Heathcliff and the Past in Wuthering Heights
Heathcliff is influenced by his past in a number of ways. The very fact of his origins as a gypsy orphan haunt him at the outset of the novel: he is despised by Hindley, the son of Mr. Earnshaw, and treated as a pariah by the Lintons. He is looked down upon with suspicious eyes by all who judge him because of his gypsy origins. Only Catherine never judges him -- at least, not at first. Her affection for and closeness to him is what causes him to love her. But when she rejects him for Mr. Edgar Linton, Heathclif vows revenge -- not on Catherine (even though she has rejected him because of his low birth) -- but rather on everyone else at Wuthering Heights.
Heathcliff is influenced by his past in his obsession for Catherine. He cannot get over how they bonded as children and how she always showed affection for him. For instance, when Hindley locked him in the attic, Catherine was there to comfort him. She is the only being in his life who seems to genuinely care for and love him. He does not forget that. Even when she dies, torn in two between her devotion to Heathcliff and her devotion to her husband, Heathcliff does not abandon her. In
Each of the ways in which Heathcliff is influenced by the past illuminates the novel as a whole, which is actually told in segments -- with the characters themselves relating events for the readers sake. First, it is Mr. Lockwood who tells of his strange experience staying as Heathcliff's guest at Wuthering Heights. Then it is Nelly's turn to tell the tale. Finally, it is Lockwood's turn to finish the tale when he returns. Everyone is looking to the past in the story -- and some are obsessed with it.
It illuminates the novel in another way, too. Heathcliff's obsession with past wrongs is what prompts the wrongdoing to continue into the future. He wants to make it so that what he suffered as a boy is revisited upon his enemies' children and, if he has his way, their childrens' children. Fortunately this vicious…
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