Heathcliff is an antihero character in Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights. He becomes mentally unstable after Catherine’s death. While he does not commit suicide after losing his lover, he dies of starvation at the end of the story.
Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Bronte, published in 1847. The book is a passionate and tragic love story between young Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights is also a haunted story, as every chapter captures someone’s death or predicts it. From the beginning to the end of the book, 11 out of 13 characters die for various reasons long before they reach old age. Among them is Heathcliff’s beloved Catherine. Her death indicates the beginning of Heathcliff’s mental issues and his eventual downfall.
Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to her daughter. Heathcliff realizes that he cannot live without her. He remains physically alive and healthy. But Heathcliff feels that his soul is already dead, and the sorrow destroyed every good part of him. He is described as a living dead with no mercy, kindness, or compassion left inside in the novel. The character believes that he can be reunited with his lover when he dies. So he arranges to be buried next to her. Why did he not commit suicide to join Catherine in the afterlife?
Here is why: Heathcliff is captured by madness and lives on to satisfy his need for revenge. As his heart craves vengeance, he becomes cruel and abusive towards everyone in his life. Catherine’s husband, Edgar Linton, is overwhelmed with sorrow. But he manages to preserve his dignity and compassion. In contrast, Heathcliff gets aggressive and blames everyone, including Edgar, for Catherine’s untimely death. His only wish is to make them suffer.
As a part of his cunning scheme, he marries Linton’s sister, Isabella. On their way out of Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff kills Edgar’s dog even though his wife’s objected to such cruelty toward the animal. After years of emotional and physical abuse, Isabella dies, leaving her son Linton alone. When his violent and senseless father finds him, he sees his son as a perfect instrument for his evil schemes. Heathcliff despises Linton partly because the boy was named after his bitter enemy.
The antihero comes up with a plan to arrange a marriage between Linton and Edgar’s daughter Cathy. The union would allow Heathcliff to take away the ownership of Thrushcross Grange from the Lintons. As if that is not enough, Heathcliff knows that his son is about to die. So he manipulates Cathy into marrying Linton as soon as possible. This act of revenge on Edgar is followed by the death of Linton at the age of 17.
Over the course of the story, it becomes evident that the only person whom Edgar respects and loves is Catherine. 18 years after her death, Catherine’s ghost appears to him and asks her lover to let her in through the bedroom window. At the end of the story, Heathcliff surrenders to his mental illness. He loses his sanity, goes on a hunger strike, and dies of starvation. Finally, the lovers can join each other after death, as Heathcliff’s body is buried next to his lover’s. The couple reappears in Wuthering Heights as the ghosts inhabiting the local moors.