Similarities Between Hindley and Heathcliff—Two Archenemies in Wuthering Heights

Updated on May 22, 2018
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Athlyn Green is an avid reader and discusses literary gems she's discovered with fellow enthusiasts.

Enemies That Are Oddly Alike

Hindley and Heathcliff are pitted against each other throughout Wuthering Heights.
Hindley and Heathcliff are pitted against each other throughout Wuthering Heights. | Source

Hatred and Revenge at Wuthering Heights

Early on in Wuthering Heights, readers learn of the antipathy between Hindley Earnshaw and Heathcliff, the founding that Hindley's father brings home. A drama unfolds of intolerable hatred and cruelty directed towards Heathcliff by Hindley and this hatred only continues as the story unfolds.

Hindley's treatment of Heathcliff is so vile that Heathcliff vows to exact revenge on Hindley and makes it his life's mission to bring him down. Readers do not feel sympathetic towards Hindley and forgive Heathcliff his own failings because of the maltreatment he suffers at Hindley's hands. To learn more about Hindley's terrible treatment of Heathcliff, see my article Hindley's Cruelty in Wuthering Heights.

But while the two are enemies, they share some interesting similarities, not only in their personality traits but in how their lives unfold. Could this give hints that there is more to Heathcliff's parentage? My article Was Mr. Earnshaw Heathcliff's Real Father? sheds more light on this.

Both Are Fatherless in a Sense

While Hindley has a father, Mr. Earnshaw, he feels abandoned by him because Mr. Earnshaw not only gives Heathcliff the name of a deceased son but treats the lad like an actual son, plus he becomes more attached to Heathcliff, seeing the weakness of character in Hindley and admiring the stronger qualities in Heathcliff.

Hindley views Heathcliff as an usurper, not only of his father's affections but as heir to Wuthering Heights.

Heathcliff is a fatherless waif and is found and rescued by Mr. Earnshaw who brings him home and makes him a member of the family, inspite of his wife's opposition and Hindley's.

There is speculation that Heathcliff may, in fact, have been Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate son and possibly wasn't found in far-off Liverpool as Mr. Earnshaw claimed but maybe much closer to home. If so, this would explain the shared personality traits between Hindley and Heathcliff. My article Was Mr. Earnshaw Heathcliff's Real Father? explores this topic further.

Both Are Bent on Revenge

Both Hindley and Heathcliff are wracked with these emotions.
Both Hindley and Heathcliff are wracked with these emotions.

Hindley takes revenge on Heathcliff by physically assaulting him with blows and leaving his arm black and blue right up to the shoulder. Later on, as master at the Heights, Hindley ensures that Heathcliff is deprived of instruction from the curate and he does everything in his power to humiliate him and bring him low. He continues his physical assaults and sees to it that Heathcliff is flogged repeatedly. Hindley never accepts or views Heathcliff as a brother.

Heathcliff vows to get revenge on Hindley and when he returns to the Heights, sets out to destroy him financially and wrest Wuthering Heights from him.

Both Hindley and Heathcliff Capable of Great Cruelty and Murderous Intent

Hindley throws a heavy iron weight at Heathcliff and knocks him down.
Hindley throws a heavy iron weight at Heathcliff and knocks him down.

Both Hindley and Heathcliff are forces to be reckoned with and they don't hesitate to use physical violence when it suits them. This plays out as the story unfolds in how they treat others.

Hindley makes Heathcliff his prime target and as early as chapter four, we learn that Hindley has murderous intent. He throws a heavy iron weight at Heathcliff's chest and then pushes Heathcliff under a horse's hooves, hoping the horse will break Heathcliff's neck and kick out his brains.

Hindley also is a violent drunk and crams Doctor Kenneth head down in Blackhorse Marsh, torments his son, Hareton, by terrorizing him, threatens Nelly with a carving knife and threatens to shoot members of the household.

Heathcliff makes it his life's mission to make those who have wronged him pay. He sets out to destroy Hindley and he taunts Edgar Linton, who has married Heathcliff's love, Catherine. Heathcliff marries Edgar's sister Isabella and treats her abominably, insulting her and at times physically assaulting her, he maltreats his son Linton, and mistreats Hareton and young Cathy.

Both men are ruthless and are uncaring of the suffering they cause others, blinded by their bitterness and their disdain and hatred for others.

