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Heathcliff: Villian or Victim?

             In the forward to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, her sister Charlotte Bronte describes the protagonist, Heathcliff, to have "a passion such as might boil and glow in the bad essence of some evil genius;- (C. Bronte 65). This portrayal of Heathcliff denotes diabolism. However, many critics feel that instead of taking the role of a tyrant Heathcliff is in fact the victim in the novel. Heathcliff's "story is a long list of morally reprehensible actions- (Holderness 27). Through this story, the reader's sympathies are touched. Who receives these sympathies? Is it Heathcliff that is the oppressor? Or is he the one who is being oppressed? "It would be nave to expect all readers to react similarly to Heathcliff- (Champion 52). More importantly, to put aside the fact that Emily Bronte's story is about Heathcliff's mistreatment and revenge is neglecting the entire meaning of the novel (Champion 52). Without Heathcliff as the central figure of Wuthering Heights, the novel lacks a meaningful theme. By carefully analyzing Emily Bronte's point of view toward her dominant character, one can affirm her purpose concerning this mystifying figure (Champion 52). As a result of the exploitation and torment Bronte allows Heathcliff to endure, he is more the victim than the villain of the novel.
             Some refer to Heathcliff as a diabolical character due to his cruel and demonic behavior. Critics support this idea with the mistreatment of Hindley. As Heathcliff tries to reenter Wuthering Heights against Hindley's wishes he "kicks and tramples on Hindley, and dashes his head repeatedly against the flags- (E. Bronte 195). Heathcliff's harsh pounding causes the reader to see Heathcliff as pitiless and animal-like (Holderness 28). Although Heathcliff torments Hindley, it is imperative to understand the roots of his malice. Heathcliff declares his pledge saying, " I'm trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back.

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