time. Any immigrants coming to Britain would arrive here and so there is little doubt that Heathcliff is not of English birth, as Nelly comments that he spoke “some gibberish that nobody could understand”. He may have arrived from Ireland or Scotland as the language spoken there at this time was Gaelic. It has also been muted that he could actually have been black, and arrived from foreign climates, however these are purely assumptions none of which can be proved.
Heathcliff is described by Mr Lockwood on his first visit to the heights as “a dark skinned gypsy in aspect”. This links back to the fact that we have no idea of Heathcliff’s past, so he could well be a gypsy, his origins are unknown which makes him mysterious and somewhat intriguing. Lockwood immediately notices how “his dark eyes withdrew so suspiciously under their brows”, which is extremely significant as the first feature that most people notice about Heathcliff is his eyes.
This is a crucial point to notice because as an old proverb says, “The eyes are the window to the soul” which therefore reflects that Heathcliff has a black or dark soul connoting that it is evil. As well Lockwood notes that “his hands sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution still deeper into his waistcoat. ” This although descriptive of a physical feature, belies an aspect of his personality, in that he is deeply withdrawn and resents any human interaction that he is forced to partake in.
Everything about his mannerism displays a person who is deeply introverted and is quite happy to live in isolation from society, his sentences are extremely short and his tone is brisk and clipped. When he tells Lockwood to “walk in” Lockwood feels that Heathcliff means the exact opposite, as it is expressed in a tone which declares “Go to the Deuce” from which we can infer that he would rather Lockwood went away. While Lockwood first believes Heathcliff to be a “capital fellow” he soon changes his opinion of him after Heathcliff says to his daughter in law “get it ready will you? at which point Lockwood admits the words were “uttered so savagely that I started. ”
And concludes that this turn of disposition “revealed a genuinely bad nature”. This ferocity is enforced when Mr Lockwood wakes Heathcliff up with his screams after his nightmare concerning Catherine Linton. When Lockwood expostulates to Heathcliff about “that minx Catherine Linton or Earnshaw” Heathcliff “Thunders”, “what can you mean by talking in this way to me? ” apparently with a “savage vehemence”.
His outburst is somewhat understandable to the audience reflecting on the book, as we comprehend the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff but as Mr Lockwood knows nothing of the story it is unfair of Heathcliff to treat him to this violent speech. Heathcliff is on several occasions in the book paralleled to the antichrist. Mr Earnshaw on first producing the child says “it’s as dark almost as if it came from the devil”, which may be a forewarning of Heathcliff’s character, as even at this early point in his life he is being assimilated to the devil.
Later he tells Mr Lockwood, “you have sent sleep to the devil for me”, continuing along the same theme. In addition to this Joseph says “her fathers son gallops down t’ broad road, while he flees afore tuh open t’ pikes! “. Which is Joseph’s description of how, due to his drinking, gambling and blasphemy, Hindley runs down the road to hell whilst Heathcliff runs before him and opens the gates, to let him in. In this way Joseph is referring to Heathcliff as the devils servant. Furthermore as children when Heathcliff wants to take Hindley’s colt which his father gave him after his own falls name Hindley describes him as an “imp of Satan”.
Heathcliff is linked strongly to nature and is often described with metaphors of animals. The Lintons describe him as “rude as a savage”. While even Cathy says, “He is a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man. ” Lockwood as well notices “his curls encroached bearishly over his face”. These descriptions link also to Cathy’s speech to Nelly in chapter nine when she describes her love for Edgar and Heathcliff. She says “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the trees, time will change it I’m well aware as the winter changes the trees- my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath. In this way she infers that her love for Heathcliff is solid and time will never change it.
This link to the natural world reinforces the idea that Cathy’ s love for Heathcliff is a natural thing We can gain some insight into the revengeful nature of Heathcliff if we look at one of his conversations with Nelly in chapter six. “not if I might have the privilege of throwing Joseph off the highest gable or painting the housefront with Hindleys blood. ” This is a chilling speech because it is not said in a fit of temper or in heated row, as when a person might say “I’d like to kill you”.
