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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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Hindley's Relationship with Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights

Summary:

Hindley’s relationship with Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights is marked by intense animosity and jealousy. After Mr. Earnshaw's death, Hindley mistreats Heathcliff, seeing him as a rival for his father's affection. This harsh treatment contributes to Heathcliff's vengeful and bitter nature, setting the stage for the novel's ensuing conflicts.

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Why does Hindley invite Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights despite disliking him?

For all his roughness of birth in the novel 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Bronte - Heathcliffe has the intelligence of the oppressed, the watchfulness of the exploited - he has learned like many mistreated individuals to be an opportunist. These people learn early in life that there is no love, no care and that the only person they have in the world to look out for them is themselves. This is sad but,for some people who become sociopathic, callous and cold as a result - inevitable. Apart from the love he thought Catherine had for him until even she mocked him - he has no love. He learned to watch for opportunities and sees a mega big one in Hindley. He sees his Achilles heel - the dissipating weakness which will empower and enrich himself. He watches the enemy drink and gamble his way to destitution - looking as if he is helping but in reality waiting for the final fatal moment to strike without mercy, winner taking all. Such is the nature of the beast - Heathcliffe!

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Why did Hindley Earnshaw hate Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights?

Hindley is insanely jealous of Heathcliff. He resents the fact that his father treats this dark, brooding creature, this "imp of Satan," like he's the Prodigal Son. Hindley has some major hang-ups; he's tortured by self-loathing and personal inadequacy which he tries to drown in alcohol. Hindley never received much in the way of love from his father, but then he's never been particularly lovable in any case. Still, the notable lack of paternal love Hindley receives from his father stands in stark contrast to how his old man treats Heathcliff. Hindley is his father's son, yet Heathcliff gets all the love. How is that fair?

So once his old man's safely six feet under, Hindley gets to work exacting a terrible revenge upon Heathcliff for daring to be the object of Mr. Earnshaw's love and affection. He brutalizes the poor guy, treating him as little better than a slave. He deprives Heathcliff of money, an education, an opportunity to be someone in life. Yet Hindley's jealousy is ultimately all to no avail. He sinks even further into a life of drink-fueled dissipation while Heathcliff finally gains control of Wuthering Heights.

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Why did Hindley Earnshaw hate Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights?

Hindley Earnshaw's hatred for Heathcliff had its roots in the fact that his father, Mr. Earnshaw, favored the boy over himself.  Hindley had been fourteen years old when Mr. Earnshaw first brought Heathcliff, whom he had found starving in a Liverpool slum, home to live at Wuthering Heights.  It was clear from the very beginning that Mr. Earnshaw preferred the young newcomer to his own son, and Hindley reacted with jealousy and a barely suppressed rage.  He took every opportunity to torment Heathcliff, and his hatred for the boy was returned in kind.  In contrast, Heathcliff developed a special closeness to Hindley's sister Catherine, but although their consuming relationship haunted them both throughout their lives, it never came to fruition.  Hindley, with his cruel manipulations, had deprived Heathcliff of any chance he might have had to become an educated man and had forced him to labor as a servant.  Hindley effectively managed to turn Heathcliff into someone it would be a disgrace for his sister Catherine to marry.

Hindley was not strong in character.  He was cruel and vengeful as a child, and at Mr. Earnshaw's death, he became the master of Wuthering Heights, and ruled with a tyrannical hand.  After his wife died, Hindley began drinking heavily, and his personality continued to degenerate.  At his lowest point, his old nemesis Heathcliff achieved his revenge, gambling with the drunken Hindley until he won all his possessions, finally becoming himself the master of Wuthering Heights.

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Why did Hindley Earnshaw dislike Heathcliff? Was he right in doing so?

Heathcliff is an adopted son, brought back by the father from the streets of Liverpool. Hindley resents Heathcliff's intrusion into the life of the family and, more than that, is bitter and angry that his father makes a favorite of the younger boy. A rough model or paradigm for this might be the Biblical parable of the prodigal son. In this parable the older brother deeply resents the return of his younger brother, who comes home empty-handed and hungry after having wasted his share of the inheritance. In the prodigal son parable, the father is wise enough to smooth over the older son's resentments by reminding him that everything the father has is his, but a hallmark of the Earnshaws is family dysfunction, so Hindley never gets the paternal reassurance that would make life easier for him. 

Heathcliff is not a saint, and he uses the father's preference to his advantage. For example, Heathcliff forces Hindley to change horses with him when his own goes lame, but at the same time he did not set out to disrupt Hindley's life. It is natural and understandable that Hindley would have harbored resentment towards Heathcliff, but his degradation and abuse of Heathcliff when he inherits the estate is excessive and unwarranted. Hindley is driven to excess by grief over the early death of his beloved wife and then by his alcoholism.

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