Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
Released: December 1847
Favorite quote: “‘… 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…'”
The beauty of taking a one-on-one Victorian literature class is that I get to choose the novels that I read (with approval, of course), so Wuthering Heights was an obvious choice for me. I’d heard that it’s a tragic love story that would drive me insane. I’d seen one film adaptation. Even with those in mind, nothing could have prepared me for the terrible story printed in black in on those pages. Not only did I hate the story and nearly every single character, but I disagreed both with what others had told me and the “love story” portrayed in the movie. That being said, I did truly love the book at the very end (after I’d spent the entire time regretting it as a choice).
Point-of-view. The novel is written from the perspective of Mr. Lockwood who is visiting the area. He then learns the story of Heathcliff and Catherine (as well as everyone else related to the two) from Nelly – the subjective narrator of the lives of all the characters. Within her own story to Mr. Lockwood, there are times when her characters also tell their own stories. (One example of a narrative within a narrative within a narrative would be the letter from Isabella, which for quite a long while, did confuse me, sadly.) So yes, the point-of-view is a little muddled, but once I got used to it, it wasn’t that hard to keep up with. When I first started to read the book, however, I was so disappointed that it wasn’t written in the point-of-view of one of the other more “main” characters or in third person. After finishing, however, I realized that it would have completely changed the story and the way the characters were depicted with bias had it been written in any other way. The structure is completely necessary, so don’t let it throw you off if you ever intend to read it.
Characters. I hated them all (even though I didn’t actually hate any of them). There wasn’t a single redeeming one among them. Catherine, Heathcliff, Hindley, and Isabella were all flawed beyond belief; Edgar Linton was the most “human” among them, but even he was too blinded by love to ensure his own happiness. Sadly, he was probably one of the more miserable in marriage despite actually being married to the person he loved because of everything that surrounded his wife. Nelly was biased, which is to be expected of a woman charged with caring for two generations of deviants. All of the children (until the very end when parental “guidance” was removed) were simply loathsome products of their upbringings. Really, until the last couple chapters, I absolutely despised all of the characters. Even Mr. Lockwood had designs that I didn’t approve of! Heathcliff and Catherine were the worst of the lot, but I couldn’t actually bring myself to hate them. They were just young and stupid. Heathcliff became what he was from the unhappiness that Catherine brought him and she became what she was from the misery that her two bad choices brought her.
Romance. This is not a love story. This is a story about how the concept of “love” completely screws people up. I do not believe that Catherine and Heathcliff would have been happy if they married: she would have always wondered about what else there was out there and he would have monopolized her life. That’s my opinion. I know that many disagree. It isn’t a story about Catherine’s love life; it’s a story about a woman being torn between her nature and societal expectations. Heathcliff was her innate/whimsical character and Edgar was her cultured/comfortable lifestyle. No matter her choice, Catherine would have been unsatisfied (though probably not to the extent that she was having lost Heathcliff). Even the union between two young people at the end of the novel can’t classify the book in my mind as a love story because it was simply the aftermath of one terrible event after the next. To put it best, it’s just as happy an ending as the tragedy would allow.
I could go on and on about the novel, but I have neither the time nor the will. Even though it was terrible and made me cringe more than any other book I’ve read thus far, I do recommend it. It’s a classic for a reason.