Catherine and Heathcliff

In this way, Bront? seems to show that both Catherine and Heathcliff’s freewill are prohibited by a predeterminism created by an unbreakable social structure. Catherine accepts and comes to enjoy her position. However Bront? then in the second part of the novel presents Heathcliff as not being able to accept this structure, resulting in this vengeance leading him to manipulating this structure. In order to induce this revenge he uses the values of Victorian society (money, property, marriage) against those of power and therefore, as Meredith notes, ‘he degrades them socially and dominates them economically’.

This is clear when he degrades and dispossesses his own son, referring to him in dehumanising terms: ‘the ninny’ and ‘we will calculate it will scarcely last till it is eighteen’. The use of the word ‘calculate’ and elsewhere ‘share’ suggests how his way of thinking is based on economic power and he uses capital (money) as a mode of oppression. He specifically uses social structure against the society that upholds it. Heathcliff’s vengeance drives the second part of the novel and is informed by a response to materialistic Victorian Society that excluded him.

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Later on in the novel when Nelly is reflecting on Heathcliff’s treatment to Hareton: ‘Good things lost amid a wilderness of weeds, to be sure, whose rankness for over-topped their neglected growth; yet, notwithstanding, evidence of a wealthy soil that might yield luxuriant crops under other and favourable circumstances’, Nelly is explaining how if we are not nourished (in this case Hareton by Heathcliff) from the beginning then we become somewhat neglected and not as great as we could be- this can be seen in the entrance of Heathcliff who ‘not a soul knew to whom he belonged’ – showing how his origins are obscure and by bringing him into a social economy he becomes susceptible to love or hatred shown through Catherine and Edgar, but also the terms cast upon him, such as ‘a gift of God’ and ‘imp of Satan’ by socialised people starts to impact his understanding of himself and therefore his perception of himself is a result of his social existence. We start to see how one of the first things he learns is blackmail when he wants to exchange horses with Hindley: ‘I don’t like mine, and if you won’t I shall tell your father of the three thrashings you’ve given me’, his awareness of society therefore starts to determine his judgements. Emily Bront? could also be hinting that if it wasn’t for this mistreatment by Victorian Society, given the chance, he could have been great.

Bronte had suggested Heathcliff’s ‘good’ characteristics when he was silent as a lamb (connotations) and the other children were ill. We realise that the behaviour is cyclical: Heathcliff’s poor treatment of Hareton is an outcome of his own poor treatment. Heathcliff does eventually gain power over Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights by rebelling against Victorian Society’s system; this could be seen as Heathcliff having freewill despite his social existence. However, even after gaining power, it becomes something destructive and ultimately leads to a tragic end. This is a result of his rejection from Victorian Society, making him suppressed.

His rejection is a reflection of Victorian Societies rejection of him as a character, because at the time people were unable to understand Heathcliff because his cruelty and ungoverned love was thought of as inappropriate and the novel was perceived as unreligious. Unlike then, now the gothic love and exploration of class in Wuthering Heights and its passionate characters (mainly Heathcliff) are much more accepted and understood. It can be argued that Heathcliff is never given the opportunity, again due to the base structure, making him almost the antithesis to the Victorian superstructure. So, even after gaining economic power, due to his social existence he remains unhappy and the repercussions are tragic. This suggests that his past is still determining his actions; Heathcliff therefore does not have ‘freewill’ because his consciousness is determined by his social existence.