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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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In Wuthering Heights, volume 1, chapter 11, how does the passage from "What new phase of his character is this?" to "Have you been listening at the door, Edgar?" reflect attitudes towards Linton and Heathcliff?

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It is possible to argue that this passage presents Heathcliff in a very sympathetic light, as it is shown how he is trapped by his love for Cathy and what a bleak and dismal existence he leads when he is forced to see the woman that he loves married to another. Heathcliff's description of himself to Cathy, when he explains that it is impossible he should avenge himself on her, is particularly important in this respect. Note how he describes himself in relation to Cathy:

The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him, they crush those beneath them--You are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only, allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style...

There is certainly something extreme in the love Heathcliff and Cathy have for each other, and the way that Heathcliff describes his relationship with Cathy by casting her as a tyrant and himself as a slave reveals much of their relationship and the disturbing way in which it is conducted. Yet it also helps the reader understand the restricted position Heathcliff is in as he suffers so greatly from not being able to be with his true love.

As for Edgar Linton, the impression the reader is given of his character is formed in his forthright action and determination to throw Heathcliff from his household. Having heard how Heathcliff is courting Isabella, he immediately decides to expel the "low ruffian" from his house as soon as possible. Yet when he confronts his wife and Heathcliff, he says words that are cruel in the extreme, as he argues that his wife is "habituated to [Heathcliff's] baseness" and therefore can tolerate his language. From this passage therefore, Heathcliff seems to emerge more favourably than Linton, as Heathcliff's presentation of his relationship with Cathy wins him the reader's sympathy.

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