Wuthering Heights English Coursework: How does Bronte convey a sense of Heathcliffs character?
Bronte depicts Heathcliff differently to us throughout different stages of the book - Wuthering Heights English Coursework: How does Bronte convey a sense of Heathcliffs character? introduction. Heathcliff’s character changes in both the sense of his attitude to other people, and his overall appearance. The character we see in the present is very different to the young Heathcliff we see. In Chapter 1, Mr Lockwood is narrating, so we see Heathcliff through the eyes of a stranger. This means that Mr Lockwood’s depiction of Heathcliff is unbiased. At the point Lockwood meets Heathcliff, Cathy has already died as have Hindley and Linton.
However, Hareton and Catherine are alive. The fact that these characters are living/dead, must be taken into consideration when we evaluate Heathcliff’s character as their death/birth may have had an impact on the development of his character. The fact that Lockwood is narrating gives us an unbiased evaluation of Heathcliff as a character, due to the fact Lockwood doesn’t know what Heathcliff used to be like. This means that any comment Lockwood makes about Heathcliff, is most likely an accurate representation of Heathcliff.
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For example, where Lockwood calls Heathcliff ‘reserved’, Lockwood’s comment is based upon what he sees in front of him, so we learn a lot about Heathcliff’s character through Lockwood’s narration. Lockwood describes Heathcliff as his ‘troublesome neighbour’. This suggests that Heathcliff portrays a sense of mischief. Throughout the chapter, Lockwood keeps stating that Heathcliff is even more socially inept that himself, this is important as it highlights to us just how solitary Heathcliff is. The solitary view we see of Heathcliff leads us as readers to want to know why he is acting in this unsociable manner.
The word troublesome implies a sense of danger, which we find enticing as it conveys a message of more trouble to come, thus making us wanting to read more and making Heathcliff’s character highly complex. In Chapter 1, Heathcliff’s manner of speaking is very gruff, and animalistic. This is a reflection of his character towards Lockwood, for example: Heathcliff ‘growled’ at Lockwood which is not dignified behaviour for a gentleman to make. Growling is behaviour that would typically be conveyed by gypsies in Lockwood’s mind, as gypsies are seen as like dogs in the era of this book.
This is important because Heathcliff was originally a gypsy and is affiliated with dogs throughout this chapter and the entire novel. Lockwood states that Heathcliff is a ‘surly owner’, and this indicates to us that he is obviously both rude and unsociable. This indication leaves us with a feeling of distaste toward Heathcliff at this point as Lockwood points out his floors including his ‘impatience’. This ‘impatience’ Lockwood talks about conveys a sense of danger in the fact that Heathcliff seems like he could erupt any minute, implying that he is highly unpredictable.
We see the affiliation to dogs when Heathcliff explains his dog’s defensiveness. ‘I and my dogs, hardly know how to receive them (guests). ‘ This shows us that Heathcliff compares himself with dogs, perhaps because he felt like one during his turbulent childhood. It also tells us that he is not used to visitors and that due to both his and his dogs reaction, guests aren’t particularly welcome. This unwelcome feeling he conveys to guests gives us another indication of his surly, impolite features in his character. When the narrator changes to Nelly in Chapter 4, we go back in time to when Heathcliff originally arrived at Wuthering Heights.
Nelly’s view of Heathcliff will be more biased than Lockwood as she raised Heathcliff herself. Heathcliff’s entrance is particularly important, as it lay’s the path for his future within the house. Heathcliff is brought back from Liverpool with Mr Earnshaw into the unwelcoming arms of the rest of the family. Nelly tells us about the arrival of Heathcliff and what happened on that day. Heathcliff was described as ‘dirty, ragged, black-haired child………….. gipsy brat’. We can see from that sentence that he was obviously looked down upon for his heritage, which may have caused anger on Heathcliff’s part.
