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For all his Byronic / Gothic excesses, Heathcliff exists and steps out of the confines of fiction...easily

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Introduction

Name: Kelly-Ann Aldridge L61 Coursework Title: "For all his Byronic / Gothic excesses, Heathcliff exists and steps out of the confines of fiction...easily" (Evans 1982) "He stands unredeemed never once swerving in his arrow straight course to perdition" (CBronte, 1847) With reference to these and other readings of the character of Heathcliff, explore your own interpretation of this character. In your essay you should: * Consider the role and function of Heathcliff within the novel * Explore the characterisation * Consider the various interpretations of his character by A) Characters within the novel B) Critics * Make a personal response to the character. Teacher's Name: Mrs Gowdy Date: When Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, she received much criticism for the character of Heathcliff. Heathcliff was believed to be the complete opposite to what a Victorian Gentleman should be: "It is almost definition of a gentleman to say he is one who never inflicts pain" (Cardinal Newman, 1852) Her sister, Charlotte, could not understand why Emily had a character of such evil in her book: "Whether it is right or advisable to create beings like Heathcliff, I do not know: I scarcely think it is." (1) Considering Emily's background, it is logical to see why Charlotte might feel like this. Emily was born July 30th 1818 at Thornton, near Bradford, Yorkshire, and was the fifth of six children born to Patrick Bronte and his wife Maria Branwell. When she was two the family moved to Haworth, where Mr Bronte had been appointed the vicar. Except for short periods away as a student and later as a teacher, Haworth would remain her home for all her life. By the time she was seven, Emily had experienced three deaths in her family- her mother and her two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth. Because of her reclusive life, she therefore might not be expected to know of such people to base the character of Heathcliff on. ...read more.

Middle

Catherine and Heathcliff become very "thick" when they are young, as Nelly comments to Mr Lockwood, and this weakness that Heathcliff has, this love for Cathy, is manipulated by Hindley as a means of punishment, and is also the reason in my mind why Heathcliff is so determined to seek revenge. As Pinkmonkey, a literature Internet guide, points out in its character analysis of Heathcliff: "During adolescence, Heathcliff simply assumes that they will always be together" This assumption proves to be wrong. Edgar Linton proposed to Catherine, and she agreed, because she thought that Heathcliff was in fact, too uncivilised and uneducated to be her husband. Although this may sound selfish to Heathcliff when he eavesdropped on the conversation between Nelly and Cathy, we find out soon that after her own interests, she intends to help him in the future. " It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how much I love him... My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath, a source of little visible delight, but necessary" (13) Cathy uses nature to contrast the two young men, and chooses a tree's foliage for Linton. Foliage can be trimmed and blooms, which is what Cathy is feeling for Linton now, but she knows when the harsh weather and the seasons change, all the foliage will die. She knows that she won't love Linton eternally, and problems facing the two will speed up the process. Heathcliff however is symbolised as rocks and are not affected by the weather. Rocks are wild and jagged, which matches Heathcliff's personality, and when the bad weather comes, the rocks are not affected because they are strong. The last comment she says, " a little visible delight but necessary." could mean she knows that Heathcliff is not likeable but she needs him, as he provides sturdy foundations for her. ...read more.

Conclusion

I wish he'd been soldered in lead...when I'm laid there, and slide mine out too; I'll have it made so: and then, by the time Linton gets to us, he'll not know which is which!" (20) The thought of Edgar and Catherine's bodies decomposing together is too much for him. He states that he wants to be buried next to Catherine, and even punches a hole in her casket and asks that the same would be done to him so that their dust can mingle. Near the time of his death, he becomes more and more isolated from everyone and increasingly obsessed with his dead love, imagining that she is haunting him, and Heathcliff becomes more cheerful, and feels happy that when he dies he will be reunited with Catherine. " I have neither a fear, nor a presentiment, nor a hope of death. Why should I? ... It is a long fight; I wish it were over!" (21) It is only at this time he feels reconciled to her spirit that he abandons his cruelty towards Catherine and Hareton. Heathcliff is a truly interesting character and our sympathy lies with him, because we understand why he is so determined to seek his revenge on the people who opposed him in the first place. With regards to the quotations at the start of my essay, Heathcliff is a character who seems vivid. The manner in which he speaks and the emotion that he carries with him throughout the book makes him " step out of the confines of fiction". We never really hate him for what he does, simply because we know why he does it. He was badly treated when he was younger, and this developed into revenge. Still, our sympathy lies with him. Charlotte Bronte may not have liked his " arrow straight course to perdition" but modern readers who read Wuthering Heights justify why, without prejudice. ...read more.

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