Comparison of Characters of Rochester and Heathcliff by Bronti

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In the Gothic romances written by the Bronti sisters, there are two fascinating characters with many facets to their personalities. The depiction of Rochester has been done using an autobiographical approach by Charlotte Bronti in “Jane Eyre” and Emily Bronti used dual narration to portray Heathcliff’s complexity in “Wuthering Heights”. In this essay I am going to investigate the similarities and differences between the characters of Rochester and Heathcliff and how these two Byronic heroes are portrayed by the sisters using language and literary devices.

The Byronic hero is a character that has evolved from Lord Byron’s writing which influenced the Bronti sisters’ work. He appealed to many young girls of that era and his character exhibits moodiness and passion and “emotional and intellectual capacities superior to the average man”. The Byronic hero is always the protagonist and he is often a figure of repulsion, as well as fascination due to his rejection of society’s moral codes and is deemed to be unrepentant. His superior traits cause him to become arrogant, confident and abnormally sensitive.

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He is also usually isolated from society, and in these two cases, it is self imposed. Wuthering Heights” is a classic novel, in which two childhood lovers (Catherine and Heathcliff) leave their love unexplored by deliberately marrying different partners.The heroine dies halfway through the novel, leaving a new generation of characters to be subjected to the cruelty and mindless passion the Byronic hero exhibits, as he carefully lays down his calculated revenge plan. Circumstances may have caused Heathcliff’s development into a “savage beast” as he was an orphan found in the streets of Liverpool and subjected to severe degradation by Hindley, humiliation at the hands of Edgar Linton, and betrayal by Catherine.

Jane Eyre” is a skilful manipulation of the first person narrative concerning an orphan who is oppressed by her relations after the death of her parents. She is sent to an institution run by a tyrant where her best friend Helen meets her death due to the harsh conditions he imposed just to save money. The small, plain Jane becomes a governess and meets Mr Rochester whom she gradually falls in love with. Unfortunately, as she discovers at the altar, he already has a mad wife locked in his attic and has led a promiscuous life in the past.

She runs away from Thornfield, to be saved from poverty and death and loneliness by her newfound cousins and fortune. A fire at Thornfield, in which Rochester’s mad wife commits suicide, despite his attempt to rescue her, frees him from bonds of matrimony. Both sisters portray in their novels how circumstances form a man. Both Heathcliff and Rochester were innocent when they were younger, and circumstances led them astray, “the child is the father of the man,” “I started, or rather (for, like other defaulters, I like to lay half the blame on ill fortune and adverse circumstances) was thrust onto the wrong tack.

However, Edgar laughs at his attempts and this shows how Heathcliff was never given a chance to improve himself and conform to society. Rochester did not attempt to recover the right path after his disastrous marriage, and instead chose promiscuity even though he was forbidden to other women.Rochester shows some weakness in this respect, and Heathcliff shows an unforgiving and evil nature as he plans his revenge on Hindley in his spare time, “I am happiest when thinking of how I will revenge Hindley”.

This cannot be considered unreasonable though, as Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff could “make a fiend of a saint”. If Mr Earnshaw had lived, I believe Heathcliff would not have turned out as he did. Due to his death, Heathcliff’s “childhood’s sense of superiority, instilled into him by the favours of old Mr. Earnshaw, was faded away.

He struggled long to keep up an equality with Catherine in her studies”. Hindley hindered Heathcliff from becoming a better man, and circumstances proved to shape Heathcliff’s life for the worse. The difference between Rochester and Heathcliff’s circumstances are that Heathcliff could not prevent Mr Earnshaw’s death and being mistreated by Hindley, whereas Rochester could have divorced, or turned to God for comfort, instead of promiscuity. Rochester, however, believes nature is responsible for everyone’s disposition, “if you are cast in a different mould to the majority, it is no merit of yours: Nature did it.

Therefore, he will not accept any responsibility for his actions. He even tries to justify his act of bigamy, “she is not my wife”.Both protagonists in the novels are Byronic heroes. They are prone to moodiness and bouts of melancholies, Mrs Fairfax says of Rochester that “he is very changeful and abrupt. Heathcliff did not change abruptly from cordiality to petulance; he remained continuously morose and antisocial, “his accidental merriment expiring quickly in his habitual moroseness. ” Heathcliff is bent on remaining miserable and making all those around him miserable, “unsociable moroseness; and he took grim pleasure, apparently, in exciting the aversion rather than the esteem of his few acquaintance.

“Again, circumstances have shaped his personality. To protect himself from rejection, he takes pride in being the object of repulsion.Instead of standing “to be laughed at” he decided to “not bear it”. Another trait of the Byronic hero is his capability of cruelty to himself and others. Rochester proves this with the mind games he plays with Jane, by feigning intimacy with Ingram Blanche to invoke jealousy, even though it reduces her to tears, “You’ll like Ireland… my tears gushed out” This should have evoked pathos from a normal, compassionate human being, but he felt no qualms about torturing the human being he loved most.

