Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Where There Is Oppression, There Is Resistance-An Analysis of the Motives of Heathcliff's Revenge

Academic journal article Studies in Literature and Language

Where There Is Oppression, There Is Resistance-An Analysis of the Motives of Heathcliff's Revenge

Article excerpt

Abstract

Wuthering Heights is one of the most successful novels in the world. Heathcliff's crazy revenge even gains lots of attention. From the perspective of psychology, especially Abraham H. Maslow's motivation theory, this paper studies the motives of Heathcliff's revenge. It finds out that the motives of Heathcliff's revenge were attributed to the dissatisfaction of the five basic needs of human beings, especially the safety needs, the esteem needs and the self-actualization needs. The revenge was, in fact, the instinctive resistance to the oppression.

Key words: Wuthering Heights; Motivation; Oppression; Resistance; Heathcliff's revenge

INTRODUCTION

Wuthering Heights, first published in 1847, was Emily Brontë's only novel. It mainly tells a story about how the hero-Heathcliffchanged from a crazy avenger. It is a marvelous love story about love and hate, life and death. As published, its gloomy description of the background and the enormous contrast of the plots have attracted a great number of readers. Heathcliff's abnormal revenge not only brings a great shock to the readers, but also makes the work to be one of the most controversial works in the literature world. Wuthering Heights is been viewed as "a fascinating enigma in English Letters" and "the sphinx of literature" (Allott, 1992, p. 12). Besides, it has inspired around 10 movies since 1939. It is quite popular in China and there are more than 30 Chinese versions. In the realm of literature studies, thousands of scholars have studied the revenge of Heathcliff. However, according to the database of Web of Science and CNKI (National Knowledge Infrastructure, a database of academic papers in China), there were few papers focused on motivation of Heathcliffsuch as Liang Yuling and Li Lei (2001) and Shi Yeli (2004) studied Heathcliff's revenge from the perspective of Freudian psychoanalysis. Others such as Shen Weiwei (2007) focused on Heathcliff's identity studies, and Chen Mingxia (2010) analyzed the humanity of Heathclifffrom the perspective of space. As a matter of fact, motivation is closely related to behavior. It "explains why a particular behavior is selected and why that behavior occurs with a given degree of vigor" (Hoyenga & Hoyenga, 1984, p. 6). Therefore, this paper focuses on the basic motives of Heathcliff's revenge. From the perspective of psychology, especially Abraham H. Maslow's motivation theory, the paper tries to analyze why Heathcliffhas the motives and how the motives come into being.

1. OVERVIEW OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS

Heathcliffused to be a homeless dark-skinned boy who led a miserable life in a street of Liverpool. Then Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights, saw him by chance. Mr. Earnshaw brought him to Wuthering Heights and raised him as his own son. Although Heathcliffmade friends with Catherine (the daughter of Mr. Earnshaw), and received much attention and love from Mr. Earnshaw, he was not welcomed by Mr. Earnshaw's wife, his son Hindley and even the servant Joseph. Hindley was so jealous of Heathcliffthat he always treated Heathcliffsavagely and rudely. In spite of humiliation, Heathcliffrarely fought against them nor complained to Mr. Earnshaw.

Hindley married a woman named Frances and he inherited the estate after Mr. Earnshaw's death. Heathcliff's life in Wuthering Heights became even more miserable. Hindley brutalized him and forced him to work as a servant instead of a family member. Catherine was the only friend of Heathcliffat that time, and they soon fell in love. By chance, Catherine made friends with the Lintons of Thrushcross Grange. She was totally attracted by the wealth of the family, and especially attached to the noble and mild young Edgar. Hindley's life, however, was not all plain sailing. A short time after giving birth to a son, Hareton, his wife Frances died. Jarred by the sad news, Hindley then began to indulge in drinking. With the time passed, Edgar and Catherine became close friends. …

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