What Role Does The Theme Of Revenge Play In Wuthering Heights?

Updated 30 September, 2024
The theme of revenge is central to Wuthering Heights. Almost every character in the novel that had been mistreated in their lives has wanted revenge on those who inflicted pain on them. Heathcliff wanted revenge on Hindley and Edgar, whereas Hareton also tries to get revenge on Linton because of how Linton belittles him.
Detailed answer:

Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights is an enduring gothic romance filled with intrigue and terror. The story revolves around a tempestuous romance of Heathcliff, an orphan who was taken to Wuthering Heights, and Catherine Earnshaw, a strong-willed girl and who becomes Heathcliff’s close companion. Wuthering Heights, overtaken by the sinister arrogate, Heathcliff, becomes dark with acts that lead to brutality, vengeance, and social alienation.
The protagonist of this novel is Heathcliff and he deals with many emotions of detestation and betrayal. He deals with his negative emotions by channeling them into feelings of revenge. Revenge is a common theme and the balance developed between revenge and justice is a device employed by Bronte to show how revenge drives people to act blindly out of character. Heathcliff is an outsider to the Heights, and therefore he is condemned to a life absent of economical class, meaning he as no power in his society. Furthermore he is confined to the social limitations of those who are of no economical class.
As a child, Heathcliff was abused by Hindley. Hindley plainly resented the entry of Heathcliff into the Heights and felt he was being treated too kindly considering he was an outsider to The Heights. This is where the cyclical revenge begins, and where the seed is planted in Heathcliff for the desire to plot his ultimate revenge.
The mistreatment of Heathcliff resulted in him and Catherine to grow closer as “they forgot everything the minute they were together again: at least the minute they had contrived some naughty plan of revenge.”, Catherine made Heathcliff's misery more bearable and soon Heathcliff and Catherine fall for each other. This results in a conundrum for Heathcliff as his pursuit of his chosen lover, Catherine, is halted by his social class.
Though surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly, Heathcliff doesn’t ultimately want revenge on his beloved Catherine, he wants revenge on Edgar. '’I seek no revenge on you,’ replied Heathcliff, less vehemently. ‘That's not the plan. The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him; they crush those beneath them.’, Heathcliff recognizes the hierarchical structure and how those on top constrict those beneath to stay on top. This correlates with the idea that revenge is a power thirsty hate fueled state. Heathcliff craves revenge because he wants to turn the tables on everyone who did him wrong and make them powerless.

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