Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.
Internal and External Struggles
Have you ever made a bad decision because you were upset with someone? The bad decisions that the characters of Wuthering Heights make in the face of conflict drive the plot. Conflict is any struggle between opposing forces. Each of the characters faces a combination of internal and external conflicts, but many of the conflicts remain unresolved. Let's look at a few examples of conflict from the story.
When Hindley and Catherine's father brought the orphaned street urchin, Heathcliff, home to be their new brother, both children resented it. Over time, Catherine grew to love Heathcliff, but Hindley never did. Things only get worse when Heathcliff grows to be their father's favorite. `'So, from the very beginning, he bred bad feeling in the house; and at Mrs. Earnshaw's death, which happened in less than two years after, the young master had learned to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend, and Heathcliff as a usurper of his parent's affections and his privileges; and he grew bitter with brooding over these injuries,'' narrates Nelly.
As soon as their father dies, Hindley takes advantage of the opportunity to exact his revenge against Heathcliff by turning him into a servant, flogging him for misbehavior, and prohibiting him from spending time with Catherine. In the long run, Hindley's real conflict was with himself as he grew up thinking he was unlovable, but he displaced his feelings of abandonment onto the nearest target. Hindley's life did not improve in any way from his vengeance, but instead resulted in misery for the next generation.
Heathcliff is able to withstand Hindley's degradation of him as long as he has Catherine by his side to lift him up. When Heathcliff overhears Catherine telling Nelly, ''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,'' it is more than Heathcliff can bear.
The real struggle Catherine faces between Edgar and Heathcliff is that Edgar can provide her with social status and material wealth, whereas Heathcliff is the one her soul loves. As a result of Catherine's social climb, Heathcliff feels compelled to leave Wuthering Heights to create some wealth of his own. By the time he establishes his own social standing, it is too late for Heathcliff and Catherine as she has married Edgar. The result of the conflict that both Catherine and Heathcliff face in their quest for money and prominence in the community is that once they achieve it, they discover that it wasn't what they really wanted after all. They both end up miserable.
There is no doubt that Heathcliff got a rough start in life and has not gotten many breaks since. By the time Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights, he is wealthy and angry. He has learned through experience that getting revenge directly on the person who has wronged you is less effective than casting it against their loved ones. Heathcliff tells Catherine, ''The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don't turn against him; they crush those beneath them. You are welcome to torture me to death for your amusement, only allow me to amuse myself a little in the same style, and refrain from insult as much as you are able.'' Heathcliff dedicates his life to resolving his inner conflict by getting revenge, striking out against:
- Hindley, using his son, Hareton
- Edgar, using his sister, Isabella
- Isabella, using their son, Linton
- Edgar and Catherine, using their daughter, Cathy
By the end of the story, everyone is either dead or miserable. In the end, Heathcliff has not accomplished anything towards his hopes and dreams of winning back Catherine or feeling better about his situation. When he finally realizes the futility, Heathcliff loses interest in completing his mission of vengeance.
There are several conflicts in Wuthering Heights as characters compete for love and attention, climb the social ladder, and avenge those who are perceived as the enemy. Jealousy is the basis for the conflicts between Hindley and Heathcliff and between Heathcliff and Edgar. Hindley becomes envious when his father prefers Heathcliff over him and gets his revenge by turning Heathcliff into a servant. Heathcliff is envious as Edgar wins over Catherine because of his social standing. The division in classes drives Catherine's internal conflict as she prefers Heathcliff, but Edgar is the one who can provide her with the material things she thinks she wants. Heathcliff becomes so filled with hate that he destroys everyone within the vicinity of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. In the end, none of their destructive decisions brings happiness to anyone.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Register to view this lesson
Unlock Your Education
See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com
Become a Study.com member and start learning now.Become a Member
Already a member? Log InBack