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In Bronte?s novel Wuthering Heights the idea compensation for love lost is discussed. Wuthering Heights is a quiet house in the country where the Earnshaw?s and Heathcliff live. Heathcliff loves Catherine Earnshaw very much but, she decides to marry another man, Edgar. Heathcliff marries Edgar?s sister just to make Catherine jealous. At the end Heathcliff abandons his plan for vengeance and professes his love for Catherine only to see her die soon after. In the novel Wuthering Heights Bronte shows that revenge is not the key to happiness through irony, through plot, and through characterization.
Irony is used over and over in the novel Wuthering Heights to express the notion of revenge. The main ironic incident in this novel is that no one ends up with the person they want to be with despite the fact that they can be with the one they love. For example Catherine loves Heathcliff. Catherine and Heathcliff are soul mates, and she even remarks to Nelly that, ? I [Catherine] am Heathcliff!? (142). She is angry at Heathcliff for not leaving sooner to make something of himself. Catherine could have had Heathcliff, but she chooses not to and ends up miserable.
Another example of irony is that Heathcliff and Isabella do not love each other. Heathcliff thinks that he is with Isabella to get back at Catherine. He sees Isabella as an unsuspecting ?young lady?(91). However, Isabella married Heathcliff for spite. She resents the fact that her Catherine married her brother and wanted to get back at Catherine. Neither Isabella nor Heathcliff find happiness in each others arms, and they both die miserable and unsatisfied with each other.
The fact that Edgar wants to get back at Heathcliff after Catherine?s death is very ironic. Edgar won. Catherine marries him and not Heathcliff. Edgar is always jealous of Heathcliff. Before Catherine?s demise Edgar tells her that, ?It is impossible for you to be my friend and his at the same time? (99). When Catherine does not
respond to this Edgar goes on to tell her, ?I absolutely require you to choose? (100). When Catherine does die Edgar seeks revenge. He knows that Catherine died of a broken heart torn between Edgar and Heathcliff. Edgar in a ranting rage tells Nelly, ?I?ll crush his ribs in like a rotten hazel nut?(158). He seeks vengeance on Heathcliff, but never gets it.
A final example of irony is with Heathcliff and Hindly. A few years after Hindly condemns Heathcliff to a life of servitude Heathcliff runs off and makes a living. He comes back a wealthy and proper man. Heathcliff helps Hindly out of debt. However, Hindly owes so much money to Heathcliff that Heathcliff takes Wuthering Heights from Hindly. So, just when Hindly thinks that he got back at Heathcliff for ruining his life Heathcliff takes his revenge and lets Hindly died a poor, miserable old man.
The plot in Emily Bronte?s Wuthering Heights reflects the concept of revenge. Mr. Earnshaw meets a poor boy on one of his trips. Because Mr. Earnshaw is such a ?capital fellow?(9) he takes pity on the boy, Heathcliff, and invites him to live with the Earnshaw?s. Mr. Earnshaw has an alterior motive for the boy. He wants his children, Hindly and Catherine, to understand what it is like to share their wealth with someone who is less fortunate than themselves. Mr. Earnshaw figured that the children would learn and grow from this experience. The truth is that the children did not. Hindly grows up miserable and resentful of Heathchiff. And Catherine eventually turned her nose up to Heathcliff only to find that she is cheerless without him.
The novel takes a turn when Catherine has to decide whether or not to marry Edgar. She knows that she has ?no more business marrying Edgar Linton than I [Catherine] have to be in heaven? (64). Yet Catherine marries Edgar anyway for
wealth, but more importantly revenge. She wants to get back at Heathcliff for never making something of himself. But at the end Catherine is the one who suffers.
Heathcliff desires Linton and Cathy to be wed. This plan is curtailed by Edgar. Cathy falls in love with Linton and tells Edgar. When Edgar finds out he says, ?No one from Wuthering Heights shall come here? (224). Edgar does this for revenge. He does not want Heathcliff or anyone to be happy. At the end he is Edgar is the one who is not happy even though he thought he got the ultimate revenge.
Characterization another literary device that Bronte uses in Wuthering Heights that reflects the concept of revenge. Catherine begins her life happily. She is a wild, carefree, and round character. As Catherine ages she becomes more concerned with her looks and her social position. Catherine goes to Thrushcross Grange where she is treated ?like a queen?(44) and when she returns she wants nothing to do with Heathcliff. Catherine finds a young man named Edgar. When Edgar proposes she is torn between Edgar and Heathcliff. Edgar could provide her with anything she wants. However, Catherine loves Heathcliff. She chooses to marry Edgar and she is miserable. Catherine wants Edgar to suffer because he never understood Catherine?s affection for Heathcliff and Catherine wants Heathcliff to be melancholy because he could not fathom the fact that Catherine picked Edgar over him. Catherine?s ultimate revenge came when she passed-on and left both Heathcliff and Edgar heartbroken and miserable.
Hindley is another character that seeks revenge. When Heathcliff comes to live with the Earnshaw?s Hindley is very upset. Mr. Earnshaw adores Heathcliff and raised Heathcliff as a member of the family. Hindley would ?blubber like a baby? (39) when he could not have his way. When Mr. Earnshaw dies Hindley takes over the house. The deep animosity that Hindley feels for Heathcliff drives Hindley to condemn Heathcliff to a life of servitude. Hindley treats Heathcliff ?like a servant?(49).
Hindley sought vengeance and got it. Catherine never looked at Heathcliff the same way and Heathcliff was miserable.
Isabella gets really mad when she fins out that Heathcliff is still in love with Catherine. She decides to fill Heathcliff with grief and she ?runs the whole way from Wuthering Heights? (146). Not only is Heathcliff heart broken when she leaves, she also takes their baby Linton along with her. Isabella got her revenge and now Heathcliff is suffering from the loss of Catherine, Isabella, and his baby Linton.
Heathcliff seeks vengeance on Catherine. Heathcliff loves Catherine dearly and would stop at nothing to make her happy. One day Heathcliff overhears a conversation between Nelly and Catherine. Catherine tells Nelly that, ? I [Catherine] shall marry him [Edgar]? (68). Heathcliff is crushed but, when Catherine speaks of Heathcliff and says, ?Heathcliff has no notion of these things? (70). She goes on to tell Nelly that, ?He [Heathcliff] does not know what being in love is?(70) Heathcliff overhears this conversation and runs away. He goes of in search of a way to show Catherine what she is missing. Heathcliff comes back as a well dressed, proper, and wealthy man. Catherine sees this perfect man in front of her and is filled with rage for Heathcliff is now out of her reach. Even though Heathcliff got revenge he did not get what he really wanted–Catherine.
In the novel Wuthering Heights Bronte shows that revenge is not the key to happiness through irony, through plot, and through characterization.
The characters are consumed by desire to have revenge on the people who have tormented them. The people in the novel stop at nothing; not realizing the serious affect that they have on themselves and on other characters. At the end revenge–not love– is what compels the characters in all the key moments in the novel.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. London: Orion House, 1973.
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