This anger is what causes Heathcliffs character to be gruff, and cruel and therefore Bronte depicts to us that Heathcliff has reasons to be as angry as he is. We also learn that Heathcliff was both verbally and physically abused as a child. Nelly portrays this abuse through describing Hindley and Heathcliff’s relationship. Hindley’s hatred of Heathcliff is realised in this passage: ‘Take my colt, gipsy then! And I pray that he may break your neck: take him, and be damned your beggardly interloper! And wheedle my father out of all he has. ‘
This passage shows us that Hindley believes Heathcliff is just here to use Mr Earnshaw’s charity against him. Hindley is basically wishing Heathcliff to die, so his hatred is extreme. The passage also shows us that Heathcliff has learnt to blackmail Hindley so as to get his own back. This is showing us a glimpse of things to come in the future, where Heathcliff makes a living out of blackmail. An example of Heathcliff’s blackmail is where he strips Hindley of all his money and worth, and he leaves him practically pennyless. The blackmail which Heathcliff becomes associated with helps to portray a sense of evil and slyness in his character.
Nelly also states that Heathcliff grew accustomed to ‘Hindley’s blows without winking or shedding a tear’. This shows us that even as a child, Heathcliff was strong and didn’t let his emotions get to him. This lack of emotions gives us an insight as to why Heathcliff is such a cold character who doesn’t sympathise with anyone, Bronte is trying to make the audience understand Heathcliffs motives, and why he doesn’t understand others emotions. In Chapter 9, Heathcliff is seen to have different sides to his character, which are conveyed through the actions he takes in this chapter.
At the beginning of Chapter 9 Heathcliff saved Hareton from his drunken father, accidently. Nelly documents the entire sequence of events, and through her eyes it is obvious what Heathcliff did in saving Hareton was not out of compassion, just impulse. This is highlighted in the sentence ‘if it had been dark he would have tried to remedy the mistake by smashing Hareton’s skull’. This shows us again that Heathcliff’s character is truly evil. This is a malicious thing to do, and we can see from Nelly’s words that Heathcliff obviously had changed and has become engulfed by his anger to the extent he would harm a child to harm Hindley.
By portraying this sense of evil by the actions Heathcliff takes, Bronte conveys a more realistic sense of evil in Heathcliff. We also learn that Heathcliff is able to love, so is not entirely a lost soul. His love for Cathy is made obvious to us in the passage. When Cathy is gossiping to Nelly, Heathcliff is lying near-by so can hear every word. Cathy says that ‘marrying Heathcliff would degrade me’ and that she is only marrying Edgar for his money. When Heathcliff hears this he is distraught, so runs away. Heathcliff hearing that sentence meant that the path was set for his life to be one of cruelty and meanness.
The implications that sentence had on his life were immense, however it made him more adamant to get money to prove himself to Cathy, no matter how many people he ruins along the way. This selfishness is portrayed by Bronte further along in the novel, but this is the catalyst for his ‘bad’ ways. It also makes his hatred for Edgar even stronger, because Cathy saw Edgar as a better prospect than Heathcliff. This degrading by Cathy leaves us feeling sympathetic for Heathcliff, and this adds to the confusing manner of Heathcliff which Bronte succeeds in delivering.
His turbulent mood swings leave us almost having two different characters, the good and the bad. The weather in Chapter 9 is representative of pathetic fallacy, due to the fact that it is stormy and dark, like the mood is during this chapter. The stormy weather is reflective of Heathcliff’s mood when he hears Cathy say he degrades her, he feels angry and Bronte uses stormy weather to reflect this. We see this connection between Heathcliff’s mood and the weather where Nelly says that ‘the clouds were inclined to thunder’.
This portrays the turbulent mood Heathcliff is in due to his degrading. The dark weather could also represent the dark clouds covering Hindley’s mind, through his drunkenness. The overall gloomy atmosphere reflects Cathy’s grief at Heathcliff’s departure, because Nelly says that where she was outside standing ‘great drops began to plash around her’. This is showing Cathy’s grief on a larger scale, as it as if the sky is crying just like her. Not only does the weather reflect all of those things, it also represents Heathcliff’s character.
Heathcliff is turbulent, easy to aggravate, dark and sinister, stormy (his anger) and cold. By the weather reflecting his character, the points are shown in a clearer, darker perspective. For example ‘growling thunder’, is just like Heathcliff’s character therefore it highlights these points in his character by the weather associating with him when he is angry. Bronte has used pathetic fallacy to make us see in a different way to the grief and anger in this chapter and by doing so gives Heathcliff’s character an element of the supernatural as it is as if the weather is changing just for him.
