Heathcliff is both a hero and a villain. At different times in the book and with various characters, he has the potential to be a hero. At other times and with other characters, he is a villain. He starts out young and good, with the possibility of becoming the story’s...
Heathcliff is both a hero and a villain. At different times in the book and with various characters, he has the potential to be a hero. At other times and with other characters, he is a villain. He starts out young and good, with the possibility of becoming the story’s hero in the traditional sense of the term.
After he endures belittling treatment from Hindley, who turns him into a servant, and overhears Cathy tell Nelly that it would degrade her to marry him, Heathcliff becomes a tormented character. Deep inside, Cathy senses that it will be wrong for her to marry Edgar Linton:
It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.
After this, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights. When he returns, he exacts his revenge on the people he believes contributed to ruining his chance for happiness. He becomes dark and vengeful, turning to become the villain of the story as he reacts to the treatment he has received from other characters. However, until the very end, he remains true to Cathy and is the hero of the story of just Heathcliff and Cathy. He acknowledges how villainous he is when he says to Catherine,
to you I’ve made myself worse than the devil. Well, there is ONE who won’t shrink from my company! By God! she’s relentless. Oh, damn it! It’s unutterably too much for flesh and blood to bear even mine.
By "ONE," he is referring to Cathy, who haunts him even after her death. He remains her hero despite all the horrible things he has done to other characters in the book.