Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
The origins of an individual usually serves as a solid indication of their inherent nature and works of literature throughout history have utilized the origins of characters to manipulate the nature of the plot and the conflicts that comprise the narrative. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is an intense tragedy that is driven by the complexities of love and betrayal as a man named Heathcliff, with an abnormal origin, explores the relationship he has with the only woman he truly ever loves. Bronte illustrates the power of love and redemption that Heathcliff experiences from birth as he endures abuse, betrayal, and revenge throughout his life in order to highlight the effect that a person’s life and the relationships they forge around them have upon the idea of love and the precarious nature of social status.
Bronte utilizes Heathcliff’s beginnings as an important element of the plot, introducing it as one of the key pressures to the major conflict of the novel and revealing the intricate relationship between love and social status through the exploration of Heathcliff’s upbringing. It is revealed through Nelly’s recollection of events to Lockwood that Heathcliff was brought in as an orphan to the Earnshaw family at Wuthering Heights by Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of the manor. This sparks the idea that Mr. Earnshaw had interest in Heathcliff’s wellbeing and is proven to be true as he protects Heathcliff from, his son, Hindley’s abuse. These occurrences are the initial sparks that start the fire leading to the resulting conflicts within the plot as the wealthy and socially elegant clash with the poor and socially gauche. Coming from a background of poverty and isolation from love, Heathcliff’s sudden exposure to wealth, prosperity, and affection in the form of Catherine shapes his inability to forgive and forget her when she leaves him for Edgar Linton, a more socially acceptable husband. This leads to Heathcliff’s determination for vengeance and again produces the major conflict within the novel. In addition to this, Heathcliff’s discovery of love through Catherine and the inability of Catherine to return such love depicts the class difference and uphill fight Heathcliff endures throughout the narrative as he fights to retain the love that society deems unacceptable and forbidden. Heathcliff’s acceptance into the Earnshaw family is not recognized by everyone and Nelly notes that even she did not understand why Mr. Earnshaw had brought him to live with them. This very fact leads to Heathcliff suffering various abuses during his life and translates into the relationships he constructs and the ideas of love that are presented by Bronte. Love is depicted as a construct only permitted to those that are deemed acceptable to experience it. Catherine’s decision to marry Edgar over Heathcliff, despite her greater love for the latter, represents the idea that the origin and background of an individual is far more significant than love and that the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff could never occur due to the concept of social classes. Bronte explores the notion of social status and love in a collaboration of drama and suspense as the love for Catherine is fought between Heathcliff and Edgar paralleling the struggle between the rich and poor within society.
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Bronte further explores the concept of isolation and social classes with an incorporation of betrayal and revenge to highlight the effects of an individual’s upbringings on their ability to love and to emphasize the destructive, formidable nature of a never-ending love. Heathcliff is revealed to have no family and the only form of affection and attention he ever receives is either through Mr. Earnshaw and Catherine or the abuse that Hindley enacts upon him. Such isolation is used to explain why Heathcliff is so infatuated with Catherine and why he is unable to let her go when she decides to marry Edgar over him. His childhood filled with isolation and societal exile plays an important role in Heathcliff’s personal beliefs and his feelings of betrayal when Catherine chooses Edgar over him even after all the love and affection they share. Despite Catherine’s lack of ill intent, Heathcliff becomes determined to exact revenge upon all those that have wronged him, and Bronte is able to transition from a narrative of love and betrayal to one of society’s role in human upbringing along with the ruinous abilities of a forbidden and obsessive love. Bronte alters Heathcliff’s background when Nelly states that Heathcliff leaves home and returns years later after accumulating a mysterious wealth. With his newfound wealth, Heathcliff begins an operation to exact revenge upon those that have wronged him starting with Hindley, who comes to inherit Wuthering Heights after his father’s death.
Heathcliff manages to gain possession of Wuthering Heights which he believes is not enough to satisfy his want of revenge. Despite Catherine’s passing, Heathcliff continues to be besotted with her and searches for any means possible to take his revenge upon Edgar, the man who in his eyes stole his one and only true love. By providing such an intense relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine, Bronte is able to expose the meticulous details of the destructive effects an incessant love can have on an individual. No one is safe as Heathcliff carries out his plans, which affects anyone that was ever involved in his life including his innocent wife, Isabella, his child, Linton, and Hindley’s child, Hareton. This again, serves as a reminder to the audience of the brutal effects that love can have upon all kinds of relationships, whether the individuals within those relationships are involved in the love or not. Bronte’s exploration of social isolation, persistent love, and the notions of one’s upbringings altogether in an overlapping relationship of deception, betrayal, and revenge acts as an analysis of the significant impact one’s origins have upon relationships and the unruly, deleterious effects that love may have on an individual and those around them.
Through the love, betrayal, and revenge that Heathcliff endures and exhibits, Bronte not only highlights the destructive powers that an unending love can have upon the individual trapped within its walls but more importantly provides the audience with an insight into how an individual’s origins and their societal status can play a role in the devastating nature of a complex and intricate relationship characterized by such love and affection. Bronte offers this insight in the hopes that the audience can recognize the flaws of submitting to a relationship of persistent love and betrayal and act upon such deficiencies avoiding the same mistakes Heathcliff or any of her other characters make. Bronte’s narrative and characters demonstrate the significant effects that the origin of an individual has upon love and the social well-being of their character so that mankind may not have to do it themselves and suffer consequences similar to the ones that Heathcliff and those around him had to endure