Discuss the ways in which Bronte portrays childhood in the opening of Wuthering Heights
Where most of the other literature of the era shows childhood as a time of innocence and enjoyment, Bronte portrays childhood as a time of difficult, uncontrollable passion and confusion to be overcome by growing into adulthood.
Heathcliff has an especially difficult childhood, as he enters the Earnshaw family as an orphan from a much lower class, meaning he has a lot to adjust to. Bronte doesn’t reveal where Heathcliff has come from, however through his characteristics we can guess that he perhaps had a difficult and violent start to life.
This is shown through his violent nature and attitude towards Hindley, and he doesn’t seem scared or fazed by the way Hindley treats or speaks to him. For example “and down he fell, but staggered up immediately” and “he would stand Hindley's blows without winking or shedding a tear”, reflects how much stronger and tougher Heathcliff is in comparison to Hindley who has led a sheltered life.
Although Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff is horrible, it can be understood why, as a child, he behaved this way, because Heathcliff came in as a threat to his legacy, and his rude behaviour was a way of self-preservation and a natural instinct as a child, not liking a new arrival, especially of such a different class.
Heathcliff’s appearance is also said to reflect that of a Roma or gypsy, described as a “dirty, ragged, black haired child” perhaps relating to his solitary, reserved nature, as he feels he doesn’t belong.
The difference between the behaviour of Catherine and Hindley in comparison to that of Heathcliff is always evident. For example when the children all have measles Nelly says “Cathy and her brother harassed me terribly, he was as uncomplaining as a lamb; though hardness, not gentleness, made him give little trouble.” .This could show that he is appreciative of the opportunity and life he has been given by Mr. Earnshaw, however...