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Villainy in literature is where an author intentionally portrays a character with intentions of harming others for their own benefit. These characters thus make a piece of writing intriguing to the readers. Basically Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights highlighted villainy in most of the characters, but with special degree of occurrence. She has perfectly blended and distinguished villains from the heroes in a perfect manner.
The novel makes us sympathize with Catherine and Heathcliff because of the selfish behavior they exhibit that is propelled by their backgrounds. Their character traits emphasize their humanity depicted by the feeling of love and hate. Heathcliff comes from a background surrounded by unpromising ‘dark’ personalities that mold him to become as described in the novel by Earnshaw, ‘a dirty, ragged, black haired child’ (Hafley, 199). As he develops into adulthood he fails to show kindness to others, because Nelly molded him to be so by not showing him kindness. He falls in love with Catherine who loves him back just as much as he does. Despite the love shared between them, Heathcliff is unable to provide Catherine with a lifestyle she desires and thus leaves him for Edgar. This action fuels his urge for revenge. His desire for revenge exposes him as the first villain.
From childhood, Hindley’s cruelty drives Him to want revenge. His character is alluded to in the introduction by Bronte as dark and he seems to look like he came from the devil himself. He is a virtuous character rebuffed by love and whose action enforces all the notions of a villain. Hindley hates Heathcliff’s personality while Heathcliff had a share of indiscretion against him. His first revenge was eminent when they were young and Mr. Earnshaw gave them colts, but when Heathcliff went lame, he blackmailed Hindley into dealing with him (Sharma, 100). As the main character, he brutally victimizes anyone who transgresses him. He even at times transgresses those who are blameless since they would act as a tool to get back at those who have wronged him. These actions portray him as a villain.
Even though he can struck a stranger as a born and bred gentleman according to Nelly, Heathcliff is a survivor of sorts and is quite a gentleman. The contrasts elicited by other characters in the novel make us think twice about this character as a villain. We are able to see that his troubled psyche led him to develop exaggerated wickedness and violence. As a villain, he manifests his darkness by kidnapping Cathy and Nelly, destroying Hindley and psychologically harming Hareton and Isabella. In the chapter thirteen Isabella confirms his villainy through the letter to Ellen thus “Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? And if so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?” (Charlotte and Emily, 110). We are introduced to him as to somebody other than what we see in him. We therefore tend to think that his cruelty is a mere expression of frustration because of love. The behavior exhibits therefore conceal the heart of a romantic hero. His character traits contain hidden virtues because he is a hero in a romantic novel. He therefore becomes dangerous, cold, brooding and fiercely devoted to love. As a villain he does not reform and his wickedness continues to be great and long-lasting to the extent that it cannot be adequately explained. He solely explains that his abuse of Isabella was simply sadistic, since he liked seeing how much abuse Isabella could take and how many times she would come expecting more. Heathcliff is a villain because the author tests readers on how many times they are going to be shocked at Heathcliff’s violence and still view him as a hero. We are easily let to sympathize with him as a child since he was powerless and tyrannized by Hindley. As a grown up he developed to a villain when returned to the village after acquiring wealth and power and engulfing himself as a perfect gentleman.
On the contrary, Catherine as a character also has a non promising background. At the beginning of the novel, Bronte portrays Catherine as a woman with high spirits and one who is kind to Heathcliff. After getting the injury on her leg, Catherine changed to a different humanity altogether. She became a personality who loved the wealthy lifestyle and thus prompting her to disregard Heathcliff. She scorns Heathcliff by saying “If you wash your face and brush your hair, it will be all right” (Hafley, 210). Even though she hurts souls in the novel, she has not been brought out as a true villain.
Compared to Nelly Dean a character who is almost invisible, she appears to be a villain because she is invisible and masquerading as a good benevolent force. Form literary perspectives, a villain may appear to be a bright light with the intentions of helping the heroine or the hero. Nelly’s actions show the reader that she is a villain. Her actions towards Heathcliff as a child and her treatment of Catherine’s health portray villainy. We are also able to observe the way in which she treated the triangular love that existed between Catherine, Heathcliff and Edgar. Her actions portray her as a villain.
