By Andrea Plaid
…the reimagining of Heathcliff, that “dark-skinned” “gipsy”…as a black man…Brontë’s Heathcliff was repeatedly evoked as “dark,” and culled from the slums of Liverpool (a port fraught with immigrants). But in movies and theater, he has always manifested as white, from Laurence Olivier to Tom Hardy. Brontë may not have intended Heathcliff to have been a full-on African—which in the 1700s meant being a slave—but Arnold’s coup turns the old story around, from a wicked love-lost tragedy into a crisis of a society suffering the guilt and ghosts of slavery.
Tumblizen purple01_prose added this commentary:
Here’s the thing. Christopher Haywood, in his annotated edition of Wuthering Heights, examines the race of Heathcliff at length. Given all of the coding of Heathcliff as ‘dark,’ Haywood explained some of the racial terms of the time, and some of the beliefs of a time, like in how many generations someone with African ancestry with dark skin could have a descendant with white skin. (at least 6, with a white partner for every generation). There were names for each generation.