The Myth Re-Enacted: Sisyphus and Heathcliff

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Gurvandna RM Singh , Dr. Jyoti Sharma


In the classical period of literature, Greek mythology inspired the ancient Greek dramatists to use these myths for their plays, especially the tragedies. This gave a ready context and served to preserve the values of the culture. Over the centuries, many writers have used Greek myths in their writings directly or indirectly. The purpose may be to highlight their characters and themes so as to universalize them.

The Greek myth of Sisyphus has captured the imagination of many writers, including Albert Camus who uses this myth as a title to his existentialist thought. The story of Sisyphus is well known. The gods punish Sisyphus, everlastingly, by ordering him to push a heavy boulder uphill; as soon as he reaches the top, the boulder rolls downhill. This pattern is to be repeated for eternity and the entire effort is rendered futile.

 Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights has as its center, the larger-than-life personality of Heathcliff. He is the protagonist and antagonist combined in one; and he bears a strong affinity to the mythical figure of Sisyphus. Heathcliff desires revenge against all those who ill-treated him; and he achieves this, only to find that his entire effort has gone waste. Heathcliff’s character also bears resemblance to Sisyphus, as his qualities of endurance and determination are the foundation of his power too.

Through this recasting of the figure of Sisyphus, Emily Brontë weaves a new personal myth and creates Heathcliff as a unique protagonist - the anti-hero.

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