Later on in the book, we see these supernatural tendencies to Heathcliff’s character again, when he has lured young Catherine to Wuthering Heights. When Nelly is narrating his movements, rather than just stating that he walked down, she says he ‘descended down’. This depiction of him being something powerful, gives him the presence that he uses to scare people into doing what he wants. Therefore, the way Bronte hints at supernatural tendencies in Heathcliff makes his character more powerful, and gives his character a confidence that is unnerving.
Cathy’s opinion of Heathcliff is important so that we can form a rounded judgement of Heathcliff’s character. When she is discussing her relationships with Nelly, by what Cathy says and how she says it, it is obvious she is besotted by Heathcliff. However, she realises it would be in her best interests to leave him. We see this where she says ‘degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how i love him’, from the tone of this sentence we see the grief she feels that she can’t have Heathcliff, and therefore we can infer that she loves him.
This gives us a sense of Heathcliff’s good qualities; by the way Bronte makes him a necessity to Cathy. In contrast to her feelings about Heathcliff, we learn that Cathy sees Edgar as more of a friend than a suitor. When Cathy compares her feelings toward Edgar with her feelings towards Heathcliff, it is obvious who she truly loves: ‘Every Linton on the face of the earth might melt into nothing, before I could forsake Heathcliff’. This shows us Edgar means nothing to her in comparison to Heathcliff.
By making this comparison, we learn a lot about Heathcliff’s character and the way he is very compelling and the complete opposite to the ‘good’ character of Edgar. Throughout the passage, Cathy talks about Heathcliff as if he was a drug, something addictive that she NEEDS. We see that she truly can’t live without him here: ‘my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: as source of little visible delight but necessary’. This shows us that her entire life is built on the foundations of her relationship with Heathcliff; therefore we can see that Heathcliff’s character is one that people remain loyal to.
She refers to Heathcliff as being her (‘i AM Heathcliff’), and that ‘my greatest miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries’. This shows us that because she is a part of him and vice versa, she is addicted to him and if he goes, a part of her does to. This makes Heathcliff seem to be dangerous to get involved with, because of the addiction he has caused within Cathy and the way she is dependent on Heathcliff for survival. Heathcliff’s character is put across here as being someone that once you love you can’t live without, whereas Edgar is portrayed as just a trophy husband who means nothing and is just for show.
The way Bronte compares the two characters very clearly, means we can see the distinguishable differences between them both, which highlights Heathcliff’s character even more. In Chapter 16, Cathy dies. Nelly narrates through the events that follow her death. Nelly says that she ‘wished yet feared, to find him (Heathcliff)’. Nelly say’s this once Cathy dies, and Nelly is attempting to inform Heathcliff of the sad news. This quote is significant because it shows us that Bronte trying to portray Heathcliff as being fearsome.
It is also important because Nelly is worried about telling him, as she knows he will be upset as the relationship between the two of them was very powerful. From this we can infer that Nelly Heathcliff has a heart, and that it is likely it will be broken when she informs him of the loss of Cathy. The way Nelly says it implies that she thinks Heathcliff might already know, just out of instinct, infers that he has elements of the supernatural, as i stated beforehand. The quote also portrays Heathcliff as someone to fear when upset because perhaps he will be violent, like Hindley was, when a loved one dies (his wife Frances).
When Nelly finds Heathcliff, his appearance is depicted differently to how it usually is. He is portrayed as being very calm and subdued, which is in contrast to his usually angry self. Nelly says ‘He had been standing a long time in that position’, this is significant because usually Heathcliff is loud and paces around. This tells us that Cathy’s death has significant effects on Heathcliff’s character, such as the subdued manner Heathcliff adopts compared to his usual gruff manner. The other effect her death has on him, is he begins to vehemently hate all people, and becomes even less courteous and a ruder person.
Cathy’s death sucked the small amount of goodness that remained within him before her death. Nelly thinks of Heathcliff: ‘Poor wretch’ ‘you have a heart and nerves the same as your brother men; why should you be anxious to conceal them’. This shows us that his character is likable enough to be get sympathy from Nelly, however this may is unreliable as Nelly is biased toward Heathcliff. It also shows us that Nelly thinks he is a brave man, who never lets his emotions show and is afraid of being truly seen. This tells us that Heathcliff’s character is not very secure, and likes to be in control of all his emotions.
