How can one write a description of the character of Hareton Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Authors employ certain techniques in presenting characters. They may use any of the following:

  1. a physical description of the character
  2. descriptions of the character's actions
  3. revelations of the character's thoughts, feelings, and speeches
  4. revelations of the comments and reactions of other characters
  5. direct statements that provide the author's or narrator's opinion of the character.

So, keeping these techniques in mind is helpful in writing a character description.  Here are some details about Hareton Earnshaw that should also aid in his description:

  • A minor character of Wuthering Heights, Hareton Earnshaw's name first comes to the attention of Lockwood, one of the narrators of the novel, in Chapter 1. Then, in Chapter 2, Lockwood encounters him,

...the young man had slung onto his person a decidedly shabby upper garment, and erecting himself before the blaze, looked down on me, from the corner of his eyes, for all the world as if there were some mortal feud unavenged between us.

  • Upon further observance of this person, Lockwood refers to him as a "clown...who is drinking his tea out of a basin and eating his bread with unwashed hands," thinking he may be the husband of the young woman, Cathy Linton. Although he "growls" his name to Lockwood, Heathcliff orders him about as though he is a servant. He does, however, offer to escort Lockwood to the gate, but Heathcliff orders him back.  Certainly, there is an ambiguity created around Hareton that does not dissolve until the final chapters.
  • It is later revealed when Lockwood visits Thrushcross Grange in Chapter 32 and then Wuthering Heights that he is the weakling son of Frances and Hindley Earnshaw, upon whom Heathcliff wreaks his revenge on Hindley, who persecuted him as a child. Although Heathcliff treats him like a field worker, Hareton is devoted to Heathcliff, whom he strangely perceives as a father figure.  And, ironically, his relationship with his cousin Cathy is much like that of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff as exemplified in this conversation as Nellie encourages Hareton to be friends with Cathy and he replies,

"'A companion?' he cried; 'when she hates me, and does not think me fit to wipe her shoon!  Nay, if it made me a king, I'd not be scorned for seeking her good will any more.'

'It is not I who hate you, it is you who hate me! wept Cathy,...'You hate me as much as Mr. Heathcliff does, and more.'

'You're a damned liar...why have I made him angry, by taking your part then, a hundred times? and that, when you sneered at, and despised me,....'"

  • This tumultuous love/hate relationship, reminiscent of the previous generation's, is finally resolved as Cathy teaches Hareton to read, having outgrown her petulance as Hareton's inherent goodness conquers his mistreatment and neglect. 
Read the study guide:
Wuthering Heights

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