Wuthering Heights – To What Extent Can Heathcliff Be Described As a Traditional Villain? Essay

A traditional villain in English literature can be described as a cruel, ruthless and a savage person. He behaves selfishly and deviously and hurts other just to get what he wants. Villains are very clever, manipulative and they are conniving. Others hate villains mainly because of their evil mind and their evil motives which are the centres of the plot. This fits in with Heathcliff’s description well. But he cannot be condemned for everything. He was found on the streets of Liverpool at a very young age. Hindley degraded him and treated him as a slave at the beginning. Catherine let him down by getting married to Edgar.

This influenced his mind and we see the evil side of Heathcliff. However, perhaps he can also be seen as a Romantic hero. A traditional Romantic hero can be defined as being moody and as a criminal. They have dark, physical good looks and are very mysterious sinners. They usually are wanders, exiled from their native land. They also gain sympathy from the reader and author. We can see from this description that Heathcliff can be possibly seen as a Romantic Hero. Villains are savage, ruthless people who commit many evil deeds, who care little for other people and who generally only think about themselves.

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Throughout “Wuthering Heights” Heathcliff’s personality could be described as dark, menacing and spiteful. He is a dangerous character and his only purpose is to ruin others. When at first Heathcliff is a young boy he is described as “dark, almost as if he came from the devil,” this makes us feel he is evil from the start according to his physical features. We see Heathcliff from an orphaned street victim to a grown up adult with feelings and a growing bond which his childhood friend, Catherine. Heathcliff changed into an adult with affections for Catherine who does not return his love, but who runs for it.

Catherine has a desperate need to get away from her true love of Heathcliff and so she turns to Edgar. When Heathcliff returns after a three year absence he believes that taking this time out has made him a better man with money and power over Wuthering Heights and that he will finally capture Catherine’s love but unfortunately that isn’t so. He is rejected once again he finds a new purpose, to get revenge on all those who mistreated him. From the very beginning when Heathcliff comes to Wuthering Heights he breathes bad feeling in the house.

Hindley hates Heathcliff so does Catherine from looking at his physical looks, though she grows bonds with him and a strong childhood relationship later on. Heathcliff also hates Hindley and certainly does his share of cruel deeds. In one incident Mr Earnshaw has given both Hindley and Heathcliff a horse. He is seen as a blackmailer and manipulative when his horse goes all lame and he threatens to blackmail Hindley if he does not trade with him. “You must exchange horse with me; I don’t like mine; and if you don’t I shall tell your father of the three thrashings you’ve given me this week, and show him my arm, which is black to the shoulder”.

This shows that he is quite a villainous person. At a young age we see Heathcliff begins to take revenge against Hindley. I’m trying to setting how shall I pay Hindley back,” he says, “I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last. I hope he will not die before I do”. Heathcliff is also known to be a brutal, violent and dangerous person. This is shown when he beats Hindley really badly nearly killing him. Maybe Heathcliff had a hand in Hindley’s death. “The ruffian kicked and trampled on him, and dashed his head repeatedly against the flags, holding me with one hand, meantime, to prevent summoning Joseph”.

He doesn’t like people badmouthing him in any way. In his adult years we find him teaching Hindley’s son, Hareton, to swear, making him turn out just like himself. As the novel continues we see a violent and cruel side to Heathcliff, this time to the man who later marries Cathy Edgar Linton. Edgar is saying cruel and nasty things about Heathcliff he reacts by lashing out and throwing hot applesauce on Edgar. “He seized a tureen of hot apple sauce (the first thing to come to him under his gripe) and dashed it full against the speakers face and neck”. This shows that Heathcliff is very cruel and savage.

Later on to get revenge on Edgar he pretends to fall in love with Edgar’s sister Isabella. Their marriage proves to be a mistake as Heathcliff has no love for Isabella. “Is Mr Heathcliff a man? ” Isabella writes “If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil? ” Isabella also defines Heathcliff as an “incarnate goblin”. Heathcliff’s company around Isabella destroys her. She gets cruel beatings and is also abused by Heathcliff. Heathcliff has no love for his wife and proves it by he himself saying so. Isabella has had enough and decides to run away to London.