Bronte conveys Heathcliff character as a very hardy man, but from Nelly’s opinion we see that Heathcliff may have emotions he is just afraid to show. Instead of letting out his emotions in grief or crying, Heathcliff lets his emotion out through anger. Heathcliff’s reaction to the news of Cathy’s death is very violent; he lays a curse on her stating: ‘Catherine Earnshaw, you may not rest as long as I am living’. This is disturbing behaviour but we know that this is because Heathcliff feels angry at Cathy for abandoning him.
This shows us that he is not inclined to think rationally, as his anger at everyone overcomes any logical response he may have made. He then says that he ‘can’t live without my life! I cannot live without my soul’. This line in particularly important because Cathy previously said about Heathcliff: ‘Nelly, I am Heathcliff’. This shows us that they both felt the same way about each other, that they needed one and other to survive. This similarity in the way they felt about it each other, shows us the loyalty and love for each other they both had in their characters.
When Heathcliff takes Edgar’s lock of hair from Cathy’s trinket and places his own in, we get the feeling of the inseparability of the two characters. It also proves Heathcliff’s ability to love her forever, and wanting to be close to her forever. This shows us that he feels he was closer to Cathy than Edgar was, because he discards Edgar’s lock and replaces it with his own; this also shows a lack of respect for anyone but Cathy, in particular his lack of respect for Edgar. The romantic element of Heathcliff’s character is portrayed here as he believes that by keeping a part of himself near Cathy, his heart will also be with her forever.
At the beginning of Chapter 27 we are introduced to Linton, Heathcliff’s son from his turbulent relationship with Isabella. Linton and Heathcliff’s characters are complete opposites. Nelly states that Linton’s ‘greater animation’ is ‘fear’. This is the opposite to Heathcliff who fears no-one and never flinches at blows. Catherine calls Linton ‘an abject reptile’. This is very fitting, as Linton’s character is like a snake in the grass. He tempts like in the Garden of Eden and betrays Catherine to Heathcliff.
This is contrasting to Heathcliff’s character because he is not a sneaky character; he does everything outright and doesn’t hide what he is trying to do from people. In that sense, Heathcliff is very honest. The manner, in which Heathcliff speaks to Nelly, is heartily without any feeling of distaste towards her. This shows us that Heathcliff’s character does not hate without reason. Heathcliff brings up Edgar Linton’s state of illness; this may be seen as insensitive as Edgar is dying. Linton was sat ‘watching at the same spot’, this shows us that Linton’s character watches from afar rather that doing anything.
Unlike his father, Heathcliff, who goes out of his way to make trouble. The way Linton says ‘But my father threatened me!………… and I dread him- I dread him! ‘, shows the complete fear he has of his father. This may be because Heathcliff’s character is violent, abusive and a bully. Linton also confesses to Catherine that he is hiding something and ‘he dare not tell her’, this portrays Linton’s cowardice and the highlights the fact that he is fearful of his father. Linton also says that ‘his life is in her hands’. This is emotional blackmail, and something Heathcliff has never done, however he had blackmailed Hindley before.
Heathcliff refers to Linton as a ‘whelp’ and ‘snivelling’. This implies that Heathcliff dislikes Linton, and feels no paternal love towards Linton, only shame. Bronte portrays Heathcliff’s lack of parental love by highlighting the fact that he looks down on Linton. Heathcliff treats Linton like a dog, getting him to do his bidding. This is especially fitting, as Heathcliff refers to Linton as ‘whelp’. Heathcliff and Linton are portrayed as being complete opposites, which means we get a very clear view of how cruel Heathcliff is, and how useless Linton is.
During Chapter 27, Heathcliff’s language use is exceedingly horrible and brutal towards Linton. He uses commanding language and tones towards everyone, particularly Nelly and Linton. He commands Linton to get up and tells Nelly to ‘take him in’. By using these tones and command, Bronte makes us realise how controlling Heathcliff is of his house, and that he is highly unmerciful. The line ‘you’ll force me to pinch the baby and make it scream’ is Heathcliff emotionally blackmailing them so Linton doesn’t get hurt.
