Love versus hatred

Investigating the opposition of love and hatred

  • As an introduction to this theme, dot the major characters around on a blank sheet of A4, then draw colour-coded arrows between them, according to whether you feel that it is love or hatred which links them.


Having undertaken the above exercice, you may have found that it is easy to decide the colour of some pairings, for example the hatred between Hindley and Heathcliff. Some arrows change their colour part way, as, for example, the positive feelings between Hareton and Cathy slowly develop. Some characters have love flowing in one direction and hatred in the other, such as Isabella and Heathcliff at the start of their relationship.

Love and hatred intermingled

In the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff, we find a mixture of both love and hatred. The bond between them is so charged that it easily spills over from positive to negative, particularly when either one threatens it. For example, when Catherine returns to Wuthering Heights in Chapter 7, Heathcliff is described as being, ‘very black and cross’. Later, Heathcliff responds to Catherine’s death by saying, ‘May she wake in torment!’ (Chapter 16)

At the centre of the novel we therefore have a complex relationship. What is Brontë suggesting here? That love can sometimes be uncontrollable? That love and hatred are closer than we think? Each reader must make up their own mind. This is not a novel which lends itself to simple answers.

The fact that hatred is present in most characters and most relationships within the novel makes it hardly surprising that an atmosphere of violence pervades the story. This is demonstrated not only in acts of violence, which are often gratuitous, but also in Brontë’s descriptions and the language used in dialogue:

Do you suppose I'm going with that blow burning in my gullet?' [Heathcliff] thundered. 'By hell, no! I'll crush his ribs in like a rotten hazel-nut before I cross the threshold! If I don't floor him now, I shall murder him some time; so, as you value his existence, let me get at him! (Chapter 11)

(For more on the violence within the novel, see Imagery and Symbolism.)

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