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Emily Bronté first introduces Hareton Earnshaw in a very specific and detailed way. In fact, the first person at Wuthering Heights who Mr. Lockwood formally meets is Hareton. However, the first time Mr. Lockwood lays eyes on Hareton, the young man is "shouldering a pitchfork" (11). While at dinner the first night of Mr. Lockwood's stay at Wuthering Heights, Hareton introduces himself and states, "My name is Hareton Earnshaw... and I'd counsel you to respect it!" (17). It is clear that Bronté describes Hareton this way to set the tone and foreshadow Mr. Lockwood's stay at Wuthering Heights. However, Hareton's cold demeanor could be a direct result of his upbringing. Even though Hindley's fathering skills towards Hareton have not been portrayed thus far in the novel, Hindley's attitude, personality, and fathering skills towards his siblings speak for themselves. In fact, Hindley is first mentioned in Catherine Earnshaw's old, protected journal that Mr. Lockwood discovers in a private room in the house. Catherine wrote, "Hindley is a detestable substitute [for a father]" (24). While Hindley was an inadequate father figure in Catherine and Heathcliff's lives, he was also a poor excuse for a brother. One day during an argument with Heathcliff, Hindley launched an iron weight towards him, "hitting him on the breast, and down he fell, but staggered up immediately, breathless and white” (46). Beatings like this were a commonality in the Earnshaw household for Heathcliff. These kinds of characteristics that Hindley is already showing as a child lead the reader to believe that he will be a poor father to Hareton and scar his son forever.
Brontë continues to amaze me by continuously showing the reader Hindley and Hareton Earnshaw's true colors. Hareton can be seen constantly following in his fathers footsteps in the way he treats guests, and women, nonetheless. Thus far in the novel, Brontë focuses on Hindley and his constant misbehavior. In fact, it is much more than just mere misbehavior, Hindley is seen failing to be an adequate father, friend, and brother. For example, when regarding the funeral of Catherine Linton, Hindley's own sister, Nelly remarks, "Mr. Earnshaw was, of course, invited to attend the remains of his sister to the grave; he sent no excuse, but he never came" (Brontë 197). He does not have the decency to visit the tomb of his own sister. Brontë makes it seem that he has almost completely separated himself from what family he has left. She also makes it clear that he does not just separate himself from his family, but also wishes to murder a life long friend, Heathcliff. Hindley boldly explains, “I cannot resist going up with this every night, and trying his door. If once I find it open he’s done for... Not all the angels in heaven shall save him” (Brontë 163). Hindley desires to have Heathcliff's fortune instead of a true relationship with him. It is only fitting that Hareton should mature in a way that values nothing but money, alcohol, and gambling. We see Hareton taking after his father by the way the residents at Wuthering Heights treat Isabella. None of them treat her with respect or dignity. They make her miserable. I think that, based upon how he has been regressing thus far, Hindley will continue to regress and lead his son down a dark path. The road that Hindley is on is a dangerous dead end, and he is bringing as many people with him as possible, even his own helpless son.
While his life is nearing the end, Hindley seems to act very much alive by his actions towards Heathcliff. I believe that all of his anger and fury towards Heathcliff has built up and is ready to be let out. In fact, before Hindley attempts to murder Heathcliff, he remarks,“Oh, if God would but give me strength to strangle him in my last agony, I’d go to hell with joy,” (Brontë 213). His last wish is to have the privilege of killing Heathcliff. Heathcliff's death is the only thing that will satisfy him. We have seen these attributes of Hindley's leading up to this moment. I believe, however, that it is not all his fault. I personally do not believe that Hindley and Heathcliff would have this feud if Hindley's father did not favor Heathcliff during their childhood. However, once Hindley dies, Hareton is left to be under Heathcliff's care. A strong, tough eighteen year old boy in Hareton seems to have matured in his years. We see Hareton as a calm boy around Catherine. Nelly exclaims, "he stared at [Catherine] with considerable curiosity and astonishment...with his hands in his pockets, too awkward to speak," (Brontë 228). This is a clear difference in Hareton's demeanor since the last time Nelly approached him as a stranger. It seems to me that Brontë is showing the reader that he is maturing. However, Brontë does include some of his innate nature later in the reading. In fact, after being called a servant by Catherine, Hareton "grew black as a thunder cloud" and growls, "I'll see thee damned before I be thy servant," (Brontë 229). It almost seems as if there are two completely opposite sides to Hareton, much like Heathcliff. There is a quiet, calm young lad as well as a raging mad man. I believe that this contrast of personalities of Hareton's will prove to be an unfortunate quality of his, much like it was for Heathcliff. However, I do believe that he and Catherine have just fallen in love.
