7.09.2012

Wuthering Heights

Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
Pub: 1847
Pages: 464
Genre: Classics

Wuthering Heights gives-
New meaning to the cliche
Mis'ry loves com'pny 

[Below there will be spoilers and rambles.  Read at your own risk].


THIS BOOK.  Ohhhh, THIS BOOK.  If I had the energy whilst reading it I would have chucked it clear across the room.  I persevered looking for redemption and instead found nothing but an onslaught of narcissism.

This is my second time reading WH, but my first time around hardly counts.  Like many others, WH was required reading in my high school English class.  It was sold as a tragic love story.  More than likely, I read the cliff notes because I went through a period of academia where I wasn't, well, academic.  The description of "tragic love story" however is one that has attached itself snugly onto Emily Bronte's only work.  Surely that association is in part why this book is utterly despicable. 

Need proof?  This is verbatim from the back of my copy:

"A brooding Yorkshire tale of a love that is stronger than death, it is also a fierce vision of metaphysical passion in which heaven and hell, nature and society, and dynamic and passive forces are powerfully juxtaposed. Unique, mystical, with a timeless appeal, it has become a classic of English literature."

Totally misleading.  Walking into WH one expects a love story, albeit a tragic one, but a love story nonetheless.  Instead we are introduced to perhaps the most self-centered and codependent couple in the history of literature.

In a nutshell: Heathcliff is an orphan and gets picked up by Catherine's older brother.  He is raised amongst the Earnshaws but not treated as family.  He is immediately taken with Catherine, the temperamental young sister who grows into an insufferable and selfish woman.  Catherine and Healthcliff have an unnatural connection and Things Happen that ultimately put Catherine in the arms of Edgar Linton - the man across the moor even though Catherine admits to Nelly, the family servant, "I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if they wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire." (75)


Healthcliff, devastated and vengeful ends up marrying Linton's sister, Isabella.  Catherine is more than a tad bit put off by this curve ball and Edgar fluffs up in manliness and there's fights between them all which causes Catherine to fall into a great depression, refusing to eat.  Oh yeah, and evidently she's preggers and dies during childbirth.

Interestingly enough, I had to reread the death by childbirth because I completely missed the fact that she WAS pregnant.  I did some googling to see if I was the only moron who missed that one and thankfully I wasn't.  As it turns out, back in the 1800's it was sorta taboo to discuss being pregnant, therefore it would be even MORE taboo to write about it.  (This had something to do with the untimely deaths of women during childbirth).  So, yeah, there were clues in the text, but it could easily have been misconstrued with Catherine's depression.

Let's move it further along because Catherine is dead and now Heathcliff has a whole lifetime without her to make everyone around him miserable.  Isabella escapes but not before SHE becomes pregnant.  This is important because the Catherine's baby, also named Catherine and Isabella's baby, also named Linton, end up miserably married to each other later down the road thanks to Healthcliff's devious plan to make Edgar pay for taking Catherine away from him.

Now if you thought that Catherine and Healthcliff were miserable individuals, reading the lives of little Cathy and little Linton will want to run to your doctor and get a prescription of Zoloft.

If Heatlhcliff is the most vengeful character if literary history, then Linton is quite possibly the most pathetic.  He is sniveling and sickly and weak.  And sure dear ole' pops, Heathcliff preys on this and emotionally rips him to shreds daily but man alive, how he treats little Cathy in the end is disturbing and next to Catherine, one hated character.

This book was like playing emotional russian roulette.  You didn't know which character was going to make you want to jump off a cliff next.

I haven't really read any creative license sequels, IE - books that use the characters from classics and tell a different perspective, but would love to find one where Wuthering Heights is told through the character of Hareton, Cahty's cousin and eventual second husband.  He's an endearing character and ultimately is what makes Wuthering Heights a bit worthwhile.

I found a song based off of Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush (who knew?)  It was difficult to understand so I rec'd reading the lyrics first.



Lyrics | Kate Bush lyrics - Wuthering Heights lyrics

12 comments:

  1. This is one of those books that I feel is worth remembering, but which i absolutely hated and will never read again if I can help it.

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  2. This was a book where I hated all the characters by the end. Every. Single. One.

    But, I can see the merits and why the book is a big deal, know what I mean?

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  3. It took me 4 attempts to read this book, and when I finally did, I wanted to shank every last one of them. Hmmphf.

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  4. I have this thing where I read this and didn't really massively understand it and so I loved it, and then I read it *again* in college and because we studied it so intently I also loved it, so now when everyone's like 'but they're all such arseholes!' I'm like 'noooo! Except yes, but I STILL LOVE IT!'

    So that's the story of me and Wuthering Heights. And yes to Hareton being literally the only sympathetic character, although I do kind of love/feel really really sorry for Heathcliff...

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  5. A love story need not be happy. Love isn't always a good thing. I'm not going to argue that the characters in WH are nice or not, but they all pay a heavy price because of love. I think this is a truth most people don't want to look at, very closely.

    I've read this book several times, once with a professor who made the case that Heathcliff is Catherine's half-brother. If you look at the way her father brings him home as a child, unannounced, revealing him hidden within his large coat, you can see that there is a strong case to be made for this. It certainly complicates the way Cathy and her brother feel about him.

    It's also one of those things Emily Bronte could not address directly, much like pregnancy, in her lifetime.

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  6. I somehow missed the "read it as a teenager" experience, and in an attempt to fill in the gap in my classics reading I finally read it last year. I think I bitched and moaned as much as the characters did. I was so thoroughly fed up with them (and Emily Bronte).

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  7. I am reasonably sure that I only understood half this book when I read it in high school. It's such a strange little tale; you can focus on one line of plot or thought to the exclusion of the others pretty well.

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  8. I used to LOVE this book, LOL! I loved the fact that even though it was crazy they had such powerful emotions, hahah. I haven't read it in a while and it wasn't even until the past few years that I heard people talking about how hateful the characters were. Which I get, but for some reason I always liked it. Maybe it's just he soap opera like elements, haha. Which is the opposite of what my real life is like or how I want it to be. Anyway, I need to read this again and see if I still like it or if I get frustrated with the characters in the same way.

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  9. I think that the book is brilliant all things considered. However, I cannot stand any of the characters. I loathe them. I want to smack them and tell them to get over themselves.

    I know someday I will probably read it again, because that's what I do, but I don't ever see myself loving it.

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  10. Ugh, I hated it. I agree C.B. that love stories don't have to have happy endings, but I still don't think this qualifys as a love story! The characters are so selfish and self-centered, there's no true love to be found. They never do what is best for another person out of love, they just act cruelly to everyone. I wanted to punch them.

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  11. Read this just after college and HATED it. Thanks for reminding me why. It's somehow STILL sold as a love story. Lies!

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