Posted by Dr.Felix Moses, ociate Professor on April 20, 19101 at 22:31:05:
In Reply to: book posted by Heather Dorris on April 20, 19100 at 06:32:35:
Deconstructing the Arabesque of Revenge in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”
Dr. FELIX MOSES
ociate Professor in English, Madras Christian College
59/60, Panchaliamman Koil Street,
Chennai – 600 106.
The theme of revenge has been shaped into a finely ornamented arabesque in Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”. The subsidiary themes of possession, social status , adultery, child abuse and treachery and violence have been curiously intertwined with the main theme of revenge to foreground it. The central motif in this exquisitely crafted arabesque is Heathcliff and his unquenchable thirst for revenge.
Master and Servant
The elder Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff and is partial to him. Consequently Hindley his own son regards Heathcliff as a “usurper of his father’s affections and his privileges” (Ch.4) and hates him. After the death of Hindley’s parents “Hindley became tyrannical” (Ch.6) and treat Heathcliff cruelly “compelling him to [labour] as hard as any other lad on the farm.” (Ch.6) Heathcliff plans to avenge all the abuse he suffers at the hands of his new master Hindley: “I’m trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last” (Ch.7). Heathcliff succeeds in ruining Hindley who finally drinks himself to death. Heathcliff the former servant and at present a mere guest becomes “the master of Wuthering Height’s” (Ch.17). But his thirst for revenge is not satisfied and is extended to the next generation: “I [Heatheliff] want the triumph of seeing my descendant fairly lord of their estates: my child hiring their children to till their father’s lands for wages” (Ch.20). Heathcliff succeeds in avenging his lost childhood happiness by brutalizing Hindley’s son Hareton Earnshaw who is the true heir of Wuthering Heights: “I’ve got him faster than his scoundrel of a father secured me and lower…..You’ll own that I’ve out-matched Hindley there” (Ch.21).
After Hindley leaves for college the uous relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff develops faster and becomes stronger: “She was much too fond of Heathcliff” (Ch.5). But because of cirstances – “the luckless adventure at Thrushcross Grange” and its consequences (Ch.6 and 7); and the misunderstanding in ch.9: “it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now”- Heathcliff and Catherine are separated. Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights and Catherine marries Edgar Linton. Catherine and Heathcliff are frustrated because they realise that their pionate love for one another can never be consummated. It is this ardent desire for one another which prevents their love from turning to hate and seeking vengeance on one another: Catherine tells Nelly in Ch.10 “I’ll take no revenge on his folly”, and in Ch.11 Heathcliff tells Catherine “I seek no revenge on you”.
However both of them become embittered, and their marital relationship with their respective lawful spouses is blighted. Trapped between a jealous husband: “ It is impossible for you to be my friend and his at the same time; and I absolutely require to know which you choose” and a pionate lover Catherine tells Nelly in Ch.11 “ I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.”
Heathcliff on his return to Wuthering Heights is lucky enough to find the means to wreak his vengeance on his childhood enemy Edgar who is now the lawful husband of Isabella. Isabella, Edgar’s sister, and the future heir of Thrushcross Grange: “She’s her brother’s heir, is she not?” (Ch.10) becomes infatuated with Heathcliff. In spite of Catherine’s and Nelly’s advice Isabella elopes with Heathcliff, marries him and settles down at Wuthering Heights. Consequently brother and sister become estranged once and for all.
As soon as Heathcliff begins to ill treat Isabella she realizes her folly: “he wishes to provoke Edgar to desperation: he says he has married me on purpose to obtain hower over him” (Ch.14). Isabella’s romantic love turns to hate: “I do hate him – I am wretched – I have been a fool” (Ch.13), and her only pleasure “is to die, or to see him dead!” (Ch.14).
Estranged wife and common enemy
Hindley the impoverished alcoholic urges Isabella to become his accomplice to murder Heathcliff his sworn enemy: “if we were neither of us cowards, we might combine to discharge it”; “treachery and violence are a just return for treachery and violence are a just return for treachery and violence!” cried Hindley. “Mrs. Heathcliff, I’ll ask you do nothing, but sit still and be dumb” (Ch.17) Isabella, however, refuses: “I cannot commit murder” (Ch.17). But her desire to personally avenge all her disappointments in romantic love is always keen: “if I might cause his sufferings and he might know that I was the cause. Oh, I owe him so much. It is, if I may take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; for every wrench of agony return a wrench: reduce him to my level” (Ch.17). Unlike Hindley who attempts to murder Heathcliff Isabella decides to torment him verbally: “pulling out the nerves with red hot pincers requires more coolness than knocking on the head” (Ch.17). Both Hindley and Isabella experience Heathcliff’s hatred and anger and are almost killed by him. Isabella flees from her husband and lives for a little more than twelve years after giving birth to a son named Linton Heathcliff. Hindley, meanwhile drinks himself to death and Heathcliff becomes “the master of Wuthering Heights” and Hareton its true heir a mere servant.
Heathcliff continues to hate Edgar even after Isabella’s death and plans to take revenge on him because he can inherit Thrushcross Grange only after Edgar’s death. To accomplish this evil end he uses Edgar’s own daughter younger Cathy. He traps and makes Cathy a prisoner in Wuthering Heights and gets her married hastily to his own dying son even as her own father Edgar lies on his deathbed. In spite of all her tearful pleas Heathcliff refuses to allow her to be at her father’s bedside in his dying moments. Heathcliff exults malevolently: “I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your father will be miserable” (Ch.27). After Edgar dies Heathcliff becomes the owner of Thrushcross Grange also.
Father and Son
Emily Bronte completes her arabesque by foregrounding Heathcliff’s heartlessness when she portrays him as a cruel father ill treating his own dying son: “I (Nelly) could not picture a father treating a dying child as tyrannically and wickedly as I afterwards learnt Heathcliff had treated him” (Ch.25). As his son is about to die Heathcliff remarks, “his life is not worth a farthing, and I won’t spend a farthing on him” (Ch.30). Heathcliff hates his own son because he reminds him of Isabella: “Thou art thy mother’s child entirely! Where is my share in thee, puling chicken?’ (Ch.20); and as far as he is concerned he is only an instrument to take revenge on Edgar: “his property (Thruscross Grange) would go to me; but, to prevent disputes, I desire their union (Linton Heathcliff and the younger Cathy), and am resolved to bring it about” (Ch.21).
To conclude, the novel seems to be a wholesale rejection of love and forgiveness. This is evident on deconstructing the arabesque of revenge which reveals to us that its binary opposition ‘forgiveness’ is marginalized for even when he knows that he is going to die Heathcliff does not seek anyone’s forgiveness least of all Christ’s: “ I repent of nothing…. No minister need come; nor need anything be said over me” (Ch.34). But at the penultimate moment the deconstructive aporia undoes the arabesque: Hareton Earnshaw and the younger Cathy fall romantically in love and the novel ends with the future hope of conjugal bliss: “the crown of all my wishes will be the union of those two. I shall envy no one on their wedding – day: there won’t be a happier woman than myself in England!” (Ch.32). The central logic of the text thus undoes itself.
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