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Heathcliffs Revenge

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It is said that before a man embarks on a journey of revenge, he needs to dig two graves. In Heathcliff's case, he would've been better off with six. In the novel Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff experiences great injustices throughout his youth; from the abuse by his own brother to rejection by his love, his early years are tragic. These events twist his sense of morality and deteriorate his humanity. It is only through cruelty and revenge that Heathcliff is able to find any meaning in his life, and subsequently as he fulfills his quest for vengeance he is simultaneously built up and destroyed by his actions. Bronte uses this example of all consuming vengeance to illustrate that a life lead for destructive purposes only leads to the destruction of those who seek it. This is because by seeking vengeance, pieces of that person's humanity and soul are forfeited and eventually, nothing remains to live for after the vengeance has been achieved.

Heathcliff’s desire for revenge is nurtured during his childhood. From his first moment at the Heights, Hindley despises him as an interloper and usurper of his privileges. Heathcliff attempts to reconcile with Hindley, but nothing he does can appease Hindley, and after being humiliated and sent to his room, Heathcliff confides in Nelly that he is “trying to settle how [he] shall pay Hindley back”(48). This marks the true birth of Heathcliff's quest for vengeance against his brother and begins the degradation of his humanity.

This all consuming desire for vengeance rears its head when Heathcliff catches Hareton as he falls from the banister, and Nelly observes that “[his face] expressed more than words could do, the intensest anguish at having made himself the instrument of thwarting his own revenge...Had it been dark… he would have tried to remedy the mistake by smashing Hareton's skull on the steps”(58). Bronte’s careful selection of the word “anguish” reveals the depths Heathcliff will go to get his revenge, and by referring to his act of saving Hareton as “a mistake” it is seen how easily he will forsake his humanity and morals to achieve his goals. His desire for revenge reaches a peak when Cathy chooses a life of luxury with Edgar over a life with him and their spiritual love. Heathcliff feels betrayed and abandoned by his love, and nurtures a hatred against Edgar. These feelings seep into his heart and morph him into a twisted shell of a man, solely bent on ruining the lives of those who have wronged him.

Heathcliff begins to exact his revenge on Hindley and the Lintons as soon as he returns to the Heights. Wasting no time, he pits son against father, as Hareton says, “[Heathcliff] pays Dad back what he gies to me- he curses dad for cursing at me”(86). This defiling of a father and son’s bond reveals the level to which Heathcliff will sink to in order to have complete vengeance. However he is not content with simply disrupting the bonds of father and son, and will only be satisfied by causing Hareton to depend completely on him, stating that Hareton “will never emerge from his bathos of coarseness and ignorance”(168). This subversion lays the foundation for the more diabolical aspects of his retribution as seen in Chapter 14 when Nelly visits Heathcliff and his newly wed Isabella. “She abandoned them under a delusion”, Heathcliff says “was it not the depth of absurdity - of genuine idiocy- for that pitiful, slavish, mean minded brach to dream that I could love her”(118). Through this monologue, Bronte illustrates the duality of Heathcliff's success. On one hand, he is in the midst of his revenge by taking control of Edgar's lands through marriage, but he is also seen as a man rapidly losing touch with his common decency. The language he uses to describe his wife,



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