Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is a novel of extremes, including,

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Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is a novel of extremes, including, predominantly, love and hate. Characters such as young Catherine and Hareton experience love in the novel, while others such as Heathcliff, and actually, Hareton, too, at some points, experience lack of love. These themes greatly influence the development of these characters.

Catherine Linton is born into a house of privilege. Thrushcross Grange is a magnificent estate, and the Linton family has the wealth to back up all the opulence of the house and grounds suggests. Naturally, in such a splendid environment, the stage is set for her to have a happy childhood. Her loving father, Edgar, and doting nurse, Nelly, make that happiness possible. They shower the sunny child with all the love and affection she craves, and she never lacks anything she wants. For example, her father constantly takes her for walks around the grounds. She becomes somewhat spoiled with all this loving treatment, but she is too good-natured to show that side often, especially around the people she loves.

Still, her whims can get her in trouble, as when she becomes entangled in a series of love letters to Linton, but her loving family tries valiantly to protect her, such as by halting the delivery of the letters. Cathy grows up into a fine young woman who is confident enough in her own worth from being raised in a loving household to submit to Heathcliff's insults when she is forced to live at Wuthering Heights. She also grows to share love, first by taking care of sickly Linton, although he annoys her, and then by educating the brutish Hareton.

Hareton experiences love from three sources: first from Nelly, his nurse, then from Joseph, and finally from Catherine. Nelly protects him from his abusive father, Hindley, and her example sets him on the right path in the beginning. He needs this foundation to carry him through the years of living with Heathcliff, during which he finds little love except from Joseph, who allies himself with Hareton since Hareton is the true heir to Wuthering Heights. However, Joseph is a crotchety old man, and Nelly's influence on him as a child is really what keeps him from being completely hardened by his forced servitude. His generous heart takes in his cousin Cathy, even though she at first scorns him as a brute, and even takes in Heathcliff, his slave driver whom he looks up to as a father figure. Hareton finally becomes the kind and generous gentleman he is always meant to be at the end of the novel, when he and Cathy fall in love, and he then is able to fulfill his true potential.

Love is truly a force for good in this novel, and good characters like Cathy and Hareton are showered by it sometime in their lives, which is what allows them to withstand hate, the other force in the novel. Lack of love formed the character of Heathcliff, and it also touched Hareton for many years.

From the beginning, Heathcliff is unloved. His biological parents abandon him. When Mr. Earnshaw first brings Heathcliff home, the household rejects the dark little boy. Heathcliff grows up suffering abuse at the hands of Hindley and sometimes, the whims of Catherine. The poor orphan is teased and looked down on by the wealthy, civilized Lintons. He builds up great resentment for his treatment by the Earnshaws and Lintons, especially against Hindley, his abuser, and Edgar, who stole from him the woman he loved. He vows revenge, and he accomplishes it with breathtaking cruelty. He breaks up the happy marriage of Edgar and Catherine, marries Isabella Linton to spite the couple, manipulates Hindley into gambling away Hindley's entire estate to him, makes Hindley's son a slave, and forces young Cathy to marry his dying son so that he can gain control of the Thrushcross Grange estate. He is merciless in destroying their lives because, since they never loved him, they destroyed his life. In the end, lack of love destroys him, because when Catherine dies, the only thing he loved and that loved him in the world was gone, and eventually, he felt compelled to follow her into the grave.

Hareton bore much of the brunt of Heathcliff's loveless life. Though Heathcliff is secretly fond of the boy, who resembles the person he could have been, Heathcliff is determined to treat him as a servant to get revenge on Hareton's father. The years without loving attention cause Hareton to become brutish in mind and manners, and they would likely have permanently corrupted him if Cathy had not eventually brought her love to the Heights.

Therefore, while love can create a good person, lack of love can corrupt that same person. None of the characters in the novel are born good or bad, really. How they emerge as characters depends on how much love they receive. Cathy and Hareton receive love, and they turn into kind and caring people. Heathcliff and the young Hareton lack love, and they become harsh and brutish people. Even Heathcliff, though, could be a respectable and civilized gentleman if he had a true environment of love instead of constant rejection.