Death used as a prominent theme to shape the tragic vision of Wuthering Heights Essay

In the introduction of Heathcliff into the world of Wuthering Heights, we see the connection between him and Mr. Earnshaw (the father of Catherine and Hindley). This introduction causes bitterness and resentment to come into Wuthering Heights especially from Hindley towards Heathcliff. However, with the presence of Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff is protected to an extent from Hindley and others. He is also sheltered from the harsh rejection from the world, because his dark complexion and wild nature confuses him with a gypsy and in the genre in which the novel was written as well as in modern times, gypsies were/are outcast from society.

Another one of the prominent themes in the novel is revenge which is built up through a series of tragedies, usually surrounding the death of a character.

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In Wuthering Heights, when Bronte decides to remove Mr Earnshaw from the novel through death, she creates a crisis which builds with other crises which result in a complication of the novel’s plot. The crises in this case, is that Heathcliff is left unguarded/unshielded and is left as open pretty to Hindley who immediately showers Heathcliff with his wrath.

Heathcliff is stripped of any chance of a better life and is taunted and mistreated. He is treated lower than a servant and is deprived of a higher education. He is left to run wild (with Catherine although she is educated).

Heathcliff is dramatically placed in the Earnshaw household that gives the reader and perhaps even him hope that there is a better life in store for him, but the writer sadistically proves that Heathcliff is chained to his fate (by the death and removal of Earnshaw).

The way Heathcliff is treated after Mr Earnshaw’s death builds the grounds for his insatiable thirst for revenge. This thirst for revenge grows stronger in the novel because with the lack of Earnshaw there to guard him from rejection, he is open to the scrutiny of the Linton Household. Edgar Linton laughs at him when he tries to change and be good and this is the last of Heathcliff’s attempt at innocence.

The revenge is spread towards Edgar and his family and Hindley and his family. This revenge costs him Cathy’s life. The more revenge he seeks, the greater peril is on his soul. This all springs from Earnshaw’s death and seals the novel’s fatalism.

Bronte also kills the character Frances (Hindley’s wife) after just one chapter. Her loss means that Hareton is the last of the Earnshaws and Hindley’s only heir. It also means the loss of most of Hindley’s sanity and rational thinking. With the death of his wife, his character slowly and steadly disintegrates. He is vulnerable as he throws his life away to alcohol and gambling. This leaves an opening for Heathcliff when he returns to the Heights and with no mother figure there for Hareton, Heathcliff can work his exploits and corrupt Hareton against his father. This all aids the process of Hindley’s exacting his revenge on Hindley.

As Heathcliff tries to send Hindley to the grave faster (which he eventually succeeds in doing), he can take over the Heights due to this death, fulfilling part of his thirst for power (which he feels will increase Cathy’s love for him).

Catherine’s death also means another loss of protection for Heathcliff because no one would have done anything to him for fear of aggravating Catherine and now he is left at the mercy of those who would want to harm him (though he is stronger than before he left).

Her death adds to the novel’s tragic theme because she and Heathcliff despite their love for each other never have a chance to be together on a romantic level. This is what makes Bronte’s novel one of the best tragic romance novels of all time.

The novel’s revenge theme begins with death and ends with death. It is what adds to the fatalistic nature of Bronte’s work and aids the writer in strategically traumatising her characters. Catherine meets her demise through death which is her payment from fate because she tried to change her destiny by choosing Edgar instead of Heathcliff, wealth and power over love and her death in the end is what makes the novel what it is; a tragic romance which becomes impossible because of revenge.


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