Is Heathcliff a relatable character? Much like Lockwood, my opinion of Heathcliff vacillates; and even when the passionate protagonist acts like evil personified I have trouble disliking him. Even though Heathcliff “was not altogether guiltless” in Lockwood’s sickness, Lockwood found it impossible to resist “a man charitable enough to sit at” his “bedside a good hour, and talk of some other subject than pills, and draughts, and blisters and leeches” (98).
It is this same quality of humanity that renders Heathcliff a relatable character to readers, as well. Heathcliff’s humble beginnings as an orphaned and later tortured “gipsy” boy establish him as the story’s clear underdog (39). It is difficult not to root for the underdog; in this case, even when the underdog commits such grievous acts as marrying for revenge and swindling his neighbors. The fact that Heathcliff was an orphan, alone, readies any reader who has previous experience with gothic literature to accept him as the story’s beloved protagonist. As Charlotte Bronte and Charles Dickens exemplified in their literature, orphaned characters are written to capture our empathy.
The most compelling reason that keeps me rooting for Heathcliff despite his often violent and cruel antics that are utterly contrary to my personal code of ethics, is his intense love for Catherine. Heathcliff’s love is so extreme that it transcends merely love, and renders Heathcliff and Cathy as something like twin-souls, mirror images of one another despite their vast differences. Heathcliff claims, “if Edgar loved her with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love her in eighty years as much as I could in one day” (162). It is difficult not to side with him and believe that his entire life is colored by his ostensibly fated obsession with Catherine.