Heathcliff- A villain created out of his own mistreatment in childhood?

It has been seen that Bronte’s villainous character of Heathcliff is nothing more than a man driven by revenge and having the enjoyment of being able to manipulate the people around him like puppets. But is this truly the workings of an evil man? Or is it the end product of a society that pushed different people away? I think Heathcliff is a misunderstood character treating the world in the same way he was treated, as an outsider and an outcast, not mattering to anyone.

During the novel, in Heathcliff’s younger days he is considered to be a possession of the family, a type of family pet. ‘He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman’ this quote proves that even by appearance he is different to everyone else in the novel. Even in society today we judge people by their looks, imagine looking different then going into a close community such as the one in Wuthering Heights the difference will always cause people to misunderstand and therefore mistreat.

Looking through the novel, you can recognise that the older he gets the more sinister and manipulative Heathcliff becomes. However when he shows his weaker side we see that he is just a man scorn and out of luck, ‘Heathcliff could weep on a great occasion like this’. In this context the great occasion is that of when he lost Cathy completely, due to her death. But the events leading up to him losing Cathy just prove that he is a man tormented by class and his history. This is proven when Cathy chooses to marry Edgar, a man of social stature and wealth.

This then brings me onto the point that Heathcliff isn’t really a villain just a victim of falling in love with a woman who is more inclined to marry for wealth then following her heart. Proving that he was naïve into believing she loved him, we see how Heathcliff was manipulated by a young girl wanting a little bit of fun to boost her ego.  This also shows where Heathcliff developed the tools to become a manipulative man, allowing the audience to see that his behaviour is learnt and not just the workings of a ‘monster’.

Even in his name he is different, simply characterised as ‘Heathcliff’ in first and last name. We see him not belonging to anyone, being alone in a world that thrives on companionship. This breaks the conventions of social patterns, whilst also his name was inherited from that of a dead son providing Heathcliff with the presence of a ghost. No longer present or mattering.

I feel much sympathy for the character of Heathcliff, with everything he has had to deal with throughout his life in Wuthering Heights it’s no wonder he is a little bit disturbed. I am not giving him an excuse for the actions he has taken but I think people should keep an open mind when characterising him as a villain. He isn’t the stereotypical villain he is just a man mistreated and misunderstood.

  1. Interesting… But i disagree!

    • jennafer
    • February 22nd, 2012

    I love the theory about his name making him ghostly and belonging to nobody, never thought about it like that before x

  2. Twas a great read, well done fellow classmates.


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