Compare and Contrast the Presentation of Heathcliff in the Opening Chapters of Wuthering Heights and the Opening of the Film
by ep23 (student)
Emily ParkinCompare and Contrast the Presentation of Heathcliff in the Opening Chapters of ‘Wuthering Heights’and the Opening of the Film The first time Heathcliff is introduced to the reader in the novel is through Lockwood’s narrative, where he is established in the very first sentence. Lockwood has just returned from a visit, and he describes him as a ‘solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with’ and hints about him being a misanthropist. This is followed by a much stronger statement ‘A capital fellow!’ The fact that Lockwood claims that his heart warmed towards him, implies that Heathcliff is a strong, but reasonable man although there is an underlying sense that perhaps there is
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something dark and sinister about his personality and history. This is also emphasised by the way his dialogs and actions are described. Heathcliff does not speak, he growls. He does not smile; he grins and sometimes even sneers. Lockwood uses adjectives like ‘diabolical’ which add to the reader’s interpretation of the character. The effect of the choice of words is further enhanced by the introduction of his dogs; this creates a link between the dogs and himself, and an image of him not being human. The dogs are an ingenious way to portray a man like Heathcliff because dogs can be dirty and pitiful, strong and powerful guards, or even violent and aggressive at the same time. Dogs are often referenced to as being a man’s best friend; this suggests that he is loving, affectionate and loyal to those he loves, and also hints that perhaps he doesn’t know how to construct relationships with other people. I feel that the film is a disappointing portrayal of the Byronic hero. Emily Bronte devotes the majority of the novel to persuade the readers to not only like Heathcliff, but to sympathise with a character that in reality most would disassociate themselves from. In the film however, I do not feel that the audience is encouraged to like Heathcliff. Ralph Fiennes representation of Heathcliff lacks the integrity of the character in the novel. I feel that in the film, Heathcliff is presented as being misunderstood and this limits the connection between the audience and his character. Another noticeable contrast between the novel and the film is Heathcliff’s appearance. In the novel Heathcliff is described as having ‘black eyes’ and that he ‘looks like a gypsy, dressed like a gentleman’. This clearly informs the reader that Heathcliff is out of place. In the film however, Fiennes just looks like a grubby, somewhat dishevelled man and no obvious reason for him being an outcast from society is conveyed to the audience. In the novel, the colour of Heathcliff’s skin is the first factor that suggests he is different to the Earnshaw family. In Victorian society race severely affected the quality of your life and being black meant that Heathcliff’s should have been very poor. As the orphan was taken in by a white family, Heathcliff obviously looked out of place in Wuthering Heights. In contrast, Ralph Fiennes a blue-eyed, white British actor does not look any different to the other characters. This means that the audience members who have not previously read the novel, will not understand the extent of Heathcliff’s isolation, reasoning behind his mistreatment and the social historical context that is evident in ‘Wuthering Heights’.