Why does Heathcliff keep dogs in Wuthering Heights?

Wuthering Heights doesn't provide an explicit reason for why Heathcliff keeps dogs. However, Heathcliff's actions show that his dogs are an extension of him. They are violent and aggressive, mirroring his attitude towards those who have wronged him. The dogs also serve as a barrier between Heathcliff and anyone who even considers challenging his dominance.

Expert Answers

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We first meet Heathcliff's dogs at the beginning of the story. Mr. Lockwood, a London native, is the new renter of Thrushcross Grange. His initial interaction with Heathcliff is anything but friendly. In fact, Heathcliff is barely civil to his new tenant.

Trouble begins when Lockwood tries to pet one of the dogs at Wuthering Heights. The dog is a female pointer who is surrounded by her squealing puppies. Instead of responding positively to Lockwood's affectionate overtures, the dog bares her teeth and lets out a long, guttural growl. Upon hearing this, Heathcliff orders Lockwood to leave the dog alone.

He tells Lockwood that the dog isn't a "pet" and isn't accustomed to affection from humans. When Heathcliff makes his way down to the cellar, Lockwood makes faces at the female pointer and two of her sheepdog companions. Helpless in the face of poor treatment from his landlord, Lockwood thinks that this is a harmless way to express his injured feelings.

Unfortunately, the pointer doesn't take kindly to Lockwood's behavior and attacks him. To add to Lockwood's distress, half a dozen dogs join the pointer in attacking him. He is forced to defend himself with a poker until a kitchen maid sends the dogs running with a frying pan.

Although Lockwood is upset, he's more offended by Heathcliff's cavalier attitude. The latter doesn't offer an apology and merely proclaims that the dogs are right to be vigilant. The next day, Lockwood is again attacked by Heathcliff's dogs when he visits Wuthering Heights. This time, Heathcliff openly laughs at Lockwood's distress.

Heathcliff's behavior shows that the dogs are an extension of his malicious nature. The animals also serve as a barrier between him and anyone who dares to challenge his dominance in any way.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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