"He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure, and rather morose. Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort..." (page 6)
Heathcliff, a jaded and unpredictable character, is the protagonist and central focus of Wuthering Heights. Immediately, on the very first page of the book, he is described as a man with "black eyes" that "withdraw suspiciously under their brows", hinting at negative connotations within the first few paragraphs. As the novel progresses, the reader's desire to understand Heathcliff and his motivations grows stronger, but his defiance of being understood grows simultaneously. Initially a harmless orphan rescued from the streets of Liverpool by Mr. Earnshaw, I was surprised at his total transformation throughout the first half of the book. He began the novel as a quiet boy who was unaccepted by all except Master Earnshaw, and not long after gained companionship with Catherine. Nelly, the manor's maid, described Heathcliff as "uncomplaining as a lamb; though hardness, not gentleness, made him give little trouble" she explained as she nursed him back to health through an awful bout of the measles. However, it is easy to pinpoint when Heathcliff's character began to change. The moment Edgar Linton entered into Catherine's life, Heathcliff began to distance himself from her. Early on, he viewed Edgar as a rival and even attempted to compete for Catherine's affections. But his true transformation occurred at the moment that Catherine admitted her love for him, saying that the only reason she would not pursue this love was that "it would degrade [her] to marry Heathcliff now". Hearing those words, I am sure that she hurt Heathcliff beyond measure. He left the barn as soon as he heard her say this and disappeared thereafter for three years. Catherine was overcome with grief by his absence, but I'm sure it did not compare to the extent of Heathcliff's grief.