Since Hindley has died, Hareton is under the complete care of Heathcliff. Earlier in the novel, Hareton was extremely offended when called a servant by Cathy. This allows me to infer that Hareton desires to be an educated man and is extremely embarraresed that he has no schooling and education. In fact, after failing to prove to Cathy that he was literate, Cathy remarks, “He imagined himself to be as accomplished as Linton, I suppose, because he could spell his own name; and was marvellously discomfited that I didn’t think the same" (Brontë 292). This shows that Hareton sees that he has been unfortunate in his circumstances, yet desires to overcome them. He even tries to pretend like he is well-educated because he is tired of being seen like a servant. He wants to be set apart from the lower class of society, and it makes him furious that he is inept to do so. In fact, Cathy describes Hareton, “The fool stared, with a grin hovering about his lips, and a scowl gathering over his eyes” (Brontë 292). Hareton's lack of schooling and knowledge is a direct result of his fathers horrible parenting. Since Hindley refused to allow the tutor on his estate, Hareton was left to be nothing but a working servant. Even though all of the circumstances surrounding Hareton seemed to not go his way, I believe that he will overcome many of these challenges as the book progresses. Even though his father has negatively affected his life in such a huge way, I think Hareton will move past it and become his own person, with his own goals that he will eventually attain.
Since these chapters focus on the relationship between Catherine and Linton, Hareton's role is subtle, yet important. Since Hareton is in charge of keeping Nelly and Catherine prisoner all day long, he is the only one who interacts with them throughout this imprisonment experience. In fact, Nelly remarks, “Five nights and four days I remained, altogether, seeing nobody but Hareton once every morning; and he was a model of a jailor: surly, and dumb, and deaf to every attempt at moving his sense of justice or compassion” (Brontë 322). It makes it seem like Hareton has turned into a robot almost. Heathcliff has completely brainwashed him. Since he grew up in such a dysfunctional household, his moral sense of right and wrong is completely skewed. Hareton is a perfect target for Heathcliff to brainwash because he has no education that enables him to think for himself. Also, Heathcliff has been a father figure to Hareton in a way, causing Hareton to follow in Heathcliff's footsteps and trust him nonetheless. I think that Hareton will be changed by his experience with Catherine and Nelly and eventually begin to care for others and think for himself. He will be able to discern right from wrong as opposed to listening to whatever lies Heathcliff feeds him.
As the novel progresses, the theme of Hareton's education continues to arise. While almost always insulted by Catherine, Hareton takes complete pride in learning how to read. In fact, Hareton goes to extreme measures in order to try and teach himself to read. For example, Catherine mocks, “I heard you turning over the dictionary to seek out the hard words, and then cursing because you couldn’t read their explanations!” (Brontë 360). I believe that Catherine is a direct motivation for Hareton. It seems like he is so persistent to learn how to read so that he can prove Catherine wrong. Another important part that Hareton plays in this reading is that he reminds Heathcliff of Catherine, the love of his life. In fact, Heathcliff remarks, “But when I look for his father in his face, I find her every day more! How the devil is he so like? I can hardly bear to see him" (Brontë 352). Heathcliff cannot stand to look at the face of Hareton because all he sees is the love of his life that left him behind. Hareton reminds Heathcliff of his unrequited love that blew away in the wind as Catherine died. It is clear that his lover still haunts Heathcliff. He actually states that she haunts him every night. She will not be at rest until they are together and he will not be happy until he is with her. Until then, the thought of one of his family members resembling her makes him tremble.
The relationship that Hareton and Catherine have seems to me to be similar to that of Heathcliff and Catherine. It seems like they both truly love the other. It is interesting to note that Catherine began to intentionally notice Harrton after he shoots himself and needs constant assistance. We have already seen she loved to act as a mother to those in need with Linton and Edgar. However, this time is more than just a mere job to Catherine because she begins to fall in love, even though Hareton is still cynical about her, due to previous encounters. In fact, after Catherine kisses Hareton, Catherine explains, “he was very careful, for some minutes, that his face should not be seen, and when he did raise it, he was sadly puzzled where to turn his eyes” (Brontë 366). However, not even Hareton, a complete stranger to the public of society, can confuse his feelings for Catherine. He loves her. The desires of their hearts were a perfect fit. For example, Nelly claims, “one loving and desiring to esteem, and the other loving and desiring to be esteemed—they contrived in the end to reach it" (Brontë 368). Catherine wishes to care while Hareton needs to be cared for. I strongly believe that the love that these two share is a true love, which is very rare to the themes of the novel. I think that this marriage will finally make Catherine, as well as Hareton, contempt with their lives.