Comments on the characters

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights. R. H. Durham, 'Comments on the characters'

Mr. Lockwood, who comes from the South of England, finds the people of the Yorkshire moors strangely interesting. He writes a diary, and it is this we are reading as we read Wuthering Heights. We feel him to be a reliable and truthful man, so that when he tells us things which are hard to believe and which cannot be explained, we nevertheless believe them, because it is Mr. Lockwood who tells us. Much of his diary is filled with the earlier history of Wuthering Heights which he hears from his housekeeper, Mrs. Dean, and writes down exactly as she tells it.
    Mr. Heathcliff, when we first meet him, has the appearance of a gipsy and the dress and manners of a gentleman. As the story goes on we discover why this is so. Heathcliff seems to hate everybody, and himself as well, and yet he suffers an agony of love that finally destroys him. Heathcliff is evil, but the reader may feel that the person who suffers most from this evil is Heathcliff himself, and that Heathcliff's overwhelming love for Catherine is something fine and splendid despite all the wickedness and suffering that accompany it.
    Joseph has been a servant at Wuthering Heights for very many years, and is a very old man. This enables him to say and do things which no other servant would dare. He makes a great show of being religious and is always praying, reading the Bible, preaching sermons and warning others how wicked they are. But it is Joseph who is wicked, for beneath all the show hi is mean and ill-natured, stirring up trouble whenever he can.
    Mrs. Catherine Heathcliff's childhood, as Miss Catherine Linton of Thrushcross Grange, was spent among adults with no other children to; pay with, and she developed the usual virtues and vices of an only child who has no mother and a rich and very loving father. Catherine was both obedient and disobedient, honest and deceitful, thoughtful and thoughtless; and this, together with her high spirits and natural longing to explore beyond the limits of Thrushcross Grange, caused a great deal of trouble and unhappiness.
    Hareton Earnshaw has, through the neglect of his father Hindley Earnshaw, and by the deliberate wickedness of Heathcliff, been turned into a rough, ill-mannered, ignorant animal. But beneath his rough exterior there stirs the longing to improve himself, to be able to read, to talk well and behave properly. Physically strong, he is handsome beneath the coarseness that his upbringing has forced on him. The strength of his qualities is proved when at last they are released from years of degradation.
    Mrs. Dean is the most faithful and most human of family servants. She has lived among the people she tells us about and knows every detail about them. She admits that at times she has told small lies, kept some things secret and perhaps even made wrong decisions, but always only after thinking out what would be best to do. She is a strong character who always says and does what she believes to be right, even when she is a servant dealing with her master or mistress. As a result everyone respects her and takes notice of her, even Heathcliff. As we listen to her story we trust her completely, and, as in the case of Mr. Lockwood, we feel we must believe everything she tells us, however strange and unbelievable some of the happenings may be.
    Mr. Earnshaw, the master of Wuthering Heights, must be admired for the human kindness he showed in bringing the starving and parentless child Heathcliff home from Liverpool. But it was his unwise display of affection towards Heathcliff that caused Hindley's jealousy and began all the evil that followed.
    Hindley Earnshaw is difficult to like at any point in the story. He is a bad-tempered tyrant who turns into a drunken fool. Yet one fells pity when he dies, a broken wreck of a man, at twenty-seven.
    Catherine Earnshaw is described by Heathcliff, who loves her with a more that human love, as a devil. As a young girl she is wild, high-spirited and gay. She is disobedient and laughs at the punishment she receives. She teases everyone, loses her temper, and makes herself ill on purpose when she cannot have her own way. As a woman, married to Edgar Linton, she still behaves in much the same way. She is selfish and will torment those who love her best; yet she is very much loved, as such maddening creatures often are. Moreover, when we realize the spiritual depth of her love for Heathcliff we pass from annoyance with her, through love to deep pity.
    Edgar Linton when we first meet him is a rather weak, not very likeable young man. He is good-looking and rich, and life is too easy for him. But as he grows older and suffers many sorrows his character hardens, and when he is faced with a long illness he shows strength and courage.
    Isabella Linton is a foolish girl whom we despise at first for her stupidity but who later has our sympathy, when she suffers Heathcliff's hatred.
    Linton Heathcliff, the sickly, weak son of Isabella and Heathcliff, must be pitied for the ill-treatment he receives from his father, but can only be disliked for his own mean cowardliness and unforgivable treatment of Catherine Linton, his only friend in the world.