Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Heathcliff, a dark-visaged, violently passionate, black-natured man. A foundling brought to the Earnshaw home at an early age, he is subjected to cruel emotional sufferings during his formative years. His chief tormentor is Hindley Earnshaw, who is jealous of his father’s obvious partiality toward Heathcliff. Heathcliff endures his torment with the sullen patience of a hardened, ill-treated animal, but just as the years add age his suffering adds hatred in Heathcliff’s nature, and he becomes filled with an inhuman, almost demonic, desire for vengeance against Hindley. This ambition, coupled with his strange, transcendent relationship with Catherine, Hindley’s sister, encompasses his life until he becomes a devastatingly wasted human. He evaluates himself as a truly superior person who, possessing great emotional energies and capabilities, is a creature set apart from the human. Some regard him as a fiend, full of horrible passions and powers. In the end, he dies empty, his will gone and his fervor exhausted, survived by Cathy and Hareton, the conventionalists, the moralists, the victims of his vengeful wraths.
Catherine Earnshaw, the sister of Hindley, later the wife of Edgar Linton and mother of young Cathy Linton. Catherine is spirited as a girl, selfish, wild, saucy, provocative, and sometimes even wicked. She can be sweet of eye and smile, and she is often contrite for causing pain with her insolence. In childhood, she and Heathcliff form an unusually close relationship, but as her friendship with Edgar and Isabella Linton grows, she becomes haughty and arrogant. In spite of her devotion to Heathcliff, she rejects him for fear that marriage to him would degrade her. Instead, she accepts Edgar Linton’s proposal. Her deep feeling for Heathcliff remains; he is her one unselfishness, and she insists that Edgar must at least tolerate him so that her marriage will not alter her friendship with Heathcliff. Her marriage is a tolerably happy one, possibly because Catherine becomes dispirited after Heathcliff’s departure as a result of her rejection. Upon his return, they become close friends again, despite his apparent vile character and foul treatment of her family. In their inhuman passion and fierce, tormented love they are lost to each other, each possessing the other’s spirit as if it were his or her own. Her mind broken and anguished,...
(The entire section is 994 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Wuthering Heights Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!