Heathcliff is capable of extreme cruelty to innocent children and appears to have no conscience.He cannot be deterred from executing his revenge despite the fact that everyone who caused him pain is dead, “you shall pay for the plague of having you eternally in my sight”. He is brutal to Cathy because he sees her as the cause of Catherine’s death, “his happiest days were over when your days began. He cursed you, I dare say, for coming into the world, (I did, at least).

” He is also hell bent on hurting Cathy because it is the way to hurt her father, “I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your father will be miserable”.He doesn’t take into account if the innocent are caught in the cross fire, he will do anything that is necessary to hurt his adversaries, regardless of Cathy’s innocence. Even after his revenge on Edgar Linton is complete, he continues to treat Cathy unreasonably, perhaps hoping to make him turn in his grave. His orders to Cathy are “uttered so savagely the tone in which the words were said revealed a genuine bad nature. I no longer felt inclined to call Heathcliff a capital fellow.

” Mr Lockwood can see that despite Heathcliff’s effort to transform into a gentleman, the “savage” in him remains.This shows that to a certain extent Heathcliff formed his own destiny. If he could rise above his degradation and better himself, he could have forgiven and forgotten his past antagonists. Rochester is very different to him in this respect, as he values Bertha Mason as another human being with the right to live, despite the misery she has caused him.

He completely redeems himself for his former sins by attempting to save his mental wife from the fire she started. Rochester is willing to spend his money for his wife, whom he detests “I hired Grace Poole”.Heathcliff is so heartless that he is not willing to spend a “farthing” on his dying son, “his life is not worth a farthing do not call for the doctor” showing extreme callousness and disregard for human life. It is his own son! The fact that his countenance reminds him of Edgar makes Linton an object of hate. He tyrannises his son so much that “The mortal terror he felt of Mr.

Heathcliff’s anger” was evident to Cathy and Ellen Dean. Many people are afraid of Heathcliff, “a tiger, or a venomous serpent could not rouse terror in me equal to that which he wakens.As with Heathcliff and Linton, Rochester also fails to treat Adele with the same love he showers on Jane due to the fact she did not resemble him, “if she could but have been proved to resemble him, he would have thought more of her. ” He is not as cruel to the extent to which Heathcliff is, as Adele said, “he was always kind to me and gave me pretty dresses and toys.

” Rochester just “did not like the society of children. ” Heathcliff also causes Edgar misery at the expense of Isabella, whom he hates solely because she looks like Edgar. The Byronic hero fails to give marriage its proper Christian meaning.Rochester and Heathcliff both prove to undermine the act of marriage, as Rochester almost commits the crime of bigamy, “Bigamy is an ugly word! -I meant, however, to be a bigamist.

” Although he is undermining the Christian act of marriage, Rochester does have a conscience unlike Heathcliff. Rochester just manages to delude himself that he is not at fault and justifies his acts to God, “It will atone – it will atone. Have I not found her friendless, and cold and comfortless? Will I not guard, and cherish, and solace her? Is there not love in my heart, and constancy in my resolves?It will expiate at God’s tribunal. ” He forces himself to believe the goodness in his heart will compensate for his former sins, and he has already made himself believe he has no wife.

Heathcliff does the act of marriage injustice because he does not love his wife, in fact he hates her as he confessed to Catherine, “if I lived alone with that mawkish, waxen face; the most ordinary would be painting on its white the colours of the rainbow, and turning the blue eyes, black, every day or two; they detestably resemble Linton’s”. He marries her out of pure spite as Edgar would not approve of it.He will do anything to discomfort his enemy and will not suffer “unrevenged” as he warned Cathy because she treated him “infernally”. As soon as he is married to Isabella he starts treating her dreadfully, so that it will hurt Edgar, “that he had the key of our room in his pocket.

The adjective our gave mortal offence. He swore it was not, nor ever should be mine; I should be Edgar’s proxy in suffering, till he could get a hold of him. ” He does not follow the usual marriage ritual of sharing rooms and consummating the marriage. She is not treated as a wife should be, and she is being used as a tool to get his revenge on Edgar.

By hurting her, he hurts Edgar. He is extremely cruel and twisted because although he abhors Isabella, “the nuisance of her presence outweighs the gratification to be derived from tormenting her! ” he taunts her mercilessly and enjoys her discomfort, “picturing in me a hero of romance at last, I think she begins to know me… It was a marvellous effort of perspicacity to discover that I did not love her”.