Both Leave Wuthering Heights for Three Years and Then Return

Hindley and Heathcliff both are absent from Wuthering Heights but return.
Hindley and Heathcliff both are absent from Wuthering Heights but return.

In chapter six, we learn Hindley is sent off to college and that after an absence of three years, after his father dies, he returns home and becomes master at the Heights.

In a similar fashion, Heathcliff leaves and is gone for three years and then returns.

Both, upon their return, have altered considerably, each speaking and dressing quite differently. They appear to be gentlemen but their behavior shows otherwise.

Both Men Love Only One Woman

One of the surprises in the novel is that each man seems capable of love.
One of the surprises in the novel is that each man seems capable of love.

Each Man Loves Just One Woman & Each Sheds Tears

One of the most surprising similarities between Hindley and Heathcliff is that while they are both capable of deep, abiding hatred, they are also both apparently capable of deep, abiding love.

Hindley shows every appearance of loving his wife Francis and tries to make her comfortable and happy at Wuthering Heights and seems genuinely taken with her. He cries when he knows she is dying.

Heathcliff's love for Catherine is intense and unwavering. No matter what happens between them, his love for her never alters, and after she dies, he never stops hoping they will be together in spirit. He sheds tears when he feels her ghost has visited the Heights. He sees to it that their graves are placed in close proximity.

Each Has a Son

Hindley and Francis have a son they name Hareton.

Heathcliff has a son, Linton, from his marriage to Isabella.

Neither Man Recovers From the Death of the Woman He Loves

Loss and despair drive both men and shape subsequent behavior.
Loss and despair drive both men and shape subsequent behavior.

Neither Hindley nor Heathcliff handles the loss of the women they love, and they each start to slide down into despair and madness. Hindley drinks and gambles and sinks into dissipation, while Heathcliff is bent on taking revenge on those he views as his enemies. After Catherine's death, he continues to hope that Catherine's ghost will visit him. He looks and looks for her and implores her to haunt him and is consumed by her for the rest of his life.

"Haunt me, then. Be with me always. Take any form. Drive me mad, but don't leave me in the abyss, where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life. I cann

Neither Shows Much Paternal Love

Hindley and Heathcliff are wanting in their treatment of their sons.
Hindley and Heathcliff are wanting in their treatment of their sons.

While capable of loving women, neither man seems capable of loving their children.

After his wife's death, Hindley has little to do with his son. In a drunken rage, he dangles Hareton over the bannister and loses his grip on him. The boys falls and is rescued by Heathcliff.

Heathcliff has little affection for his son, Linton, and seems unperterbed when his wife leaves him and takes the boy away. He later forces his son to marry Catherine and Edgar's daughter, Cathy, whom he tricks into coming to the Heights and holds captive there. When Linton dies a short time later, Heathcliff doesn't seem upset over the loss.

Both men show a startling lack of paternal love or concern for their sons. They seem detached from them.

Both Become Masters at Wuthering Heights

After Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley comes back and becomes master at the Heights. He refuses to recognize Heathcliff as his adopted brother and uses his power to abuse and humiliate Heathcliff and works to turn him into an uneducated brute, laboring long hours out-of-doors. He tries to sabotages the love between Heathcliff and Hindley's sister Catherine.

Heathcliff comes back after a three-year absence and works to take everything away from Hindley. Due to Hindley's drinking and gambling, soon, Heathcliff becomes owner of the Heights.

Both Wish the Other Dead

Hindley's fondest wish is to kill Heathcliff, especially as he sees how Heathcliff has taken over his assets and property, and he plots to kill him with a pistol, trying Heathcliff's door each night to see if it has been left unlocked, so he can go in and shoot him.

Heathcliff, in turn, would like to see Hindley dead. He beats him to a bloody pulp and there remains an unsolved mystery as to whether Heathcliff ends up killing Hindley, because Hindley dies under somewhat suspicious circumstances when he is alone with Heathcliff.

Both Men Die at Wuthering Heights

The only time either could be said to have found lasting peace is when they both are in their grave.
The only time either could be said to have found lasting peace is when they both are in their grave.

Both Hindley and Heathcliff die at Wuthering Heights, each man contributing to his own deterioration and demise through emotional instability, unbalanced living and health-destroying habits.

Lives Closely Aligned Make for a Compelling Tale

These similarities and parallels make the story far more interesting, especially since events play out between two who are such bitter rivals.

Do you think that Bronte's use of similarities and parallels makes this story more interesting?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Athlyn Green

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