In Wuthering Heights Mr. Earnshaw brings home an orphan named Heathcliff that he quickly adopts into the family. This apparent noble gesture of family love for an individual without a home winds up initiating the warring and drama between several generations. In Tartuffe, the eventual evil character known as Tartuffe is regarded as a most pious and holy man, a hero on God’s path—or so we are led to believe. This can be paralleled to Heathcliff’s entry into the story as a loved orphan child. Tartuffe is regarded by the community members with the utmost respect.
The intertwining of love, lust, and deceit is rampant in both stories. Love, in the end, seems to be the demise of the evil characters. They are unable to share their love and thus choose to use lies and deceit to meet their unbridled need for passion, lust, and selfish gain. Wuthering Heights, although its main protagonist is an orphaned child, cradles its main character into a large family. This adoption creates animosity between step-siblings and spouses. Estrangement and bitter revenge is a subplot linking both of these graphic novels of intensity.
As the battles between individuals progress in each novel, the undercurrents of physical and mental pain—sometimes horrific pain—create intense situations as characters constantly juggle with a decision: Is the fight for a worthy cause? Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, winds up becoming loved and hated. He is, in effect, the hero and villain of this grand classic novel. His character creates dramatic intensity. His drama slowly evolves into an evil being. He pushes his hatred at everyone except Catherine.
Heathcliff gets to a point of dependency on Catherine. As long as he has Catherine, he can deal with anything. Heathcliff is, in effect, the story of Wuthering Heights. The emotions and actions of other characters in this epic novel all seem to stem from Heathcliff. His magnetic personality is the catalyst toward other character interaction and plot development. Catherine, for example, is torn emotionally and spiritually over Heathcliff because of the feelings other family members have regarding Heathcliff.
In the end, she seeks relief in death. Some of the characters in the play begin to see that Tartuffe is not the pious individual they were led to believe he was. Cleante and Dorine, for instance, discuss Tartuffe’s questionable characteristics. They both agree he is filled with deceit and has tricked Orgon. The web of love and desire runs amok as communication between family members and loved ones is blurred. Deception creates the sub plotting elements between Damis, Orgon, Mariane, Valere, Cleante, and Dorine that create animosity.
This French play is in direct correlation to Emily Bronte’s classic novel that also weaves family deception, love, desire, and war to create an empowering story. Catherine, in Wuthering Heights, whose eventual demise comes by the hands of taking her own life, is set up by her personal struggles in her love-hate relationship with the arch nemesis, Heathcliff. She builds walls that suffocate herself from her family, all at the extent of Heathcliff. Tartuffe also builds walls. For Tartuffe, however, his walled persona is central to his initial means of deceiving others.
He seeks to capture the love of Elmire. When others suspect his less-than-moral activities, Tartuffe simply stacks on the lies by jabbering on and using religious cliches to cover up his deception. He continues to manipulate situations based on fast-talking. Again, his religious background leads others to believe him. The tide turns in both stories as the lies intensify and the great network of these families begin to see the truth. Other characters begin to boast their concerns over troubling issues surrounding Tartuffe. Madame Pernelle’s advice is seen as truly absurd.
She feels betrayal and takes out her angst by reprimanding other family members. For example, she hounds Cleante for his desire to counsel society; she doesn’t like how Elmire dresses; even the maid is reckless. This unraveling of the family adds intensity to each new scene. In other words, the world is wrong and only Madame Pernelle and Tartuffe are right. This talkative old woman reveals to the audience, for the very first time, that Tartuffe’s true character is not pious. Comedy is another component that is woven into the threads of the evil characters in Tartuffe and Wuthering Heights.
In scene four, Orgon is completely fooled and also blinded by his committed affection to Tartuffe. The servant-master relationship gives way to humor. Here, we witness a bitter, yet sharp-witted, servant who makes fun of the unintelligent master. This dim-witted masters isn’t even aware of the ridicule. Comedy is found throughout Wuthering Heights as well. Most often, Bronte pokes fun at Heathcliff as the other family members and servants treat him unfairly and oftentimes with mockery. The grand theme of death and horror is also apparent in both stories. The characters evolve and their true motives come to light.
However, by the time the lies are brought to light, the damage is done and the families suffer—in both stories. In closing, these two novels gain universal fame for their ability to weave the consequences of war and family and love and loss. And, it is done in climatic fashion. Betrayal and love and comedy are the components that keep the characters moving—especially our villains Heathcliff and Tartuffe. There is one single link that connects Heathcliff with humanity. That is his respect for Harton Earnshaw, the man who adopted Heathcliff into the family, initiating this lifelong journey.
Respect for family also manifests in Tartuffe as the battle between siblings and loved ones becomes the necessary device to overcome loss and deception and overzealous pride. Wuthering Heights is based on the love found by being forced into the trenches of war, a war that goes beyond the physical pain of the battlefield and into the ache of the soul. It’s ironic, in Tartuffe, that our antagonistic villain was once considered holy and pious. In the end, deceit loses but not before causing rampant death and destruction among the link known as family.