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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes
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NOTE: How many people has Heathcliff tormented? It's hard
to keep track. Yet his cruelty doesn't bore you, since much of
it-unlike what you see on television-is left to your
imagination. Heathcliff only hinted, for instance, at what he
was doing to Isabella. And when he describes his punishment
of Linton for letting Cathy out, he will say only that: - I
brought him down one evening... and just set him in a chair,
and never touched him afterwards.... In two hours I called
Joseph to carry him up again, and since then my presence is as
potent on his nerves as a ghost.... - What did Heathcliff do? Did
he say anything? Did he just look at him? The description of a
simple beating would have been less horrifying, for at least you
would have known what happened.

In chapters 18 through 28 Heathcliff became almost the
personification of evil. In this chapter he takes Cathy away
from Thrushcross Grange to install her permanently at
Wuthering Heights. In the next chapter he will watch Linton's
death with complete indifference, perhaps even contributing to
it. Yet now, to remind you that he is human, Emily Bronte
throws in a scene so you recall Heathcliff's suffering. It begins
when Cathy tells him with dreary triumph, "Nobody loves you-
nobody will cry for you when you die! I wouldn't be you!"
Knowing that his misery is greater than hers, she says, is her
"revenge." The truth of Heathcliff's suffering becomes more
evident when he tells Ellen that he looked at Cathy's mother's
dead face when Edgar's grave was dug, and that he has bribed
the sexton to slide away the tops of her coffin and his own so
that they will someday be united in death. Heathcliff now gives
his own version of events the night after Cathy's funeral when
Hindley was beaten. The first time you heard the story, you
feel Heathcliff acted with extreme cruelty and violence. In
Heathcliff's version the Hindley incident is reduced to: "[T]hat
accursed Earnshaw and my wife opposed my entrance. I
remember stopping to kick the breath out of him...." Which
story should you believe? Should Heathcliff's behavior be
excused because of his overwhelming grief? When Heathcliff
dug open her grave and began to open her coffin, he felt her
very presence. He hurried back to Wuthering Heights, talking
to her, convinced he would see her upstairs in her room. Since
then he has been searching for her constantly, but has never
found her. Heathcliff's story puts an entirely different light on
the way he treated Hindley and Isabella that night. You can
emphasize whatever aspect you wish: his torment over Cathy,
or his indifference to his own violence. Certainly we have to
sympathize to some extent with his tortured sleepless nights
since Cathy's death.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - Barron's Booknotes

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