"I wish my father were back again. Hindley is a detestable substitute- his conduct to Heathcliff is atrocious. H. and I are going to rebel- we took our initiatory step this evening" ― Chapter 3
Hindley Earnshaw is a major character in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw, the brother of Catherine Earnshaw, the foster brother of Heathcliff, the husband of Frances Earnshaw and the father of Hareton Earnshaw.
He becomes extremely hateful towards Heathcliff after he is taken into his home, and constantly makes his life miserable, resulting in Heathcliff's vengeful acts against him.
Once a spoiled boy from the beginning, Hindley Earnshaw later develops into a cruel man. He had always been loved and accepted by his family, especially his father Mr. Earnshaw. But when a gypsy orphan named Heathcliff is adopted by the father, Hindley immediately hates his new foster brother, mostly to the fact that the strange boy received more love and attention from Mr. Earnshaw. After he grows up and inherits Wuthering Heights, he can finally take the opportunity to abuse and mistreat Heathcliff without his father there to stop him.
Hindley's time away from his home also has a change on him. Before he leaves for college, he was a bratty boy who is the heir to the Heights. After he attends college and returns home to the Heights, he has become a man of upper status and can finally have everything that he wants: his family, his social status, and his cruelty towards Heathcliff. But after the death of his wife following the birth of their son, he turns into an addicted drinker and gambler and ruins himself after he gambles huge amounts of money to Heathcliff; which proves to be his downfall of his hatred towards his foster brother and enemy.
Early Years at Wuthering Heights
Hindley was born at Wuthering Heights in Yorkshire, around the year 1757, the first child of Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw. He was nursed by one of the servants who had a young daughter named Nelly and became a foster sister and servant to the family. His younger sister Catherine was born 7 years later after him.
For the first few years of his childhood, Hindley and his sister live a normal life at the Heights. When he was 14 years old, Hindley's father prepares to depart for a business trip to Liverpool. When asked what he would like his father to bring him back, Hindley requests a fiddle. Upon Mr. Earnshaw's departure, the boy and his sister wait eagerly and impatiently for their father to return. 3 days later, Mr. Earnshaw arrives home but the fiddle he had brought for Hindley was broken. Instead, he brings back a dark-haired orphan named Heathcliff from Liverpool. Hindley is jealous of the child when he was looked after more affectionately from his father than him and that his sister Catherine is starting to take a liking to him as well. At some point, Hindley and his siblings fell ill with the measles. He recovers, and so does Catherine and Heathcliff, after Nelly had looked after them and felt more sympathetic for the gypsy boy.
Mrs. Earnshaw, who also despised Heathcliff, dies less than two years later and Hindley has no one else left to support him into hating the boy. One time, Hindley and Heathcliff received two young horses from their father. But after the handsome horse Heathcliff picks turns lame, he demands Hindley to trade his horse to him. He refuses and his brother tries to fight him, so he can get him into trouble by showing their father bruises as proof that Hindley had beaten him. He finally gives Heathcliff the horse, calls him an "imp of Satan" and threatens that the horse would "kick his brains out".
Ownership of Wuthering Heights
Several years go by. Mr. Earnshaw's health was failing and Hindley was sent off to college by his father. Sometime while away from home, Hindley met and fell in love with a giddy woman named Frances. They soon married and after the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley was called back home to attend the funeral and claim his inheritance of the Heights. He brings Frances back home with him.
Now the new owner of the house, Hindley immediately makes some changes. He moves the servants to the back quarters, forces Heathcliff to give up his education and have him work in the fields. But most of the time, he generally ignores Heathcliff and is unaware that both Heathcliff and Catherine go out onto the moors everyday.
One night, after Heathcliff and Catherine failed to return home, Hindley orders all the doors and windows locked up so they can't get inside. He may have been unaware that Catherine is kept at the nearby house Thrushcross Grange while spying on the Linton family with Heathcliff and is now kept there to be pampered into a proper lady. When he does find out after Mr. Linton arrives to reprimand him of letting his sister run wild, he angrily tells Heathcliff to never talk to her again.
5 weeks later, Catherine comes home and Hindley arranges a Christmas party, where the Linton's are invited but Heathcliff would not be allowed to attend; although he does anyway with Nelly's help. During the party, however, Hindley sees Heathcliff dressed properly and he declares that he must be locked away into the attic until the end of dinner and threatens to beat him if he ever comes back down. But after Heathcliff throws hot applesauce at Edgar after he criticizes his appearance, Hindley takes Heathcliff upstairs and locks him in the attic. He then enjoys the rest of the party without him.
Descending into Alcoholism/Gambling
In June 1778, Frances gives birth to a healthy baby boy named Hareton, but died a week later in Hindley's arms from consumption following childbirth. He is devastated of losing his wife and immediately takes no interest in his newborn son. He assigns Nelly to look after the child while he seeks comfort by drinking. He also makes curses at God and became more cruel towards the servants, even to Heathcliff. He tells Nelly to chaperone Catherine.
