Violence in Inheritance

When reading Herbert’s description of Mrs. Havisham’s half brother, I noticed that he seems to share similar qualities to Hindley. Both not only harbor hatred towards their siblings (or sibling-like figures) but are also driven to vengeance and violence over these feelings.

While explaining Mrs. Havisham’s backstory, Herbert says that her younger half brother was originally kicked out of the will by their father due to “bad” behavior (Dickens, Chapter 22). Herbert also tells Pip that,”It is suspected that (Mrs. Havisham’s half brother) cherished a deep and mortal grudge against (Mrs. Havisham’s) as having influenced the father’s anger” (Dickens, Chapter 22). Mrs. Havisham’s dynamic with her younger half brother reminded me a lot of Heathcliff and Hindley’s relationship. Nelly, when telling Lockwood about Hindley, states: “(Hindley) had learned to regard his father as an oppressor rather than a friend, and Heathcliff as a usurper of his parent’s affections and his privileges; and he grew bitter with brooding over these injuries” (Bronte, Chapter 4). Both Hindley and Mrs. Havisham’s half brother did not have the best relationship with their fathers and had even worse relationships with the people that their fathers favored; Mr. Earnshaw is described by Nelly to have favored Heathcliff over his two children, and, as shown by how Mrs. Havisham was left more of the inheritance, Mrs. Havisham’s father likely favored her over her brother. Hindley hated Heathcliff because he felt that Heathcliff had stolen what was rightfully his: the love of his father (and later his property). Mrs. Havisham’s younger brother hated his sister due to his belief that she played a part in their father’s division of the will.

Interestingly, the crux of the conflict between both pairs of siblings is over monetary issues. Both Hindley and Mrs. Havisham’s brother are described to have experienced debt and use violence to try to get their sibling’s fortunes. Once Hindley loses Wuthering Heights to Heathcliff, he walks around with a pistol that has a knife attached and tells Isabella he plans to kill Heathcliff (Bronte, Chapter 17). In chapter 13, when speaking about his desire to gain Wutheirng Heights back, Hindley states: “I will have it back; and I’ll have (Heathcliff’s) gold too; and then his blood; and hell shall have his soul!” This shows that one of his motives in murdering Heathcliff is to gain his fortune back. Unlike Hindley, Mrs. Havisham’s brother uses emotional violence when trying to swindle his sister’s fortune. It’s speculated that he made Mrs. Havisham’s would be husband get “great sums of money from her”; the brother also might have asked his conspirator to make Mrs. Havisham buy out his share of the brewery at a high price (Dickens, Chapter 22). Once the ruse was over, the two split the profits, showing that one motive of this violence was to gain Mrs. Havisham’s fortune.

The fight over money among siblings reflects the inheritance battle in the Victorian era and how individuals were often left with nothing or less than their siblings. Inheritances are closely linked with the idea of family or connections (because it’s usually something given to members of the family or individuals who had connections with the benefactor), so it’s interesting to see Bronte and Dickens use inheritance as something that tears people and relationships apart.

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