This is a despicable act of malevolence, and he is extremely malicious to break the heart of his enemy’s sister as she is guiltless of any crime. Emily Bronte, in a sense tests us as Heathcliff tests Isabella.No matter what he does to her, she has a “fabulous notion” of his character, just as we do and we continue to read the novel, waiting for Heathcliff to redeem himself. Critic Joyce Carol Oates argues that “Emily Bronte does the same thing to the reader that Heathcliff does to Isabella, testing to see how many times the reader can be shocked by Heathcliff’s gratuitous violence and still, masochistically, insist on seeing him as a romantic hero.

“He has ruined the marriage insofar, that she dreads to be in the same room as him, “I did not relish the notion of deliberately fastening myself in with Heathcliff. And the terror he evokes in her is beyond comprehension. It makes her “think the concentrated essence of all the madness in the world took up its abode in my brain the day I linked my fate with theirs! ” Byronic heroes are known for being arrogant, and Heathcliff and Mr Rochester are no different.Heathcliff believes himself to be above Edgar Linton in every respect, including the favour of Catherine’s affections, “”You suppose she has nearly forgotten me? ” he said.

“Oh Nelly! you know she has not! You know as well as I do, that for every thought she spends on Linton, she spends a thousand on me! This speech portrays superciliousness and conviction of his place in Catherine’s heart. Rochester is proficient in the art of courtship and believes Jane to be in as much love with him as he is with her, “I never thought that while I was mourning her, she was loving another! ” Rochester believes that just because Jane is not bestowed with beauty, she will only love him and nobody else would show an interest in her. Pride also manifests itself in Byronic heroes, and Rochester and Heathcliff are no different.Heathcliff’s immense pride drives him on to transform into a gentleman for Cathy and thus preventing Edgar and Hindley from making disdainful comments, “He’ll be cramming his fingers in the tarts, and stealing the fruit, if left alone with them a minute.

” His proud nature prevented him from bearing the degradation and contemptuous comments and being the source of everyone’s amusement. He sought to better himself and become their equal.Mrs Fairfax says Rochester “is a proud man equality of position and fortune is advisable in such cases. He cares for society’s opinion of him, as he was ashamed to be associated with Bertha Mason due to her behaviour in public, “society associated my name and persons with hers. I added an urgent charge to keep it secret infamous conduct of the wife. ” This is why Mrs Fairfax cannot believe he proposed to Jane, as he would be conscious of society’s opinion.

However, Rochester sees Jane as an equal in his own eyes and believes she has the right to be treated like nobility and showered with presents, “I found nothing [in the veil] save Fairfax Rochester’s pride. I am used to the sight of the demon. ” He has to feel that he is treating Jane like a “normal” wife, despite her wishes to the contrary, “Jewels for Jane Eyre sounds unnatural and strange: I would rather not have them. ” His pride prevents him from refraining from spending money on her, and he orders an elaborately embroidered veil instead of jewels.

Heathcliff is subjected to vicious racism and prejudice “He’s exactly like the son of the fortune teller, that stole my tame pheasant. ” This is entirely due to his appearance, typical of a Byronic hero, “dirty, ragged, black-haired gipsy brat. He has never done anything to deserve rejection, yet wherever he goes, he is discriminated against.He is “hardened to ill treatment” and “bore his degradation pretty well. ” He is an emotionally strong person, as he has the audacity to be victimised without complaining after Mr Earnshaw’s death.

Mr Rochester also resembles a Byronic hero, “He had a dark face, with stern features… heavy brow; his eyes and gathered eyebrows looked ireful and thwarted” Although Mr Rochester resembles and possesses many traits characteristic of the Byronic hero, there is also evidence to suggest he is a conventional man. When he asks Blanche if she’d “like a hero of the road” she replies, “An English hero of the road would be the next best thing to an Italian bandit; and that could only be surpassed by a Levantine pirate. ” This implies that she views Rochester as an “English hero of the road”, therefore a Byronic hero.

His reply of, “Well, whatever I am” dismisses that he is a Byronic hero, and his legal marriage at the end of the novel indicates he is less of a Byronic hero than he first appeared.At first, the reader is misled into believing Rochester is a Byronic hero due to his moodiness and lack of congeniality, “What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be there or not? ” and him having “travelled a great deal, and seen a great deal of the world” has given him the appearance of a wanderer – another characteristic of a Byronic hero. Heathcliff is also seen as a wanderer, as he was found on the streets of Liverpool, which were described as hellish by William Blake in his poetry about “dark Satanic Mills.

“He also disappears for three years, returning in the guise of a gentleman, and his past is shrouded in mystery.Rochester’s past is also shrouded in mystery, due to his former lunatic wife, but his past is revealed, which makes him less of a Byronic hero than Heathcliff, as his forever remains a mystery. Byronic heroes have no respect for the legal and moral codes of their society. Rochester’s self deluding idea that he has no wife shows the extent to which he refuses to acknowledge the rules by which society functions.

