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...
(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!
Wuthering Heights is rich with several major characters. The female protagonist is Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of the owner of Wuthering Heights. The reader sees her at several different stages of her development. She was a pampered, willful young girl who befriended the young orphan boy her father brought home. Her strong attachment for the boy, Heathcliff, grows into a passionate almost obsessive love which she denies when she marries Edgar Linton, a pale, stable, but socially acceptable man. Although he is not as appealing as Heathcliff, the couple seems happy enough until Heathcliff returns. Although their relationship is altered by her marriage, Catherine continues to see Heathcliff and they are both still passionate, wild, and headstrong. Edgar refuses to allow Heathcliff in his house, but Heathcliff still comes see Catherine there. She has a breakdown and delivers Edgar's baby prematurely, then dies. Her sickly baby girl is named Catherine and called Cathy by everyone but Heathcliff.
Heathcliff is the homeless orphan who is described as being "dark as a gipsy" when he brought home by Mr. Earnshaw. Heathcliff is as wild and dark as the moors around Wuthering Heights. He and Catherine seem destined for one another until she meets Edgar Linton and decides that it would be degrading to marry someone like Heathcliff. Heathcliff, who has lost his status as a favored person in the household when old Mr. Earnshaw died and his son Hindley...
(The entire section is 444 words.)
One of the novel's two narrators, Nelly is loyal but conventional, and reads very little into events. In his introduction to Wuthering Heights, David Daiches remarks on the contrast between the tone of the narrative and the high drama of the goings-on of the story: "It is to what might be called the sublime deadpan of the telling that the extraordinary force of the novel can largely be attributed.… At no point does Nelly throw up her hands and exclaim: 'For God's sake, what is going on here? What kind of people are they?'" For instance, after Heathcliff has spent the night in the Linton's garden bashing his head against a tree trunk, Nelly notices "several splashes of blood about the bark of the tree, and his hands and forehead were both stained; probably the scene I witnessed was a repetition of others acted during the night. It hardly moved my compassion—it appalled me; still I felt reluctant to quit him so." Nelly's familiarity with the actors is an important element of the narration, and a hazard of her station is that she must repeatedly be the bearer of news that will move the action in a fateful direction On the eve of Heathcliff's return, for example, Edgar and the first Catherine look "wonderfully peaceful," and Nelly shrinks from having to announce Heathcliff, though duty compels her to, just as she shrinks later from having to tell Heathcliff of the first Catherine's death, but does. Nelly has a mind...
(The entire section is 2292 words.)