Book Review #5 — Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

wuthering heights….what? So I’ve come here to tell you that while it may seem that I have woefully abandoned this blog I indeed have not! While I stated in my last post that I would read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie next, fate intervened. I have read that book, but not as my fifth. For one of my classes (The History of Literature 1600-present) I was required to read Wuthering Heights. It just so happens I had to read many classic novels and plays for this class such as Faust by Goethe and many short stories by Kafka, but only one overlapped with my list here. In the interest of portraying my tale accurately I will write these posts in order even if it may be slightly confusing.

 

Rating: 

 

Ooh she liked this one. It is true that I do love classic romances, and Wuthering Heights is nothing if not a classic romance. My first real encounter with this novel comes through a shameful course, that is to say through the numerous allusions found in the ‘novel’ Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. After reading Bronte’s work, I finally understand what on earth Bella is talking about. Turns out the romance that she idealizes in this book is as twisted and almost repulsive as Bella and Edward’s.

In my class we spent time not only learning about the history of literature and the era of the epic, novel, Romance, and onward but also had discussions allowing for close reading and analysis of the works we studied. In the discussion for Wuthering Heights my TA began by asking us if we liked the book. One of my classmates responded, “I liked the book but I hated all of the characters.” I found that this is a very accurate way to describe the novel. I didn’t like and almost despised all of the characters (except Catherine Linton and Edgar Linton). I viewed Heathcliff and Catherine’s love as destructive and bothersome, not allowing anyone in its vicinity to be happy. I find myself wondering if Heathcliff did not love Catherine, in fact if she were not a part of the household, would he attempt so earnestly to gain control of all that Hindley owned.

One of the most interesting aspects of Wuthering Heights is its narrative structure. There is very little action that is not mediated at least twice before it reaches the reader, through both the story telling of Nelly Dean and the listening and recording by Lockwood. It seems that all the action of the novel is too explosive and toxic for the reader to be exposed to directly, and thus it must be handled carefully through several safety layers. Indeed a book narrated by one of the main characters would be too biased to account for all of the action. Catherine would be too emotional and irrational in her feelings for Heathcliff. Isabella would be too dull, sighing from the outside wishing to be included. Heathcliff would probably be the most interesting, full of spite and disregard for others. At least the mystery of where he obtained his fortune would be solved.

Wuthering Heights is interesting and unique in that it is unclear who the reader is supposed to sympathize with. Clearly Heathcliff and Catherine’s romance is the central one, but it is difficult to believe that we are supposed to connect with their emotions or even root for them, so to speak. I found myself wishing for Catherine and Edgar to live happily away from Heathcliff, knowing that any intervention by him would be catastrophic. Maybe this shows my personal character, I am not a believed in epic romance that consumes one completely and makes one blind to all else. I prefer the quiet love of admiration and respect that Edgar finds for Catherine, though it is unclear if she deserves it. But alas, Catherine cannot be happy apart from Heathcliff to her own destruction.

I also wonder at the choice of the narrative timeline. Another author might end the novel shortly after Catherine dies, to emphasize her importance to the story. The tragic heroine dies from loving too much and no one learns much. However, Emily Bronte chose to write of the consequences of the actions taken during the typical love-triangle filled main storyline. Catherine Linton is allowed to grow up happily with her father as Hareton lives under his admired Heathcliff’s tyranny and neglect. I must say that of all the characters the one I really despise the most is Linton Heathcliff. One of my least favorite character traits is entitlement, and Linton is nothing if not an entitled, spoiled brat. In his own way, Linton is as poisonous as his father, no one can be at peace until they are gone from the world. In the end, the only survivors of the explosive love of Catherine and Heathcliff are her daughter Catherine and nephew Hareton whose quiet love is able to survive and lead to somewhat of a happily ever after at the end of the novel.

Favorite Scene:

This is a tough one, because it has been a while since I’ve read the book. But thinking back, the one part that stands out the most is Catherine’s death. Particularly the meeting between Heathcliff and Catherine just before her death. The dialogue between the two of them here exemplifies their love. They are both themselves and one another, their love is not tender but painful. Catherine wishes for Heathcliff’s suffering to be as great as her own. In the end, she cannot live with her choices as they have expended all of her strength and she dies after giving birth to little Catherine.

Book #6: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I have already betrayed that I have finished this novel, and so will not give another preview but will try to quickly write the next entry!

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