This shows us how far Heathcliff has gone downhill, that he now emotionally blackmails people. Heathcliff is now obviously evil, but he warns Catherine of this: ‘it’s odd what a savage feeling I have towards anything that seems afraid of me’. This statement shows us that he seems to be almost mocking the people he has intimidated, simply out of malice. Heathcliff’s character is degrading towards others, he makes people feel bad about both themselves and others.
This element of Heathcliff’s character is implied by Bronte here: ‘he cursed you, I dare say, for coming into this world (I did at least). Heathcliff is attempting to break down Catherine’s love for her father by making her feel bad about the fact that her birth was the end of her mother’s life. By saying ‘(I did, at least)’. Bronte conveys the grief Heathcliff still feels at his loss of Cathy, this betrays his feeling’s for Catherine’s mother yet again, showing that he does have a softer element to his character. From these points, Heathcliff’s character is perceived as a very mean, bully type character. Throughout Chapter 27, Heathcliff’s actions and motives enable us to perceive more about his character, and how much it has changed.
Heathcliff’s actions are very harsh and he has no problem with using violence: ‘administered with the other shower of slaps’. Heathcliff was violent before, but this violence is crueller than previously portrayed by Bronte. This could be because she is trying to convey Heathcliff as being more violent now, due to the things that have happened to him as he has gone through the years. By using the word ‘administered’, Bronte conveys the sense that this is a common thing, like administering medicine is, for example. Heathcliff’s actions and motives are more unforgiving now, than they were earlier on.
Heathcliff’s motives are blunt and open, and he has forgotten how to treat human beings like humans, and not objects to be used. This is shown when Linton says ‘Papa wants us to be married’. From this, we can perceive that Heathcliff is exceedingly blunt, but also highly powerful and he knows it as he doesn’t hide his plans as he knows people will go along with them out of fear. Heathcliff uses his powerful status to attack people both verbally and physically. Nelly states that Heathcliff’s attack on Catherine was an attack of ‘diabolical violence’. This is showing us that the cruelty Heathcliff used was unnecessary.
Therefore, this gives us the impression that Heathcliff doesn’t know how to control himself. The implication of his action is that Catherine is now more afraid of him, as she is ‘trembling like a reed’. By including Catherine’s reaction Bronte shows us the effect Heathcliff has on people, and this makes it easier to convey the sense of fear he makes people feel. Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship is complicated. Heathcliff’s attitude towards Catherine is one on pure hatred and malevolence. He is exceedingly blunt to her, with the marry Linton or leave you father to die without you situation.
Heathcliff also is plain mean; he says he doesn’t ‘love her’ and that he ‘doesn’t care for her tears’. Heathcliff also tries to degrade Catherine; he says that Edgar will think she’s gone off for some ‘amusement’ and that ‘it’s normal to desire amusement. ‘ This shows us that Heathcliff’s aim is to make people feel bad for the actions they have taken, but it also hints at his relationship with Cathy, Catherine’s mother. This shows that he perhaps still makes a link between mother and daughter, but wishes he didn’t which is why he is being so cruel to Catherine.
Catherine’s attitude towards Heathcliff is slightly softer. Catherine is like her mother in the sense that she believes there is good in Heathcliff, this shows there must still be enough of Heathcliff’s original character left, for Catherine to feel that way. In conclusion, Bronte conveys Heathcliff’s character differently throughout different points in the book. We see the gradual evilness build up inside him. We notice things that make us think that it could possibly lead to something in the future, for instance young Heathcliff blackmailing Hindley.
He does exactly the same thing later on in life, but on a grander scale. By using this technique, Bronte has the audience hooked so that they will find out whether their predictions are going to be correct. Heathcliff’s character is conveyed using non-naturalistic devices as well, like pathetic fallacy and supernatural tendencies. This makes the whole book more interesting, and bold. Heathcliff’s character goes through a cycle, from a slightly dishevelled child to an evil old man. By doing this, we learn about how and why he has turned out the way he has, which helps us understand his motives.