Love and Lovability
“There is no character in Wuthering Heights who is completely lovable, who wins our sympathy completely.”(Bloom 99) Love, in one way or another is the force which makes people unlikable. In Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, people’s adoration for one another is the reason why no character is completely lovable. Receiving too much attention spoiled Catherine Earnshaw. Heathcliff was disliked because he had to grow up without a real family to love him. Finally, Hindley turned into a pitiful man because of the love that he lost. For some, affection can change people for the better, but for others love can be a poison for their souls.
Being the only daughter, Catherine was endeared by all those around her. The unwavering love that her family and friends gave her soured her disposition. While on a business trip, her father told his children that they could choose any gift that they wanted. Catherine, being a good rider, “chose a whip.”(40) When she learned that Heathcliff was the reason why she did not get her present, she responded “by grinning and spitting at the stupid little thing.”(41) Since she was used to getting everything that she wanted, she became haughty and had no respect for other people’s feelings.”
“Why canst thou not always be a good lass, Cathy?”
And she turned her face up to his, and laughed, and answered,
“Why cannot you always be a good man, Father?” (47)
Even on his deathbed, Catherine chose to vex her father instead of comforting him. Catherine’s faults, which can be attributed to her rich upbringing, do not endear her to readers.
Heathcliff, being the villain of the tale, is the most horrid character in Wuthering Heights. He manipulates everyone around him and has no regard for anyone but himself. His rotten nature can be traced back to his early years when he was a “poor, fatherless child.”(43) The lack of parental love and guidance made his life a difficult one. Heathcliff was an unwanted child who brought turmoil to a previously happy household. “So from the very beginning, he bred bad feelings in the house.”(42) Instead of rising from his poor position, he degenerated into an evil beast. When Catherine had begun to spend more time at Thrushcross Grange with the Linton’s, Heathcliff lost his self-respect and dignity. “If he were careless and uncared for before Catherine’s absence, he had been ten times more so since.”(56) Heathcliff’s character is truly tragic because his mean disposition is a result of not getting the love that everyone deserves.
The old adage that “It is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all,” is not true in Hindley’s case. The path to his demise began when Heathcliff moved into Wuthering Heights. In Hindley’s eyes, Heathcliff took his place in the family. He saw Heathcliff as “a usurper of his father’s affections and his privileges.”(42) The young vagabond was quieter and gentler so he became a favourite of Mr. Earnshaw. Hindley’s luck took a turn for the worst when his wife, Frances, died. When she passed away, a part of himself died too. His common sense and rationality slowly disintegrated into ashes. “The servants could not bear his tyrannical and evil conduct long.”(68) He soon turned to alcohol for salvation, but his drinking habits only made him worse. Soon enough, Hindley was “degrading himself past redemption, and became daily more notable for savage sullenness and ferocity.”(68) Losing both his father’s and his wife’s love changed Hindley into a spiteful man who was full of hatred.
Love can be a splendid thing, but passionate feelings can also turn people into hateful creatures. For Catherine, too much love was her undoing. In Heathcliff’s case, the absence of parental love doomed him to a life as a bitter, vengeful man. Lastly, lost love and heartbreak destroyed everything kind and gentle about Hindley. Love can make life seem worthwhile, but love can also destroy all that is good about people too.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: New American Library, 1959.
Bloom, Harold. “Introduction”. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Ed. H. Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 97-100