Heathcliff has been described as both an archetypal romantic hero and an intrinsically evil villain
“She abandoned them under a delusion” he said, “picturing in me a hero of romance and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion.” Heathcliff is portrayed as a villain but at the same time, a romantic hero.It seems that he is double edged.
He schemes to get Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, but he is not always so vengeful and rancorous. For example, when the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw came to the window, he wept for her and begged for her to come back.
“Come in! Come in! Cathy do come. Oh do once more! Oh! My heart’s darling! Hear me this time, Catherine at last! ” in this he shows his hypersensitive side and emotional side. He begs Catherine to go to him and be with him forever. However, his vengeful side does get the better of him quite often and demonstrates him to be gothic, dark, evil and morose. “Though it’s as dark, almost as if it came from the devil. ” This explains his gothic and dark approach. The evil and morose trait is unveiled with Hindley, where he swears revenge on him for all the grief and pain Hindley inflicted on Heathcliff.
Hindley was so callous and malicious towards Heathcliff and always belittled him as well as treating him like a dog, that this made Heathcliff become so vengeful, he became bitter, twisted and calculating. This vengeance has built up inside Heathcliff stemmed from the mistreatment that he received as a young boy. The fact that he ran away from Wuthering Heights was because of an Earnshaw, just not Hindley, but Catherine. An archetypal romantic hero is one that was typical and habitual. They can be dark and moody and vampiric, like Heathcliff, or hypersensitive, passionate and emotional, also like Heathcliff.
In the Victorian era, there would’ve been lots of heroes like Heathcliff, called Byronic heroes. Bronti?? challenges the morals of the Victorian era, by creating a dark, bitter, twisted mind that is Heathcliff. Also she challenges the morals of the Victorian era by giving Catherine the more dominant role. Her husband, Edgar Linton, is made out to be more feminine than Catherine is. In the Victorian period, the male would’ve played the dominant role traditionally. Bronti?? defies convention by portraying Catherine as the more dominant of the two.
Bronti?? depicts Edgar as somewhat womanly up against Heathcliff. She describes Heathcliff as a tall grown man and up against him; Edgar looks and acts more pale and feminine than normal. Bronti?? also makes Edgar out to be the weaker sex. He is always being pushed around by Catherine and is a complete walkover. He never sticks up for himself around Heathcliff and cannot fight Heathcliff on his own. Edgar is constantly hiding behind his men or Catherine because he is so weak and anxious. Even his sister, Isabella, completely makes him out to be superfluous and unneeded.
Bronti?? also defies convention by giving the females the authoritive role. She gives Nelly the role of the person who stirs things up and blows things right out of proportion. Nelly always interferes with other people’s business and meddles in other people’s affairs. She stirs up a rumour about Catherine and Heathcliff ‘arguing’ and tells Edgar. This sparks off a massive argument between Catherine and Edgar because he won’t fight Heathcliff on his own. Catherine is thought to be attention seeking by Nelly, who doesn’t believe her at all.
By being an attention seeker, Catherine gets what she wants, and if she doesn’t, then she will do her damnedest to make sure she gets it. Because she cannot have both Edgar and Heathcliff, she makes herself terribly ill because they have both broken her heart by arguing. By doing all of this, Catherine makes herself so ill, that she eventually dies. But before she dies, Heathcliff wills to see her. He is portrayed as the romantic hero then towards Catherine. He cries when she is drastically ill and dying in his arms. “Oh Cathy! Oh my life! How can I bear it? This shows how hypersensitive he can be. He truly loves Catherine and doesn’t want to lose her.
He blames her for inflicting pain on him by making herself ill. He hates her for it but he still madly and deeply loves her and cannot find it in himself to hate her forever. He has an absolute determination to be with her for as long as they both shall live and even when she dies, he cries. He detests being away from her and wills her to haunt him. He cannot bear the thought of someone else having her, which is why he was so cut up about Catherine and Edgar getting married.
He believes in transcendent love and wants to carry on loving her but wants to be with her. He wants Catherine to come back to him so they can carry on together. Whilst he is with Catherine, he turns quite violent on her and shouts at her, demanding to know why she has been making him suffer so badly. She is very apologetic towards him and begs for his forgiveness, as well as wishing she wasn’t dying so she could be with him for even longer. Heathcliff is intent of pushing the boundaries so as he and Catherine can be together forever.
Towards Hindley’s son Hareton, he deviously takes away his rights, but at the same time, makes Hareton love his oppressor. Because Hindley has neglected Hareton due to his drink problem, Heathcliff has taken the liberty of acting like Hareton’s parent, but at the same time, taken all of Hareton’s rights away from him and downtrodden him to the level Hindley walked over and belittled Heathcliff to. This is one form of many ways of revenge Heathcliff has on the Earnshaw family. We wouldn’t have expected this of Heathcliff, because Nelly described him as a sweet little boy who never stirred whilst ill.
Heathcliff has shown and intrinsically evil villainous side to him. He is a born evil character and is always seeking revenge on everyone who mistreated him or anyone who did something to him or did something he didn’t like, such as Edgar and Catherine getting married. An intrinsically evil villain is one who is pure evil, 100% evil even. He or she will stomp and trample over anyone to get what he or she wants and will not stop until they get it. His actions and evil motives are essential to the plot because he is the most unpredictable person in the novel.
