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Pre-1914 Prose Study - "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë. To what extent is Heathcliff a Gothic hero?

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Introduction

GCSE ENGLISH LITERATURE COURSEWORK Pre-1914 Prose Study - "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Bront� To what extent is Heathcliff a Gothic hero? Gothic genre is style of fiction characterised by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious or violent incidents. It is designed to both horrify and fascinate readers with scenes of passion and cruelty with the supernatural elements and a dark and foreboding atmosphere. This new and fearful genre grew during the last decades of the eighteenth century which was a new and fearful time with the rise of Romanticism in European culture. The phantom of social revolution is manifest in the supernatural "spectre" of the gothic where a crumbling way of life emerges as a haunted manor and the loss of English identity becomes the gothic hero's or heroine's search for identity. The constitutions of a gothic novel includes an oppressive and cruel chief character whose evil characteristics and diabolical personality appeal to ones sense of owe, the melodramatic aspects of romance or more specifically in the gothic motive of a persecuted maiden forced apart from a true love. The Gothic was not just associated with literature but it is also a very famous style of architecture. In Europe, all types of buildings were constructed on the ancient architectural designs of the medieval period. Therefore, we find cathedrals such as the Notre Dam cathedral in Paris or the Palace of Westminster heavily decorated with monstrous gargoyles and constructed using flying buttresses. The novel "Wuthering Heights" is based on the gothic tradition of the late eighteenth century. It has a style of Literature that featured supernatural encounters, moonless nights and grotesque imagery seeking to create effects of mystery and fear. The setting and the characters of the novel are influenced by the author Emily Bront�'s life. She was born in a bleak moorland village near Bradford which hints us why she portrays the nature of the Yorkshire moors as "bleak" and "stormy". ...read more.

Middle

He despises the Lintons as they are a lot richer than him and are considered an important part of the established society which he will never be. Catherine chose Edgar Linton over Heathcliff because she wanted to be the "greatest woman in the neighbourhood" which wouldn't be possible if Heathcliff married her. Consequently, the reason why Heathcliff despises the class system and established society as a whole is because it was the influence of these two factors that resisted him to get what he most wanted in life - his beloved Catherine. It is due to the fact that he was treated harshly and "degraded" by Hindley "beneath his former level" that he couldn't be a part of the high-class society which Catherine had wanted him to be. Unsurprisingly, because Heathcliff disrespects the privileges of rank and class, he tries to destroy it as it is his aim to be the most powerful. Evidence of this destruction is found throughout the novel. First of all, when he returns to Wuthering Heights after his three year exile, he takes over Hindley's state and wealth as an attempt to match the assets of Edgar which is what Catherine wanted. Later on in the story, he also stops Hareton's education and treats him as a slave to seek revenge from Hindley (Hareton's father) who treated Heathcliff in the same way after Mr Earnshaw's death. Hareton's mistreatment is described by the narrator Ellen Dean as to be "reduced to a state of complete dependence on his father's enemy" and "lives in his own house as a servant" which maintains the malicious and pitiless figure of Heathcliff's actions building up in the reader's mind. Moreover, as mentioned before, he forcefully marries Cathy , a "carefully educated" and "lively" rich Linton to his "sickly" son Linton to complete his revenge over Edgar by taking control of the Grange. To have contempt for all conventional forms of authority is also a characteristic of the gothic hero. ...read more.

Conclusion

Similarly, he would also gain the empathy when is a child tyrannized and tormented by Hindley Earnshaw who once beat him "breathless and white". Hindley dreaded that because Heathcliff was the most liked child at Wuthering Heights he would inherit his father's wealth and property and this is why he treated him cruelly. This corresponds with the ambivalence the upper classes felt towards the lower class citizens when they were miserable but feared the prospect of the lower classes trying to escape their pitiable circumstances by acquiring social and economic power. However, because Heathcliff ultimately does gets control of the Grange builds up an impression that Heathcliff is a self-made man as he didn't have any financial support from parents or other relatives but gained his power and supremacy entirely by himself due to his own determination that shows his distinctive gothic nature. Above all, the readers would also feel compassion for Heathcliff when his beloved Catherine dies as she was the most important person in is life and was his greatest aspiration. We know this because after her death, he emotionally expresses that he "cannot live without his life". In spite of his cruel and vindictive personality and his satanic and malevolent deeds, the readers would still derive that Heathcliff's miserable life was due to the fact that he was an illegitimate child who was further degraded by the other established characters like Hindley, Edgar and his own true love Catherine as she haunted him for eighteen years. In conclusion, these were the aspects of the character Heathcliff that clarify him as a gothic hero to a large extent although I believe he is not the only tyrant in the novel. Heathcliff's decline in life is largely due to Hindley stopping his education that degraded him to marry Catherine who wanted a rich husband which she could only find in Edgar Linton. His hateful behaviour has evolved from his history of deprivation and affliction. The complex context of his characteristics gives rise to the term "hero-villain". ...read more.

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