Like Nelly, Heathcliff has no ability to feel the compassion which makes him a villain since he is able to go through drastic lengths to revenge. He developed to be a product of nature and nurture where throughout his life he encountered tribulations and trials that nurtured the darker traits. He appears to be the villain in the novel since he emerges as a demonic character full of power and capable of extreme cruelties. Nelly also observes Heathcliff’s villainy when he returned to Wuthering Heights. Nelly quickly feared because he quickly exhibited this ardent malice by mercilessly abusing innocent Isabella and by the way he treated Hindley as a form of revenge. Throughout the book, the villain has not lost his status as a sympathetic character, but it is difficult to commiserate with him. Heathcliff certainly acts cruelly towards others because of the pain he developed as a result of loving Catherine. We are let in to his misery just as to those he causes to others. This love that makes him develop ‘devilish’ attitude constitutes the center of Bronte’s story.
He appears not to be the true villain because as a character his villainy is as a result of loving too much. Bronte’s intention was to justify the act of loving too much and caution people of the dangerous of loving too deeply. Heathcliff exerts some power over the reader’s imagination in that despite being cruel and vengeful, we see that he has suffered the ill treatment from other characters such as Hindley (Brontė, 200). Thus his scheme to revenge on brutes such as Hindley is received with much comfort. Nelly can be termed as a true villain because her narration of the story portrays something else. Through her we are able to see a real jealous character who criticizes Catherine for her wealth, beauty and social status. Nelly is much older than Catherine, but grew up serving her. Nelly recounts that her hatred was no doubt buried under false pretense.
As a good character, had she cared for Heathcliff, she would have intervened during the fight between Edgar and Heathcliff. She could have even helped the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, since she was at a position of warning Catherine in the kitchen that night. Nelly appears to be an invisible character, because she did not want to incriminate herself. She chose to be silent rather than saying anything. We find that after her return from Linton’s she was speaking to Catherine who in turn was admitted to her infatuation with Edgar. Catherine admitted her idea of wanting to marry Edgar and leaving Heathcliff because of Edgar’s wealth. Nelly knew that Heathcliff was listening to their conversation, but made no attempt to silence her. She only encouraged her to continue talking by asking her more questions. She only informed Catherine of Heathcliff’s presence after he stormed out in horror and furry. Her words had affected Heathcliff’s health, but she had made her decision anyway.
Unlike Heathcliff who is first of all described to us in the first paragraph by Lockwood as black eyed since his eyes withdraw suspiciously under his brows, he is not a true villain because his actions had reasons. Nelly introduces us to him at Earnshaw’s family and takes us through his vengeful calculations and ends the story after his death. Nelly out true villain in this case is hidden from the limelight and her actions towards other characters are depicted to have no reason (Brontė, 200). As a house keeper, she is expected to follow the master’s orders. However, this is not eminent, since when Catherine fell ill, Edgar left specific example to her not to let anyone disturb Catherine, but after his departure she allows Heathcliff in to see Catherine. The visit destroys Catherine’s health and sanity thus causing her death. Catherine’s death on the other hand increases Heathcliff’s desire for revenge against the Earnshows and Lintons. Nelly was perfectly sure that her actions would cause this feeling and as a result allowed him in to meet the same course.
Since a child grows the way they are taught by people around them, Heathcliff grew without kindness, since Nelly made no attempt to show him any kindness when he was young. Nelly admits here hatred and contempt to Heathcliff when she said “Hindley hated him and to say the truth, I did the same…” (Brontë, 67). Anyone who goes through the drastic length to revenge is surely a villain. We are informed how Heathcliff’s character was conquered by love. Heathcliff’s actions were not that of a real villain since he did them for a purpose. When he met Lockwood, he was already cleansed by the time, since each day brought new happy feelings than the last. Through Heathcliff, Bronte was not only able to explore man’s inner nature, but also man as a partial villain. Villainy is unique and the novel is able to portray this through the good deeds of Nelly. Having simple villainy in them Catherine and Heathcliff only struggled with the outer beauty and inner darkness to search for peace that had evaded their spirits. Heathcliff’s role as a character is therefore that of a hero and not a true villain instead we are introduced to him as somebody other, than what we see in him. We therefore tend to think that his cruelty is a mere expression of frustration because of love. The behavior exhibits therefore conceal the heart of a romantic hero. Bronte has used goodness to hide the darkness of villainy. Nelly is the true villain in the novel as seen through her treatment of young Heathcliff, her regard to Catherine’s health and the destructive influence on Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship. Despite her actions, she had nothing to gain from the downfall of the family. She is just an evil being who had to hide behind the good.