What he does is so unpredictable, yet so obvious. This reading of Heathcliff is backed by his mistreatment of Isabella and Hareton, his scheming to get what he wants (namely Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange and Catherine) and his violence towards Hindley. “If you don’t let me in, I’ll kill you! ” this evil quote was spoken by Heathcliff and aimed towards Isabella. This was when she locked him out in the cold, just like when Hindley made him sleep in the stables. We cannot however, deny the fact that we are secretly impressed with his cleverness, shown through his scheming and wickedness.
We are impressed because we are all a tiny bit envious of him because of his cleverness and amazed at how he gets away with the scheming. Not only does he act a role of the villain but he also challenges the generic description of a romantic hero. He has no morals, his behaviour is devilish and demonic, his gothic and vampiric connotations and his sheer enjoyment of being with the dead. He is, to some extent an anti-hero, yet has the charm and with to win over anyone he chooses. He is cunning, conniving, scheming and hell-bent on revenge. This type of behaviour makes him out to be an anti-hero.
He is so outrageous and demonic, he lacks all heroic, admirable morals and qualities and is so evil, and it is hard to describe him as a hero. Throughout the book, Heathcliff only ever shows his ‘romantic’ qualities he has to Catherine. He doesn’t show them to Isabella, who really he should because she is his wife. He is totally iniquitous towards Isabella. However, she does antagonise him by taunting him about the death of Catherine and derides him about how he is going to live without her. It doesn’t help that she locks him out of his own house.
We sympathise with Heathcliff over the way he treats Isabella because she is silly and has a terrible attitude. His vengeance also stemmed from abuse he suffered as a young child from Hindley. Although he was a calm and peaceful child, his revenge grew and grew. So we fell his actions towards these two individuals is justifiable. For some strange reason he always has our feeling that, however unscrupulous his behaviour is, he is always right and justified. We see him as a villain but sympathise with him on the night of the funeral for the reason that he is distraught at the thought and reality of losing Catherine.
Bronti?? is making a stand against convention. She feels that by giving males the dominance in novels and life is unfair, so she makes a stand against it. She wants people to be shocked by reading this novel and feels the only way she can do it is by doing the normal, then flipping it upside down. For example, Catherine is a rich female living with her husband. However, she is the more dominant of the two, which would have been strange to individuals in the Victorian era. The novel at the time was received with great criticism.
One review of the novel quotes “too disgusting for the eye or the ear to tolerate, and unredeemed, so far as we could see, by one single particle either of wit or humour, or even psychological truth, for the characters are as false as they are loathsome. ” This was one of the reviews that many people would have agreed with. They would have agreed with this because the characters were indeed eccentric and officious, but they were what they were. They were characters in a kind of love triangle. They were ordinary people who had very tumultuous relationships but deeply loved each other.
Edgar loves Catherine, Heathcliff loves Catherine and Catherine loves both Heathcliff and Edgar. The novel was considered to be evil and immoral. Bronti?? wrote about females dominating some men in the novel. She defied convention to try and shock the reader into reality. She truly believed that women should have had the same rights as the men had. She criticised the way that women had to give up themselves and remain silent. This means they had no say in what happened. They could not work. They had to sit at home all day and sew or serve.
Bronti?? didn’t like that, so she wrote a novel that would make the reader see reality and hopefully change the way women lived. To publish the novel however, she used a pseudonym. She used the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’. If women wrote anything for example, it would not be published. The world then was considered to be male. The only way for women to heard was if they somehow managed to present themselves as male. This is why she used the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Her sister, Charlotte Bronti??, also a writer, used the pseudonym Currer Bell, so as her novels, including Jane Eyre, could be published.
Emily Bronti?? challenges stereotypes and the archetypal heroes that the readers are familiar with. She criticises the people who do not stand up for what they believe in. in Heathcliff, there is a character that everybody has to love because he poses a threat to conventional order and morality. Without Heathcliff, the novel would lack all passion and be boring and tentative. Bronti??’s suggestion in this novel is that people should follow their heart and not convention. Heathcliff and Catherine’s idea of heaven is returning to the Heights.
This is highly unconventional and totally unchristian. The raison d’i??tre of all the tragedy and evil in the novel was a result of Catherine doing what every other women in the Victorian era, not standing up for what she believed in and not standing up for what she really wanted. Heathcliff is full of contradictions. He has been described by many as a villain and also described as a romantic hero. He is intrinsically evil and contradictory. He is also an archetypal romantic hero. He flouts the typical description of him as a romantic hero and swears he is not a romantic hero.
He seems to be double edged and has an absolute determination to be with his one true love forever. He is a great believer in transcendent love and assumes he can push the boundaries and be with Catherine for as long as time. His connotations with the devil and death are clearly stated and he refuses to be classed as a hero. He fascinates yet repulses us. We seem to take his side no matter how awful and immoral his actions are. I think that Bronti?? challenged the Victorian critics because she wanted to change the way life was. Women were not allowed a say in anything that happened, and she felt that that wasn’t fair.
Personally, I don’t think Heathcliff is a very approachable character. He is moody, self-centred, annoying, vile, hypocritical and malevolently malicious. He only cares about himself, even after 150 years he is problematically difficult to understand. “His black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under his brows” is a perfect description of the demonic, evil mortal he is; he denotes the demonic qualities of a flea. He is annoying, you wish he wasn’t there; you purposefully avoid anything like him and certainly do not want to be another victim of his cruel, malicious, blood sucking nature.