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Examples of Heathcliff's Cruelty & Brutality in Wuthering Heights

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are reading 'Wuthering Heights', you may have noticed how horribly Heathcliff behaves sometimes. He does several things within the novel that make several readers really dislike him. Read this lesson to find out why.

Easy to Hate

Have you ever watched a movie or a show where there is a character that you simply despise? Maybe they have a bad attitude or are just annoying. In Wuthering Heights, the protagonist, Heathcliff, is pretty easy to hate. There is no excuse for some of things that Heathcliff does, but for the sake of being accurate, he does have a pretty rough childhood. In this lesson, we'll look at some examples of Heathcliff's cruelty and discuss why he is an easy character for readers to dislike.

Heathcliff Hangs Isabella's Dog

We could save the most extreme story for last, but it's more fun to hate this guy together. Heathcliff has a plan to marry a woman named Isabella. He doesn't actually care for her, he is just trying to get to her brother so he can steal back his true love and get his revenge. One day, Isabella's maid comes outside and finds Isabella's dog hanged. He is almost dead.

Trying to kill a dog? Boom! Instant hate maker. The reader is never told exactly why Heathcliff does this, but it does foreshadow how Heathcliff will treat Isabella in the future. Most people have heard that harming animals is one of the first signs of being a sociopath. Isabella clearly didn't get the memo, and she marries him anyway.

Heathcliff Call's His Wife a Slut

After Isabella and Heathcliff get married, things aren't going so well for anyone. Catherine, Heathcliff's true love, is sick. He wants to visit her, but her husband will not allow it. Catherine's maid comes to tell Heathcliff to flake off and that he will not be visiting Catherine. When she tells him this, she also points out that he should treat his own wife better and that it is obvious he is being horrible to her. His response is to brag about almost killing her dog, and then call her a ''mere slut.'' Real classy, Heathcliff. When the maid tells Isabella that she should leave him, she says that she has tried but was caught and will never try again. We can only imagine what Heathcliff did to make her this afraid.

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