Hindley went out one afternoon while Heathcliff is angry at the idea of Catherine being with the Linton's more than him. He arrives home the following day, where Nelly had removed the bullets from his firearm which he would sometimes use when he drank too much. But while he is drunk, he grabs Hareton from Nelly and went upstairs when he hangs him over the banister and threatens to break the child’s neck. He accidentally drops his son but Heathcliff arrives just in time to catch the child from falling.
3 years later, after Catherine marries Edgar Linton and moves to Thrushcross Grange with him, Hindley remains back at Wuthering Heights with Hareton and his servant Joseph. He later got into gambling and when Heathcliff returns as a wealthy gentleman, he invites him to stay at the Heights. He lends him rent money, and Heathcliff in return offers him more funds to support his gambling addiction.
After Heathcliff and Isabella Linton elope and live at the Heights, Hindley is among the servants who treat her miserably. He has even shown her his gun with a spring knife attached to the barrel, and he will plan to use it to kill Heathcliff. He would lurk around outside his bedroom door, waiting for his chance when it is unlocked. He lends the gun to Isabella, but snatches it back in jealously when she is astonished by it.
By now, he has long, shaggy hair and was turning insane. He is also hoping to get all of the money back he had gambled to Heathcliff and his house. After his sister's death in childbirth, he was invited to her funeral but does not attend. He attempts to be sober when he is about to go but ends up drinking instead. He locks the doors while Heathcliff is out paying his respects to Catherine and tells Isabella that he is about to kill him. When he comes back, Hindley shoots him from the first-floor window, but has his wrist cut by the gun's bayonet blade. Heathcliff breaks into the house and beats him. The next day, he wakes up without remembering what has happened, and Isabella reminds him about it. He and Heathcliff get into a fight while Isabella flees from the Heights.
Six months later, Hindley dies and having lost all of his money from being swindled by Heathcliff, he takes his place as the owner of Wuthering Heights and his young son Hareton becomes Heathcliff's servant.
Hindley, like his sister Catherine, was a spoiled but whiny young man. He has been used to his father's deep affections on him and his sister, especially some of the presents that they had wanted from Mr. Earnshaw while he was away. He was originally a good-natured and well-behaved boy who lived a decent lifestyle until the mysterious Gypsy boy named Heathcliff came into his life. He was mostly left out by his family after Heathcliff’s arrival, which increases his anger and resentment.
He is cruel, abusive and jealous towards his foster brother Heathcliff, as it is due to the fact that he is jealous of him being loved and adored more by his father. He frequently gets into fights with him as children and as an adult, he inflicts abuse on him as the owner of Wuthering Heights. These methods including having his education cut off and having him work hard labor as a servant. He also bullies him by mocking his filthy, unkempt appearance. Despite his mistreatment, he is often ignorant of Heathcliff when he goes out onto the moors with Catherine, but would have the house locked up when he is out for too long; such as the time when Heathcliff spied at the Grange and left without Catherine. Later on, he tries to kill Heathcliff.
Following the death of his wife, Hindley is grief-stricken and turns to alcohol for comfort. His drinking makes him more violent and aggressive and he not only turns his rage onto Heathcliff but to the other servants, including his infant son Hareton. While drunk, he would shoot bullets from his rifle and one time, he grabs Hareton and drops him over the banister, but Heathcliff saves his son. In addition to his alcoholism, Hindley also took up an unhealthy habit of gambling. He ends up foolishly gambling all of his money and wealth to Heathcliff and by the time he died, he was completely broke. At one point, Hindley had tried to get his money and house back from Heathcliff.
Hindley is described as having dark eyes and brown hair. He starts off polished and wealthy, but towards the end of his life, his hair became longer and messy.
Heathcliff- Hindley's foster brother and enemy. Bitter and jealous of Heathcliff being doted over by his father, he takes out his hatred on him but doesn't take interest in him when Heathcliff and Catherine are out on the moors. He ends up ruining himself when he gambles large amounts of money towards him and having his house taken over by his rival.
Frances Earnshaw- Hindley's wife. He secretly marries her while he was away at college and brings her back home after inheriting the Heights. It may be possible that he loved and adored his new wife, and even had her take part in his cruelty towards Heathcliff. He spirals out of control after her death from childbirth.
Hareton Earnshaw- Hindley's son. He barely pays any attention to him and he would endanger his son's life when he drank too much.
Mr. Earnshaw- Hindley's father. He was once loved and spoiled by him until Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff and loves him more instead of Hindley. He was set off to college by his father to stop him from abusing his foster brother.
Mrs. Earnshaw- Hindley's mother. He and his mother were the only relatives who disliked Heathcliff, but was left on his own following Mrs. Earnshaw's death.
Catherine Earnshaw- Hindley's sister. Little is known about their relationship, although he had her live under his domineering roof.