Revenge is a significant part of being human and refers to the desire to inflict retribution or inflict harm and hurt on others for wrongs or injuries suffered at their hands. The theme of revenge is recurrent in many literary or artistic works and is mainly associated with grief, hatred, and anger, hence used by authors to provide the relief characters seek. While in many works the ending demonstrates that revenge is not worth spending effort and time on as it denies relief, the theme allows authors to show the feelings characters experience before, during, and after acts of vengeance.
Similarly, psychologist establishes that revenge is only rewarding at the moment and only creates cycles of retaliation because it prolongs the hostility and unpleasantly of the original offense. In Wuthering Heights the concept is a prevailing theme where cycles of revenge seem to be repeated endlessly since most of the action in the story is attributable to one or more characters’ desire for revenge.
Psychological scientists have in the recent past discovered many ways in which the practice of revenge fails in fulfilling the sweet expectation the avenger seeks. Behavioral scientists continue to observe that rather than quenching hostility, revenge mainly prolongs and that it merely brings harm to the offender, which makes revenge insufficient in satisfying a person’s vengeful spirit.
Research also establishes that revenge often creates a cycle of retaliation instead of delivering justice, partly because one individual’s moral equilibrium rarely aligns with that of other people. The upshot of the insight provided by research is a better sense of why pursuing revenge has persisted throughout history and why revenge in Wuthering Heights is tragic.
In the novel, Emily Bronte depicts revenge as avenging oneself or another person through retaliation in degree or kind, whereby the avenger inflicts harm or injury for wrongs inflicted upon them by emphasizing the complex relationship between the protagonist and other characters. While Heathcliff’s revenge is vicious, it is understandable given the maltreatment he encounters from Hindley and Edgar and the unfair discrimination that leaves him deeply wounded. Besides, he overhears Catherine, the woman he idolizes, saying how it would degrade her to marry him (Heathcliff), further leaving him heartbroken.
The abuse and betrayal catalyze vengeance, prompting Heathcliff to create an elaborate plan to avenge the hurt and betrayal. As research establishes, revenge is a powerful internal force motivated by the argument that getting retribution helps one feel better. In the novel, revenge becomes the only reason for Mr. Heathcliff to live. The outcome is an endless cycle of revenge where Heathcliff dispossesses Hindley of Wuthering Heights and denies education to Hindley’s son Hareton. Furthermore, Heathcliff marries Cathy off to Linton as revenge against Edgar for marrying Catherine and marries Edgar’s sister Isabella to take her away. Therefore, the protagonist’s search for desire is driven by a strong desire to get retribution for wrongs done to him.
With revenge, however, psychology establishes that reward is only rewarding at the moment. Movies, books, and TV shows depict acts of vengeance as a means to gain closure after wrongs. Psychological scientists have found that revenge only fuels hostility and extends the bitterness of the original wrong instead of providing closure, creating a cycle of retaliation rather than delivering justice. In Wuthering Heights, while the protagonist’s vengeance is effective, it does not provide the joy and satisfaction he yearns for. For instance, Heathcliff is unsatisfied with ruining his transgressors as he extends his revenge to their children. Precisely, Heathcliff extends the revenge to Cathy by marrying her into an undesirable marriage and Hareton by depriving him of social status and finances after failing to get closure from revenge against Hundley and Linton. Heathcliff justifies the revenge on the children when he says to Catherine, “I seek no revenge on you,’ replied Heathcliff, less vehemently. ’That’s not the plan. The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him; they crush those beneath them” (Bronte 51).
Nonetheless, Heathcliff realizes his mistake and admits that he can never get happiness from revenge and that peace will only prevail when he abandons the need for vengeance because of the burden in the form of sleepless nights and a pitiful destiny he has to bear as he seeks retribution. Like psychology scientists, Bronte presents vengeance in a doubtful light due to its negative impact on the protagonist.
In conclusion, revenge is a theme most prominent in Wuthering Heights, leading the protagonist into a fateful destiny. Bronte successfully depicts revenge as a chaotic feeling that costs the avenger sleepless nights and a doomed eternity instead of offering the closure and relief he seeks for the hurt his lover and others caused him in the past. As such, Wuthering Heights underscores what many scientists have established, that in the long term revenge is not rewarding as it only fuels the unpleasantness of the initial offense.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering heights. Ignatius Press, 2008.