On her way out she was shocked to see her dog is being hanged “The first thing she saw me do on coming out of the Grange was hanging up her little dog”. She really loved and adored the dog. The only reason Heathcliff has hung it was because the dog bit Heathcliff on the leg. Heathcliff has destroyed another person too and this shows his villainy. This also shows that Heathcliff is ruthless and a character without any feelings even if he knows it will hurt a human being inside. Another spiteful act of Heathcliff’s is when he locks Nelly up in a room for four days and three nights. However he does check up on her.

Heathcliff just cares about himself, and to get revenge on those that abused him and those who were in love with Catherine. After Hindley’s death Heathcliff raises Hareton “Now my bonny lad, you are mine! ” Heathcliff wants revenge on Hindley by treating the boy the same way Hindley treated him by giving him no education, and degrading him to be his slave. “I’ve got him faster thank his scoundrel of a father had me, and lower,” Heathcliff says. Heathcliff also hates his own son, after using him for his own purposed e. g. forcing him to get married to young Cathy he allows him to die without even a one tear in his eyes.

He calls his son pitiful and worthless and claims that he despises him for himself. When Linton is on his deathbed and Cathy desperately tries to call he says “We know that! Answered Heathcliff; but his life is not worth a farthing, and I won’t spend a farthing on him. ” This is also shown as another evil deed of Heathcliff’s. This is when he lets his son, Linton, his own flesh and blood to die. Heathcliff curses Catherine so that she will haunt him and he will see her again. “May she wake in torment? He cried, with a frightful vehemence stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion… This is just barbaric. He forces young Cathy to marry Linton Heathcliff and keeps her from going back to the Grange to see her father Edgar who is really weak, poorly and is near to death. “You shall not leave Wuthering Heights till tomorrow”.

He beats young Cathy repeatedly when she tries to get the key even when she promises to marry Heathcliff’s son Linton. “He seized her with the liberated hand, and pulling her on his knee with the other shower of terrific slaps on the side of her head, each sufficient to have a full filled his threat, had she been able to fall. Young Cathy is just like her mother Catherine who is fearless so she takes the pain and stays strong. Heathcliff decides to get wealth so he bribes Edgar’s lawyer before he sees him, this is before he passes away. Edgar has called his lawyer so he can change his will. By changing his will Heathcliff wouldn’t inherit the Grange or anything else from the Linton’s. Heathcliff definitely doesn’t want this to happen and he reacts in an evil manner. “He had sold him to Mr. Heathcliff: that was the cause of his delay in obeying my master’s summons. ”

We notice Heathcliff is a heartless person and gets what he wants by committing these evil deeds. He is also very manipulative and clever when he gambles with Hindley, He uses his mind and he knows Hindley is drunk so he will lose to hi and he will gain Wuthering Heights and all his possessions. Yet at the moment, when the reader is expected to feel total, dislike and hatred after he has destroyed his wife, degraded the life of a great man, and after he watched the death of his son with no care or concern, the reader finds he is feeling sympathetically towards this character.

Surely some sympathy can be felt for Heathcliff after all the treacherous times he has been through, from such a young age. Through the time of Heathcliff’s life he encounters very hard times that affect him as a person and change him to be an evil person in his soul. From the beginning of the novel, and most likely from the beginning of Heathcliff’s life, he has suffered pain and rejection. He is found abandoned in Liverpool as a homeless orphan helpless and hungry by Mr. Earnshaw. No one knew anything about his past. When Mr.

Earnshaw brings him to Wuthering Heights he is seen as a gypsy rather than a child. “He is a dark skinned gipsy in aspect,” Mrs. Earnshaw is ready to throw him out the doors while Nelly put him on the landing of the stairs hoping that he will be gone the next day. Without having done anything to deserve this cruelty, Heathcliff is made to feel like an outside. He is mistreated by his family and by virtually everybody else. Another fact that might bring sympathy for Heathcliff is the torture that he received from Hindley. After the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff suffers more cruelty at the hands of Hindley.

