The Character of Hareton Earnshaw

For the most part of the novel Hareton strikes us as a mirror image of the younger Heathcliff. He is bad tempered, uncivilised and vicious. It would it seems have proved Heathcliff's own theory "That one tree would grow as crooked as another with the same wind to twist it". Under Heathcliff's tutelage Hareton has grown up almost as savage like. On Nelly's return to the Heights she is shocked by the greeting she receives from her former care. He hurls a stone at her and follows with a string of curses. The Hareton met by Lockwood in the opening chapters is gruff and uncommunicative and he easily angered or disturbed by Lockwood's misunderstanding of the household relationships. His innate decency and his better self are merely submerged beneath this brutal mask "Good things lost amid a wilderness of weeds". None recognises this fact more so than Heathcliff himself who describes Hareton as "gold put to the use of paving stones" and delights that Hareton "takes pride in his brutishness". Heathcliff recognises Hareton's intelligence "If he were born a fool I should not enjoy it half as much but he's no fool". Heathcliff clearly delineates between Hareton and Linton desribing the comparison as that between "gold" and "tin polished to ape a service of silver". In the novel it is most ironic that Hareton grows "damnably fond" of Heathcliff despite Heathcliff's attempts to usurp his rights of succession and to destroy everything positive about him. However Heathcliff is unable to get below the surface and while his outward brutishness might suggest little of substance beneath, his fundamental decency is untouched and he responds to Cathy's beauty and love by striving heroically to improve his mind. Despite this latent development and a recognition of his rightful place in society he is the only mourner who weeps by Heathcliff's corpse and genuinely grieves his death. An explanation of this is that both Hareton and Cathy are portrayed in the novel as children of love and so combine the positive and good qualities of their respective parents. A mind as noble as that possessed by Hareton would have recognised in Heathcliff the unfortunate results of mistreatment. His own experience at the hands of Heathcliff has allowed him to view the world from Heathcliff's position. The character of Hareton is important in portraying the idea that the natural savagery of man is hidden by but a thin veneer of civilisation and that that human beings can easily become bestial in outlook and nature (behaviour). Ultimately, however, Hareton exemplifies the power of love and kindness and the conquest of hate and the supreme Christian virtue of returning good for evil.

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