What impression of Heathcliff emerges in The opening chapters of “Wuthering Heights”? Essay

Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” is a novel set in the 19th century in the middle of the Yorkshire moors. The word “Wuthering” is a local word which is used to describe the “stormy weather” and the “atmospheric tumult”. The owner of “Wuthering Heights” is Heathcliff, who is described by the narrator, Lockwood, as being “a capital fellow”. In the opening chapter, we as a reader, do not really learn much about Heathcliff as there is very little description about him, therefore, we tend to rely on what the narrator is telling us.

Heathcliff is described as having “black eyes” which “withdraw so suspiciously”; this leaves us with a negative and anxious impression of the character, making the reader assume that Lockwood is an unreliable narrator. The “black eyes” are characteristics which we stereotype, as the colour “black” portrays an evil and menacing image. Also by withdrawing his eyes so suspiciously, we can predict that Heathcliff does not make a lot of eye contact; this may be because he is a cold character or he may a secret which could be given away by giving eye contact to Lockwood.

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Eye contact tends to suggest that two people are familiar with each other, or are willing to become familiar, however as Heathcliff’s eyes “withdraw” an unwilling and distant impression begins to emerge. Another impression of Heathcliff which emerges is that he is antisocial and reluctant to meet with Lockwood. This impression emerges to the reader because, when Lockwood, Heathcliff’s guest, reaches out to shake his hands, Heathcliff pulls away and his “fingers sheltered themselves”.

The reason an antisocial and reluctant image emerges is because is it pleasant to shake somebody’s hand and when Heathcliff does not the reader assumes that he is not a social person. Also Heathcliff says very little, when asked a question by Lockwood, Heathcliff replies with a “nod”. By doing this Heathcliff is portrayed as reluctant to speak, so is therefore antisocial towards Lockwood. By “wincing” Heathcliff seems to find it hard and painful to speak. Again an antisocial image is portrayed, when Heathcliff “uttered with closed teeth”, we as a reader have come to a conclusion that Heathcliff’s personality is cold and rude.

This is because he seems to go out of his way not to speak with Lockwood. Heathcliff also portrays the impression that he is isolated. We know this because he lives alone in a house in the middle of the Yorkshire moors, which is a barren place. The phrase “solitary neighbour” describes Heathcliff perfectly. This evidence is crucial to the impression of Heathcliff, as it summarizes the image which has emerged in the opening chapters. As Heathcliff is isolated and “solitary”, he may just want to be left alone, this could have been caused because of an incident long ago.

This incident could relate to his childhood, as Heathcliff was an orphan. The natural world at “Wuthering Heights” is comparable to Heathcliff, and helps us to create a clearer impression of him. The weather is described as “misty and cold”, this comparable to Heathcliff, because if something is “misty” it is difficult to see through it, I think that this is like Heathcliff because we find it difficult to get the know the character as we do not know very much about him.

The “cold” mirrors Heathcliff, however not in a temperature sense, like the weather, but Heathcliff’s personality is cold as he is bitter and reluctant to speak with Lockwood. Another aspect of the weather at “Wuthering Heights” which mirrors Heathcliff is the “black frost”, this is a personification of Heathcliff because the colour “black” symbolises dark, evil and dismal objects, like Heathcliff’s eyes. Not only does this resemble Heathcliff’s eyes but his personality because he does not have an exciting or joyous personality but a dull and dismal one, like the “black frost”.

The “frost” is comparable to Heathcliff because it is bitterly cold like Heathcliff’s personality. As a reader we feel that Heathcliff has a bitterly cold personality because he does not make an effort to speak to his guest, and he seems isolated as he lives almost alone. The phrase “stormy weather” mirrors Heathcliff as both the weather and Heathcliff are unpleasant. If the weather is “stormy” it tends to keep people away and indoors, I think that Heathcliff is comparable to this as his personality keeps people away from “Wuthering Heights”.

An example of Heathcliff keeping people away from the Heights would be the way he behaves towards Lockwood, as he does not attempt to be nice to him or to be welcoming. Evidence to show that Heathcliff is like the wind is “power of the north wind”; this is suggesting that the “wind” is so powerful that it keeps people from going to the moors, where it is windier. Heathcliff keeps visitors away from the moors because of his cruel nature, just as the wind does.