In these years, he has love, friendship, and education all taken away from him while the treatment from jealous Hindley changes his mental behaviour. He is separated from the family, reduced to a servant, receives regular beatings and refuses the right for him to speak to Catherine. One other fact is that no one has ever loved Heathcliff aside from Catherine. It seems the love Heathcliff and Catherine have is just bringing pain to one another. Heathcliff’s love towards Catherine Earnshaw also makes us feel sympathy for him. He loves her so much that he claims she is his life and his soul and hers are one.

The personality that Heathcliff has in his adulthood has come from the unfortunate hardships of his childhood. Cathy has hurt Heathcliff when she said she couldn’t marry Heathcliff because it would “degrade” her. Heathcliff is devastated when Catherine gets married to Edgar instead. He feels that he has been let down of his love for her since she wants to be at Thrush Cross Grange. Finally when he realises that Catherine has chosen wealth over him he disappears for three years and returns as a wealthy gentleman. As he returns to Wuthering Heights the only thing on his mind is to revenge himself on all those who have abused him as a child.

Soon afterwards Catherine dies and Heathcliff is left all alone in a world, which seems to be against him. The only thing that seems to keep Heathcliff alive is to get his total revenge against his enemies. Yet at the end of his life, as the novel gets nearer to the end, Heathcliff realises that most of his life has been spent on that one task to be with Catherine. He refuses to eat, bars himself from the company of Cathy, Hareton, or Nelly, disappears for a long time and refuses to explain where he has been. After his death he is in peace with his grave next to his beloved Catherine.

It also says in the novel that they have been seen on the moors together. Heathcliff went through a lot just for his obsession with Catherine. It has been more like pain than love but at least they hopefully been reunited together. Can he possibly seen as a Romantic hero? After he has committed evil deeds like for example beating Hindley badly and bribing Edgar’s lawyer, this tells us that Heathcliff carriers a burden of mysterious sins. This shows that Heathcliff isn’t just a traditional Villain but is also shown as a traditional Romantic hero.

A Romantic hero is described as being moody character. They are usually wanderers that are exiled from their native land. They are also known as being rebels and criminals. They often have dark, physical good looks and gain sympathy of the reader and author. Heathcliff can perhaps be seen as a traditional Romantic hero. He was bought home from the streets of Liverpool and no one knows where he actually came from. After Heathcliff over hears the conversation between Nelly and Cathy when Cathy says if she marries Heathcliff it would “degrade” her.

This betrays and upsets Heathcliff so he runs away from three years, and no one knows where he has gone. This shows that Heathcliff is a wanderer. Another quality of a Romantic hero is they are moody or dull and are criminals. Heathcliff definitely fits this description because he is moody through out the novel. “The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him, they crush those beneath them” This shows that Heathcliff is a very moody person, he isn’t very lively and thinks thoughts like this of revenge and nothing amusing.

He must be good looking too for someone like Catherine, who is beautiful, to be attracted to Heathcliff. His frustrated love for Catherine shows when Heathcliff goes to Cathy’s funeral and takes the locket from around her neck opens it and removes Edgar’s hair from the locket and replaces it with a clump of his own hair in the locket with Cathy’s “Which on examination, I ascertained to have been taken from a locket hung round Catherine’s neck. Heathcliff had opened the trinket and cast out its contents, replacing them by a black lock of his own.

I twisted the two, and enclosed them together,” This also shows that he is a little jealous of Edgar, He curses Catherine after she dies so that she will haunt him and he would see her again This shows that he is desperate to see her and be reunited with her, but it also shows he is possibly a sinner. Seeing the qualities of a Romantic hero and how Heathcliff fits those descriptions this tell us that Heathcliff can possibly be see as a Romantic Hero. In my view after all Heathcliff has been through in his life I’m surprised to see that he has survived his life for that long.

He stayed strong, used his wits, got his revenge and after his death he was reunited with his lover Catherine. I also feel sympathy towards Heathcliff as he never had shelter, friends, money etc. He was a poor orphan found on the streets. Some of the Earnshaw family judged him on his physicals looks. His past influenced his future to become a villainous person. My mind changed at the end of the novel when I see him more like a Romantic hero than a Villain. He deservers to be admired and such a great character the author has produced. This is one character devoted to love no matter how many steps it will take; he will still get what he wants.


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