Heathcliff’s Relation to Lower-Class Victorian Children

While reading chapter 17 of Wuthering Heights, a passage describing Heathcliff stood out to me. The narrator states that he had “been a stranger in the house from last Sunday till to-day.  Whether the angels have fed him, or his kin beneath, I cannot tell; but he has not eaten a meal with us for nearly a week.” As soon as I read this passage, I was reminded that Heathcliff was an orphan as a child. During the Victorian Era, many orphans were considered strangers in households since they did not have families or homes of their own. A good example of this can be found in chapter 4 when the orphan was brought into the Earnshaw household. The boy, who was referred to as “it,” was not even offered a comfortable place to sleep because of his social standing. This is how the upper-class treated orphans, including Heathcliff when he was a boy. This is sad given that most lower-class children would slave away all day just to survive. Through the voice of a child in The Cry of the Children, it was stated that “all day, we drive the wheels of iron in the factories, round and round.” These children were probably exhausted after a long day of work, but unfortunately, many of them did not even have a bed to go home to. Many upper class people from the Victorian Era did not understand this. Sadly, this caused them to refuse to help children who had nothing. This is a major reason there was such a significant class divide at the time. Chapter 17 also claimed that Heathcliff had been “praying like a Methodist” in his chamber. As seen in The Cry of Children, it was common for less fortunate children to pray in hopes that God would “bless them another day.” Since they were faced with so many struggles, religion tended to be the only aspect of their life that offered them hope. Religion was probably a large part of Heathcliff’s life as a child and he seemingly never stopped having strong religious values. Even though Heathcliff lived in a nice household as an adult, he began his life as an orphan who had nothing and he never forgot about that.

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