Throughout Wuthering Heights, it can be seen that Heathcliff is a social outcast, not fitting in with anything the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights do. Any reader of the book produces completely different views on Heathcliff which represents even more so that he is misunderstood by many people. There are different characteristics that critics have labelled Heathcliff, some include a social misfit, a devil from hell, or something completely different by labelling him a romantic or gothic hero. The different characteristics indicate that there will never be one ‘label’ for Heathcliff. As Heathcliff is the main character of Emily Bronte’s novel, there are some interesting things that revolve around the man from the time that he arrives at Wuthering Heights as a complete outsider until he dies as a powerful landlord of both Wuthering Heights and Thurshcross Grange.
In the first part of Nelly’s narration, she begins by telling how Heathcliff comes about the house. ‘We crowed round, and, over Miss Cathy’s head, I had a peep at a dirty, ragged, black-haired child.’ Such language explores that he is no ordinary child. The other children then Hindley and Cathy couldn’t believe what their father had bought home. ‘Mrs Earnshaw was ready to chuck it out of the doors…asking how he could fashion to bring that gipsy brat into the house.’ Such a phrase would imply that if they were seen with the ‘gipsy’ they would be looked down on. They don’t understand Mr Earnshaw’s reason to bring it home. Cathy and Hindley rejected Heathcliff ‘they entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room..I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it might be gone on the morrow’ Nobody wanted it to be part of the household. This first introduction to Heathcliff already explores he is socially beneath the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. He is typically described as an outside of the family structure. This will make him self conscious about himself and could be a reason for his actions later on in his life.
Heathcliff’s presence in Wuthering Heights put the Earnshaw family in turmoil and fighting; family relationships soon become unpleasant and hateful. It seemed Heathcliff was a trouble make. ‘Miss Cathy ad he were now very thick; but Hindley hated him..we were plagued.’ This suggests that Hindley grew jealous of Heathcliff because he was practically taking his sister away from him. This caused Hindley’s actions towards Heathcliff to be more abusive and physical.
Heathcliff is unarguably cruel. He is detestable and vengeful, spiteful and mean, but I would say that there is means to the madness. It all started with Hindley and the way he treated him. He treated him as a servant, no better or no worse than the horses that drew their luggage. That kind of treatment will turn anyone sour. But the real catalyst in the situation is Cathy. He loves her. She is saving his grace in a life that is miserable and hard, and without her, he would be completely alone. He trusts her and he alone, having grown up with her and gotten to know her spirit – the real things that matter is loving someone. And then, seemingly out of no where, his life turns upside down. When Cathy begins to spend time with the Linton’s, she edges Heathcliff out completely, almost without warning, and seemingly without a care. She goes about her business as if nothing really happened and as id it doesn’t affect her one bit. We know, as the reader that she does indeed still love Heathcliff, but he doesn’t know that. He is betrayed but the only good thing he had in life, torn from the fairytale that he thought he was living and loving. These events are enough to make anyone mad with rage, to the point of obsessive vengeance. He decided that instead of rolling in a ball and letting the misery of lost love and affection, he would strike his revenge back on those who hurt him.
Personally, I feel bad for Heathcliff. I think that pain like that is real, It’s such a pain that you cant think of breathe because everything, everyone, and every moment reminds you of what you’ve lost, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. Heathcliff was severely wronged by the family that took him in to give him a better life, and by the women who he loved with every inch of his body. I think Catherine approached love as though it is easily threatened, but not easily lost, and proved this statement to be correct. You could argue that the hurt in his life drove him insane, so the Earnshaw’s are actually the true monsters trapped in innocent bodies.
In all respects, though, as well as I feel for him, I think that he could have no partaken in the actions he did that drove others to the madness he felt as well. There’s a lesson to be learned here, that if you’ve been wronged, you should make certain not to pass on the pain and misery to others, even if they did help ruin you, and especially if they were completely innocent or a mere help.
If I were in a situation, where the one I loved left for another without warning, with words still wringing in my heart and head, with promises of trust and devotion still tied around my mind, I would let them see their own mistakes. It might take them a while, but vengeance never does justice, only lasts as a bitter satisfaction for a short time. Rather, recover from the blows, continue life even get away from it all if necessary. But I would never hurt others purposefully just to spite them in the pain they inflicted on me.
But then again, I’m not Heathcliff, I’m Annabel Smith, and I wouldn’t act just for spite.