The education of responding to emotional abuse

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by Ojo Omotola

Heathcliff and Adah are characters from different prose works. The former is a character in Emile Bronte’s Wuthering Height while the latter is from Buchi Emecheta’s Second Class Citizen.

This article aims to look at how both characters respond to the emotional abuse meted on them and how educators and parents can use this to guide and motivate students.

In Wuthering Height, Heathcliff is seen alone on the streets of Liverpool by Mr Earnshaw who is on a journey.

Being a good Samaritan, Mr Earnshaw could not leave the young boy where he found him after everyone denies knowing him.

On getting home, he reveals what has kept him away longer than before to his children – Hindley and Catherine.

Mr Earnshaw is no longer able to buy what he wants to buy for his children. This makes them dislike Heathcliff.

Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff and gives him the name which is after his dead child.

The death of Mr Earnshaw makes Hindley enslave Heathcliff although Catherine later loved him. The treatment of Heathcliff by Hindley makes him to have the grudge that he will revenge.

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Adah, in Second Class Citizen, is expected to be a boy but she comes as a girl. This makes her to be neglected.

She is only loved by her father because she looks like her father’s mother. The death of her father makes her to go and leave with her mother’s brother, Uncle Vincent.

At Uncle Vincent’s house, Adah does all the chores. Despite the treatment she receives, she forges ahead to achieve her goal of finishing school and move to the United Kingdom.

She steals to get her examination fee. She is given 103 lashes of cane for what is done by her and what they make her be. Adah does not like Uncle Vincent but she does not seek revenge but focuses on achieving her life goal.

The similarities between these two characters are that their story is told from childhood to adulthood that is a bildungsroman, they are both emotionally abused, they are both neglected, they are both goal driven. The way they respond to this emotional abuse is where their differences lie.

Adah achieved her goal of being in the United Kingdom because she is a positive minded person. Although her marriage did not really work because of her husband but she endures. On the other hand, Heathcliff does not achieve his goal because of the revenge he wove it around. He later did not gain anything from what he did to the Earnshaw family.

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These two novels can be found in the bookshop if you would like to read them.

Educational Implication

The early life experiences of Heathcliff and Adah are filled with harsh treatments especially from childhood. Both characters are emotionally abused.

The response of Adah is positive while that of Heathcliff is not. There are many Adah and Heathcliff in our home and schools.

Do we take time to identify them? As teachers and parents do we take time to talk to our children or ward or students about how they feel, about the goal they have? Do we relate well with them? These are questions we should answer.

Parents and teachers are advised to monitor their kids and treat every one of them equally.

The teacher should also not emotionally abuse any student who is not a high achiever.

Any student who is not a high achiever should be sent to the counselor if there is a counselor in there school. If there is none the teacher should do it.

Teachers should not be quick to judge or reprimand any student coming late to school because what the student is going through at home is not known.

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Emotional abuse is one of the worst forms of abuse, but we don’t know who is responding positively or negatively.


Ojo Omotola, an educator writes from Lagos.

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