Hindley of the Post Modern

In the early chapters of Nelly Dean, we are introduced to the character of Hindley, the oldest living son of the Earnshaws and therefore the heir to all they own. This, obviously, is the same Hindley from Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights. To call him the same person, however, would be quite the stretch. In Nelly Dean, the character of Hindley is expanded in ways that were originally left to the reader’s imaginings.
A large difference is that we experience Hindley before Heathcliff interrupts the family dynamic. We witnessed this in Wuthering Heights, but only briefly. Here we see a Hindley that is much more open, imaginative, with a wild streak very similar to his sister. When reading these passages, the most burning question in my mind is thus: why does Alison Case feel the need to explain and expand Hindley, who in the original text is a pernicious and violent man, into a character that we can empathize with in this way? The most obvious answer is that she wants us to better understand why Hindley behaves the way he does. But why do we need to understand Hindley or his phycological nuances? To me, this is an example of the social differences from the gothic-romantic nineteenth century to the post-modern twenty-first. Post modern media, books and otherwise, often attempt to persuade the reader in the favor of unlikable characters by explaining their behaviors as being the result of childhood trauma or mistreatment. Hindley, with his insecure attachment to his father, the loss of his older brother, and the invasion of another, younger child into his home (who very clearly is his father’s favorite, despite not actually being his child) fits into this category quite nicely. There is also evidence that Hindley could be diagnosed with ADHD, with his extreme energy, violent tendencies, and inability to “keep his mind to a schoolroom task for five minutes together”(Chapter 5). It makes sense that Bronte did not expand on these ideas because, frankly, people during that time did not generally understand the nuanced nature of the human psyche. It wasn’t until much later in the eighteenth century that the study of psychology rose to scientific respectability.
Alison Case, however, absolutely had these developments available to her, having lived and written in the twenty-first century. In short, the Hindley that we see here is one built for the modern reader. We as modern readers and writers like to analyze how a character came to be as they are, and if they happen to be deeply-troubled and a bit traumatized, all the better. Trauma and PTSD have become a narrative short-hand for characters with a troubled mind. So it makes sense to create characters or in this case, recreate. This Hindley, therefore could be considered a completely different character, written for a post-modern interpretation.

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