Hindley Earnshaw: Character Analysis in Wuthering Heights

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      Hindley Earnshaw is a relatively uncomplicated character as compared to Heathcliff and Catherine. However, he too has contradictory aspects: his choice of a fiddle as a present from his father suggests an artistic temperament and his tears when it is broken indicate a sensitive temperament. Yet, we see very little of the sensitive Hindley in the novel.

His Hatred for Heathcliff

      The tender aspects of Hindley seem to die with the arrival of Heathcliff in the household, who supplants him in his father's affection. This naturally leads him to a jealous hatred for Heathcliff and he spares no opportunity to torment him. After the death of his father, there is no stopping of him and it is his cruel, inhuman and brutal treatment of Heathcliff which is responsible for much of Heathcliff's warped nature.

His Love for his Wife

      The only redeeming aspect of his character, his tender feelings are seen only in his relationship with his wife, Frances whom he loves deeply. He is shattered by her death and sinks into a life of depraved drunkenness. His sorrow is described thus:

".....he grew desperate; his sorrow was of the kind that will not lament, he neither wept nor prayed — he cursed and defied — execrated God and man and gave himself up to reckless dissipation" (Chapter 8).

      It is possible that Emily Bronte based Hindley's character on her own brother Branwell's who was a drunken profligate.

Heathcliff's Revenge on Edgar

      Heathcliff returns after an absence of three years to wreak vengeance on Edgar who had humiliated and treated him so horribly. Edgar, with his drunken and depraved ways, is an easy target for Heathcliff who lends him money to gamble more and finally gets Edgar to mortgage the property of the 'Heights' to himself. Hindley is thus unable to take any control of his life and even his attempt to kill Heathcliff ends in failure.


      Hindley Earnshaw has some of the qualities of his father, but he is unstable and lacks moral responsibility and self-discipline. His nature is ruined by his resentment of Heathcliff's intrusion into the family. When his father's restraining presence is removed he becomes a great bully and his character deteriorates rapidly. The death of his adored wife Frances pushes him over the brink and he becomes a depraved drunkard and gambler losing his property and house to the scheming Heathcliff. So depraved does he become that he retains no sense of-parental responsibility and is violent towards his own son Hareton.

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