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Wuthering Heights. the Influence of Childhood

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The influence of childhood in its different ways, on the major characters in Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" can be seen as a pervasive theme throughout the novel. Through an exploration of the relationship between the main characters, the theme of childhood's influence is apparent. It can be said, as noted by Steve Davies, that the childhood of both protagonists Heathcliffe and Catherine, haunts them in their adult lives thus affecting their interactions with and their behavior towards other people in a negative way. However, through Bronte's portrayal of Hareton and the younger Catherine, the redeeming qualities of the human spirit prevails as they overcome negative influences and memories of their childhood. They emerge at the conclusion of the novel as characters who are not "haunted" by their childhood and "its refusal to die away", but as two people who have overcome adverse conditions in their past by seeking to improve their existence and personalities

It is evident in the novel through Emily Brontes portrayal of the character of Heathcliff, that revenge which stems from Heathcliffs relationships as a child, motivates him to become vindictive throughout his adulthood.

Heathcliff is introduced to the Earnshaw family upon Mr Earnshaw finding him in the streets of Liverpool, as an orphan. His introduction to the other Earnshaw family members is not well received, Heathcliff is referred to as "it" and is unwelcome by the Earnshaw children, Hindley and Catherine. This highlights a very unpleasant start to Heathcliffs childhood in the Earnshaw household.

Heathcliff develops a particularly negative relationship with Hindley, this starts at childhood and continues into adulthood. From the day Heathcliff enters the Earnshaw house Heathcliff felt nothing but hate from Hindley, the beatings and ill treatment that Hindley instilled on him, hardened Heathcliff and he formed a similar hatred for Hindley. An example of his unpleasant relationship can be seen when Mr Earnshaw gave Heathcliff and Hindley colts, on finding that his lame, Heathcliff informs Hindley, "You must exchange horses with me; I don't like mine, and if you won't I shall tell your father of the three thrashings you've given me this week, and show him my arm, which is black to the shoulder." at which Hindley, " cuffs him over the ears", this argument concludes in Hindley beating Heathcliff but handing over his horse with a hateful remark, "take my colt...and I pray that he may break your neck". In the end Heathcliff achieves what he wants.

This transcends into Heathcliffs adulthood and revenge motivates Heathcliff into returning to Wuthering Heights, as an adult to, "settle my score with Hindley". He achieves this by aiding Hindley's gambling, eventually taking away his home, resulting in Hindley dying "in debt" thus leaving Hindley's son Hareton in Heathcliffs custody.

Heathcliff's relationship with Hareton, allows Heathcliff to distinguish himself in Hareton, "Hareton seemed a personification of my youth".

and in some ways Heathcliff wishes him to be the kind of son he wanted but never had "I'd have loved the lad had he been some one else". Even though he empathizes with Hareton, he can not treat Hareton with kindness as he can not put aside the animosity, anger, and resentment he feels, which results from Hindley's behavior towards him as a child.

Though initially unwelcome by Catherine, within a short period of time Heathcliff and Catherine form a very close bond, this relationship is the only positive relationship in Heathcliffs life, he loves her unconditionally and holds Catherine in high regard. "she is so immeasurably superior to them - to everybody on earth..."

This immense love for Catherine carries on into Heathcliffs adulthood. Heathcliffs departure from the Earnshaw house occurs on the evening of Catherine's proposal to Edgar, he overhears her conversation with Nelly, upon hearing Catherine say, "it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff ", Heathcliff takes flight heartbroken. He returns to Thrushcross Grange an established gentlemen, unable to let go of this undying love for Catherine "I've fought through a bitter life since I last heard your voice, and you must forgive me, for I struggled only for you!" Catherine has made him suffer by marrying Edgar.

Heathcliffs vindictive nature is brought to the surface when a confrontation with Catherine mentions his plan of revenge " I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally - infernally!...and if you fancy I'll suffer unrevenged, I'll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while!"

Heathcliffs love for Catherine is a major motivator for his revenge on Edgar, who Heathcliff envied as a child, for taking away Catherine from him, for he thought that Catherine preferred Edgar's company to his as Edgar was more refined. " I wish I had light hair and fair skin, was dressed and behaved as well and had a chance of being as rich as he will be!"

Heathcliff returns to Thrushcross Grange, his love for Catherine still apparent which developed at childhood, cannot escape him, determined to see Catherine when he heard that she is gravely ill, upon him seeing her, he pours his heart out to her " I have not broken your heart - you have broken it - and in breaking it , you have broken mine...would you like to live with your soul in the grave?" It is there last meeting before her death which took place shortly after the birth of her child the younger Catherine, this makes Heathcliff feel that the child just born has taken away his Catherine, Heathcliffs vengeful nature motivates him to revenge those who interferes with his relationship with Catherine, and his plan of revenge takes a new turn, to now involve the younger Catherine "I want the triumph of seeing my descendants fairly lord of their estates; my child hiring their children to till their fathers' land for wages", he does this this by manipulating the younger Catherine into falling in love with his son Linton then forcing them to marry, so upon Edgar's death he gains his revenge on Edgar through taking away his daughter and his estate. Even though he revenges Edgar, for taking away his Catherine, the immense love he holds for Catherine haunts him, she is his only weakness and he cannot overcome

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