Is Heathcliff the protagonist or antagonist? Explain.

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Very good question, as it penetrates to the very heart of the crux of this fascinating novel. Heathcliff is what is called a Byronic hero, a term used to describe a Romantic hero who was brooding, solitary, and isolated from society. Your answer to the question entirely depends on how...

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Very good question, as it penetrates to the very heart of the crux of this fascinating novel. Heathcliff is what is called a Byronic hero, a term used to describe a Romantic hero who was brooding, solitary, and isolated from society. Your answer to the question entirely depends on how you read the novel - Heathcliff can either be viewed as an upstart (indeed Nelly Dean describes him as a "cuckoo") who ruins relations between the Lintons and the Earnshaws in every way possible, or a frustrated, maltreated orphan who is driven to commit heinous acts because of his intense but thwarted love for Catherine.

Another question you need to consider about Heathcliff is how he is presented. For in the novel at times he appears to be described as a monster, at others as a man just like the rest of us. Compare these two quotes, for example:

"Poor wretch!" I thought; "you have a heart and nerves the same as your brother men!"

He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howeled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears.

Both quotes come from Chapter 16 after Catherine's death and capture the dilemma - is Heathcliff a man or a monster? So to summarise, your answer will depend very much on how you view Heathcliff.

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