Lockwood and Heathcliff - Wuthering Heights essay

Short essay response to the following:

‘A perfect misanthropist’s Heaven; and Mr Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us.’ To what extent is this view borne out in Chapters 1 and 2? 

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  • Created on: 07-04-13 20:19
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`A perfect misanthropist's Heaven; and Mr Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the
desolation between us.' To what extent is this view borne out in Chapters 1 and 2?
Upon the initial portrayal of Lockwood, one may perceive him as a suitable `pair' for Heathcliff as
someone who himself asserts that he desires `a situation so completely removed from the stir of
society'. However, the very nature of the words `pair' and `misanthropist' are conflicting, and almost
immediately the reader is made aware of the irony and contradiction behind Lockwood's character.
Andrew Green states, `the gothic is a genre that...thrives on opposition and division and has, at its
heart, uncertainty.' This conventional opposition is made apparent as Bront establishes Lockwood
as a mirror image of Heathcliff. Though he is initially constructed as bored with society and
misanthropic, the very nature of his delight at finding `a suitable pair' contradicts his stated aversion
to company and thus appears as false, whereas Heathcliff's burning hatred of society remains true,
and Lockwood himself quickly realizes his error in likening himself to such a man; `It is astonishing
how sociable I feel myself compared with him.' The very narrative of Lockwood, contained within his
journal is significant in his portrayal as a typical eighteenth-century gentleman, rooted in tradition and
history, further contrasting Heathcliff's discourteous manner and unknown origin. Thus, Bront starkly
juxtaposes both good and evil and highlights the boundary between the civilised and the uncivilised.
However, following this presentation of two seemingly contrasting characters, Bront then goes on
to subject these oppositions to what Green refers to as `intense pressure', revealing them as
`unstable, each implicated in the other', particularly through the aggressive nature in which
Lockwood treats the dogs in the first chapter; `...parrying off the larger combatants as effectually
as I could with the poker.' Whilst this initial violence may be interpreted as justified as defensive
retaliation, the repetition of further violence as a major theme within the novel works in solidifying
the concept of violence as ordinary and unremarkable. Lockwood goes on to state, in regard to
Hareton; `He fixed his eye on me longer than I cared to return the stare, for fear I might be
tempter...to box his ears.' This vicious internal threat and the trivial nature of the source of
provocation, a `stare', works to convey the normative belief within society that aggression is an
appropriate means of solving conflict. Thus, as Lockwood has initially been constructed as a `civilised'
individual, Brontë begins to blur the boundaries between the civilised and the uncivilised, and the
good and the evil. The reader is led to question what, in this society, constitutes as `acceptable'
behaviour, drawing unexpected comparisons between the characters of Lockwood and Heathcliff
who is also shown to be violent. The gradual collapse and destabilisation of such widely accepted
oppositions may be both unsettling and frightening to the reader, and, as Green states,
`encapsulates the essentially contradictory and fragmentary nature of the gothic genre.'

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