Heathcliff has no respect for the dead, as he utters a prayer, “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! ” and tries to exhume Catherine.He also arranges for the sexton to bury him in a joint grave with Catherine, cheating Edgar of that privilege and completing his revenge. This would be regarded as extremely horrific and twisted by the society in which he lived, and Heathcliff has no principles or moral values. Rochester’s principles are also considered “eccentric” by Jane as she finds the reason of his feigned intimacy with Blanche was to invoke jealousy and render Jane “helplessly in love with” him. Another conventional characteristic in Rochester is his inability to bear solitude, “Solitude! solitude! … You Jane are to share my solitude.

He requires human companionship and dislikes isolation, whereas Heathcliff is extremely unfriendly and reclusive, “a visit to my landlord, the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. ” His treatment of Mr Lockwood shows extreme inhospitality, “”I should not allow any one to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it-walk in! ” The “walk in,” was uttered with closed teeth and expressed the sentiment, “Go to the Deuce! “” This is his own tenant, who is paying him, and he shows no ounce of civility. This shows the extent to which he does not abide by the conventions of society and politeness.The differences between the two protagonists in the sisters’ novels are apparent in their notably different names.

Rochester has the title of Mr before his name to show his status and station in life. He was born into a wealthy family, “a wild boy indulged from childhood upwards;” whereas the orphan Heathcliff was adopted into a wealthy family and is the name of the dead child which deprives him of a surname and suffices as a Christian name. Having one name is quite peculiar and shows his rank in life is low despite his attempt at turning into a gentleman; he still did not acquire a surname.Their residences also reflect their personalities.

Wuthering Heights is quite far removed from society, which shows Heathcliff’s preference for solitude. The house is built to withstand stormy weather, which also reflects Heathcliff’s ability to withstand rejection in love and society, his reduction to a slave, and ability to withstand abuse and beatings. Rochester lives at Thornfield, and Rochester can cause emotional pain, just like a thorn field can physically cause pain, his cruel torment of Jane by pretending to send her to Ireland inflicts deep pain on her.

“Heathcliff, however, surpasses all definitions of revenge, and goes beyond the point of retribution.He is like “a vicious cur that appears to know the kicks it gets are its desert, and yet, hates all the world, as well as the kicker, for what it suffers. ” Heathcliff spares nobody and after Catherine’s death, revenge is the sole reason for his existence. He is so eager to complete his revenge against Hindley that he hopes “he does not die before I do.

“Heathcliff does not spare the innocent and even attacks “representatives” of his “enemies” Byronic heroes have an equal capacity to love as they do to hate. Heathcliff’s almost inhuman love for Catherine is all consuming and passionate, “I cannot live without my life!I cannot live without my soul! ” This brings in the element of the supernatural, as he is a tormented spirit without Catherine to sustain his life with normal function. After her death he becomes half human. Rochester’s love is romantic, devoted and everlasting, “Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own.

” There are gothic and supernatural influences in Jane Eyre too, as he refers to Jane as his “fairy” and he feels “as if I had a string… under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string of your little frame” This has religious overtones due to Eve being created from Adam’s left rib.They also share a telepathic connection, because when the time is right, God answers both their prayers, “I heard a voice from somewhere cry – Jane! Jane! Jane! And it was the voice of Edward Fairfax Rochester. ” This type of love shows that Jane and Rochester are “kindred spirits. ” In conclusion, the protagonists in both Charlotte and Emily’s novels share similarities arising from similar influences on the authors as they are sisters and subjected to the same upbringing and literary influences of Byron, Keats, Shelley and Coleridge.

They also have many differences due to their individual thoughts, perceptions and imaginations.Heathcliff and Rochester conform to Thomas Baubington Macaulay’s view of a Byronic hero to varying degrees – Heathcliff more than Rochester. They have a dark and mysterious past and share a physical appearance similar to the attractive Lord Byron. They are normally brooding, melancholic and aggressive characters hiding a secret, sinful life.

They are capable of a deep and passionate love, using extravagant and romantic language to express it. They invoke the presence of the supernatural through the assertion that their love transcends life into eternity. Byronic heroes fail to give marriage its Christian sanctity.They are capable of cruelty to themselves and others.

Rochester possesses conventional traits as well as elements of the Byronic hero, because he is repentant, unattractive, and is redeemed at the end. He becomes less Byronic as the novel unfolds. Heathcliff embodies all that characterises a Byronic hero to a severe degree, as his past is never revealed, he is always brooding about his revenge on Hindley, aggressive even to females, inhumanly devoted to Catherine, and he invokes the presence of her ghost, and is willing to marry for the sake of invoking Catherine’s jealousy.

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Comparison of Characters of Rochester and Heathcliff by Bronti. (2017, Nov 03). Retrieved from

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