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Heathcliff's role in "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bronte.

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Introduction

Access - English Literature Character study Cathy Hogg 12 March 2003 Heathcliff - Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte "He neither spoke nor loosed his hold for some five minutes "Are you possessed with a devil," he pursued savagely, "to talk in that manner to me when you are dying? Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? You know you lie to say I have killed you: and Catherine, you know that I could as soon as forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?" .......!" Heathcliff went to the back of her chair, and leant over, but not so far as to let her see his face which was livid with emotion. She bent round to look at him; he would not permit it: turning abruptly, he walked to the fire-place where he stood silent, with his back towards us. Mrs. Linton's glance followed him suspiciously: every movement woke a new sentiment in her. ...read more.

Middle

Heathcliff is presented to the reader as a Byronic hero which is described as " characteristically both glamorous and dangerous, haunted by the guilt of mysterious crimes" (1). In the excerpt, although there is no definitive physical description of Heathcliff the reader can sense that he is struggling with great emotion and that he does not wish Catherine to witness it. " his face which was livid with emotion" and "his eyes wide and wet at last, flashed fiercely on her; his breath heaved convulsively". (p143) He deliberately moves out of Catherine's view whilst he deals with his inner turmoil and regains some of his composure. This rare display of emotion is in direct contrast to the rest of the novel where he is largely both the controller of his fellow characters as well as his own feelings and destiny, Heathcliff lays his personal thoughts clearly out on public display in front of Cathy and Nelly (the narrator at this point) and the dialogue illustrates the destructive passion that they share and illustrates that they will only be joined together in death and eternity. The absolute love and desperation that Heathcliff is feeling whilst Catherine lays dying in front of his eyes and the futility of their love is clear for all to relate to in this conversation. ...read more.

Conclusion

So much the worse for me, but I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will be when you - oh God! Would you like to live with your soul in the grave?...........". At the final point of this passage the narrator, Nelly, imposes her view on the situation and a hint of irony creeps into the situation. Nelly has played an almost motherly role to both Catherine and Heathcliff and has seen them develop into adults. She is aware of their foibles and character strengths but is still not totally convinced that Heathcliff can weep at the sad situation he finds himself in. Maybe this is because she has never been married herself and has not experienced such great emotion, however at the end of the scene (not quoted) she intertwines their locks of hair and places them in Cathy's locket forever. The scene has obviously moved her emotionally enough to complete a positive task in what is a seemingly negative situation. "They were silent - their faces hid against each other, and washed by each other's tears. At least, I suppose the weeping was on both sides: as it seemed Heathcliff could weep on a great occasion like this". ...read more.

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