The natural world at “Wuthering Heights” helps Heathcliff’s character emerge as it is so alike him, therefore as a reader we can establish a “cold” and “misty” impression. The architecture of “Wuthering Heights” helps us to create an impression of Heathcliff as the way it is described is similar to Heathcliff’s character. The house is described as having “narrow windows” this suggests that there is very little light inside and that it is dark and dismal. If a place is light, it tends to be a pleasant place to be and so if “Wuthering Heights” is dark, a reader would assume that it is not a pleasant place to be.

The windows mirror Heathcliff because the light represents warmth and if the inside of the house does not have much light or warmth then it is likely that the owner does not either. This creates an impression that Heathcliff is cold and not very pleasant on the inside, as his house is. The “corners” of “Wuthering Heights” are “defended with large jutting stones”, I think that this is to warn or scare off any visitors, as this is an aggressive feature to the house. This is a reflection of Heathcliff because he tries to keep visitors away from his home.

The impression that is created of Heathcliff is that he does not want visitors to his home; this would lead a reader to believe that he is antisocial. The internal features of “Wuthering Heights” help a reader to create an impression of Heathcliff. The description of the kitchen is that it is bare and empty. There are “no signs of roasting, boiling or baking”. A kitchen tends to be the heart of the home, but at “Wuthering Heights” nothing is cooking, nor was there “any glitter of copper saucepans and tin colanders on the walls”.

The kitchen seems to be very bare with no form of human life, this is similar to Heathcliff because the life which he leads does not seem to be very normal and he is almost alienated from the rest of society. In the kitchen there are a “high-backed primitive” chairs. In my opinion if something is “high backed” then it tends to be tense and held back. This is the impression I attain of Heathcliff, and because he is tense I find that anything can make him angry as he is uneasy and on edge. The few people who live with Heathcliff seem to have similar personalities as him; they also help to establish his character.

Firstly, the servant Joseph is alike to Heathcliff as both are sour. We can tell that Joseph is sour because of the way Lockwood describes him. Lockwood suggests that Joseph “must have need of divine aid digest his dinner”. This is a metaphor which Lockwood has used. As a reader we can assume that Heathcliff is sour like Joseph because they live together, and are likely to be similar. Another character whom lives with Heathcliff and shares a similar personality to him is Mrs Heathcliff, Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law, whom Heathcliff seems to dislike.

The way in which Mrs Heathcliff speaks is rude, similar to Heathcliff. She has a very unpleasant tone, which she uses when speaking with Lockwood. Instead of speaking she tends to snap at Lockwood, who is only trying to assist her. Lockwood describes Mrs Heathcliff as someone who “might turn if anyone attempted to assist him in counting his gold. ” Not only does this description suggest that she is selfish but protective. I think that this can be used to describe Heathcliff’s character as he is protective of home, which might suggest why he has “large jutting stones”.

Mrs Heathcliff also comes across as demanding as she does not speak a sentence but demand, since this is a forceful way of speaking, we can assume that Mrs Heathcliff, alike to Heathcliff, is a forceful character. As a reader we understand that Heathcliff is forceful because he too demands Lockwood to “walk in”. Another impression which we can gain about the character of Heathcliff is that he is sour and forceful; this impression is taken from the personalities of the people around him. In the opening chapter Lockwood contradicts himself, by describing that he “no longer felt inclined to call Heathcliff a capital fellow”.

This is quite important in the chapter, as not only have the readers gained an understanding of the character Heathcliff, but so have the characters in the novel. Therefore, as a reader we assume that our judgement of the character must be correct as it is being confirmed by the narrator. Overall I think that the impressions Emily Bronte has tried to create of Heathcliff, which emerges in the opening chapter of “Wuthering Heights” is that he is unwilling to assist his guest, he is antisocial as he is reluctant to speak with Lockwood, who is making an effort.

Heathcliff is also isolated as he lives almost on his own, and is described as being a “solitary neighbour”. Heathcliff is also bitter and cold which a reader can relate to from the weather and description of “Wuthering Heights. However, I feel that the impression which emerges from the opening chapter of the novel, “Wuthering Heights”, which best describes the character of Heathcliff is that he is rude and unpleasant.


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