Analyze the nature of a villainous character in Wuthering Heights and show how it enhances meaning in the work.

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Cathy and Heathcliff both can be considered villainous characters. They are known as tragically romantic, yet behave childishly quite often. Cathy acts like a spoiled child and treats those who care for her badly. Both are very self-centered, yet have a passion for each other, that not only destroys them, but everyone around them.

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While Heathecliff is the main villianous character in Wuthering Heights, as stated above,  Cathy is a villianous character herself at times.  She spurns Heathcliff whom she loves for Linton because he is wealthy. Later she hurts Linton by displaying her love for Heathcliff openly.  She suffers because she feels that she cannot marry Heathcliff because of his lower social position, yet when he returns, she finds that she cannot live without him.  Although she dies in childbirth, she really dies of a broken heart telling Heathcliff:  "You and Edgar have broken my heart." 

Although several of the characters have some villianous characteristics, none of them is completely evil and each has extenuating circumstances in that lead them to be what they are.  Even Hindley has a weakness for drink that he cannot control.  I think this enhances Bronte's work because she is showing us a side of human nature that we cannot control.  Heathcliff, Catherine, and even Hindly are like the wild moors on which they live; full of uncontrollable storms, passions, and addictions.  These larger than life passions may be uncontrollable but it makes their lives larger than other live's: lives that may just continue on after death in the storms of the moors where they lived.

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The villainous character in Wuthering Heights is Heathcliff. What makes him so fascinating is that he is also one of the most romantic characters in literature.  He is cruel beyond belief, vulgar, and egotistical, but he becomes that way because of the love he is denied as a child.  As a result, we do not hate him as we otherwise might, but tend to feel some sympathy for him. In addition, he adores Cathy and she, despite her dreadful rejection of him, adores him.  One of the most beautiful passages in literature is when she describes her love for him to Nelli, where Cathy in effect says her heart will always belong to Heathcliff. He is, as my students tell me, her “soul mate.” He is associated with what is wild and unclaimed, which makes him heroic as well as mean.  He loves powerfully and hates powerfully.  In short, he is a Romantic villain, which is to say a Romantic hero, for the extraordinary power of his emotions.

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