How is the theme of revenge explored in Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Charlotte Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights explores the theme of revenge in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Hindley’s mistreatment of Heathcliff is partly a kind of revenge because Heathcliff was loved by Hindley’s father when Hindley and Heathcliff were both boys.
  • Hindley’s later, even more serious mistreatment of Heathcliff is again partly a kind of revenge rooted in his early jealousy of Heathcliff.
  • Later, after Heathcliff becomes rich, he takes revenge on Hindley by provoking the latter to lose his possessions through gambling.
  • Heathcliff takes a kind of revenge on Catherine (the woman he once loved) and Edgar (the man she married instead of marrying Heathcliff) by himself marrying Edgar’s sister because he (Heathcliff) desires her money.
  • In one of the most striking moments in the novel, Heathcliff expresses his desire to seek revenge even against Catherine herself:

“And as to you, Catherine, I have a mind to speak a few words now, while we are at it.  I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally—infernally!  Do you hear?  And if you flatter yourself that I don’t perceive it, you are a fool; and if you think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot: and if you fancy I’ll suffer unrevenged, I’ll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while!”

To this, Catherine responds by saying,

“Quarrel with Edgar, if you please, Heathcliff, and deceive his sister: you’ll hit on exactly the most efficient method of revenging yourself on me.”

  • Later, however, after Catherine tragically dies, Heathcliff hopes that her ghost will take revenge on him by haunting him.
  • As a form of vengeance on the dead Hindley, Heathcliff plans to mistreat Hindley’s son as Heathcliff was once mistreated by Hindley.
  • Much of Heathcliff’s behavior in the closing sections of the novel is hateful and vengeful. The theme of revenge is in fact one of the most important motifs in this novel.


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Wuthering Heights

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