It is far more cold and calculated, which makes it far less forgivable as he is not saying it on impulse but as if he given careful consideration as to how he would kill them. This is reinforced again in chapter seven when he says to Nelly, she is the person that he can confide in, “I’m trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don’t care how long I wait just so long as I can do it at last. ” This is more alarming even than the first speech and shows a truly evil side to Heathcliff’s personality.
Cathy, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Earnshaw who lives at Wuthering Heights does not like Heathcliff on her first impression of him, although she is only six years old she “showed her humour by spitting at the stupid little thing”. This description which comes from Nelly who later becomes the nanny at Wuthering Heights seems rather harsh but as she is only young herself, and as she is friends with Cathy and her brother Hindley she is likely to share their opinion. Cathy is portrayed as a vibrant character very full of life.
Even when her father is very ill “her tongue always going- singing laughing and plaguing anybody who would not do the same”. She is naughty and rebellious because “her spirits were always at the high water mark”, and she is wilful, and not at all quiet. She is cheeky, and often misbehaves, which we can tell by the way Joseph articulates his “peevish reproves”. Nelly who know her well and was affectionate for her even describes her as a “wild wick slip” meaning that she was a wicked child. However she softens this image by saying, “I believe she meant no harm”.
She is disobedient and noisy “we had not a minutes security that she would not be in mischief”. Her devious behaviour is captured perfectly by Nelly’s phrase “she was never so happy as when we were all scolding her at once”. Her wayward manner and her impudent attitude, “her bold saucy looks and her ready words” are peculiar, given the context of the story. As girls were expected to be meek, mild mannered and obeying, so we can therefore infer that Emily Bronte is trying to create a character who is a contrast to peoples expectation.
She is terribly impulsive, and on the nigh her father dies, despite the fact that Joseph bids the children “frame to bed” she rushes over to kiss her father goodnight and immediately discovers that he is dead. This is again reflected when she accepts Linton’s marriage proposal without giving it careful thought which then leads her to interrogate Nelly as she seeks her approval upon whether it was the right course of action. Cathy has a certain quality about her that attracts people to her; maybe it is her vivacity and her constant search for fun.
Indeed both Heathcliff and Edgar are both instantly smitten with her and Heathcliff says after watching Cathy with the two Linton children, “she is so immeasurably superior to them- to anybody on earth, is she not Nelly? ” However Cathy also has the power to manipulate people, especially ones who love her, which she does freely and without concession. We see this trait in her father, her brother, Heathcliff and Edgar. Of Heathcliff’s attitude to Cathy, Nelly says, “He would do her bidding in anything”.
In this Heathcliff and Linton are the same, as neither wish to upset her, or do anything that that may cause one of her temper tantrums. Though Heathcliff deems Edgar a “milk blooded coward” he is no better than Linton in allowing Cathy her every wish and demand. Cathy’s temper is mentioned often, and at one point the doctor Kenneth, who is in himself an intriguing character being totally unable to cure anyone’s illness, says that “she must not be crossed less her tempers induce a fit. ” This is why quite often her husband humours her, as he does not want to be the one to bring on her “illness”.
Nelly is the only character who sees though her feigned fits and says “It was enough to try the temper of a saint, such senseless wicked rages. ” She is also quite self obsessed, Nelly concludes this after seeing “how lightly she dismisses her old playmates troubles. I could not have imagined her to be so selfish. ” She therefore deems her to be an unfeeling child. Cathy does not improve as she grows up. Whilst married to Edgar Linton and living with him and his sister Isabella, she exclaims:
“You are a dog in the manger Cathy and desire no one to be loved but yourself! This is not entirely untrue, as Cathy loves to be the centre of attention and is not past sulking even at this age to get her own way. This is reflected by her foolish reaction when she says to Nelly after a fight in which Edgar has finally stood up to her, “I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking their own”. She demonstrates in this speech that she is no more than a spoilt girl, who craves love and adoration from all around her and will stop at nothing to get her own way. In some ways Cathy and Heathcliff are very similar.
For instance in their ruthlessness to gain what they desire, and how they are both responsible for their own miseries whilst they blame them entirely on others. I believe that through these characters Emily Bronte wanted to portray love of a different type to that in other books published in this era. And the way she chooses to illustrate the characters, is I believe a challenge to the way that women were perceived in society at that time and to challenge commonly held attitudes and beliefs, towards love, trust and human nature.