Author: Emily Brontë
Publisher: Thomas Cautley Newby
Release Date: December 1847
Rating: 4 out of 5
Summary: “Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature.” – Goodreads
When I picked up this book, I was expecting a semi-exciting, but over all sweet and predictable romance. Sweet Mithra, was I ever wrong. I don’t even know where to begin reviewing a book like this. If you want warm fuzzies in your heart or something that, when you read it at night, won’t leave you laying in bed with the hollow and distressed feeling of “will I ever be happy again?!“, this is not your book. If you want to be torn in two by something you find both twisted and unacceptable, yet somehow enjoy, this book is your literary soulmate.
I don’t have much to contribute to the overall discussion, since so much ink has been spilt over the novel already, but I would like to toss in my thoughts. There seems to be this ‘debate’ going on concerning whether Heathcliff is a protagonist or antagonist. The answer seems obvious to me. In the beginning of the story, I adored Heathcliff. How can I not love a character who, when someone rags on his hair, throws hot applesauce at them? Not very prim and proper, but very fun to read. But by the end of the book? I hated him. Loathed every last hair on his beautiful, vengeful head. You can’t beat women, marry someone just to get back at her sister, hang your wife’s dog, force a woman to marry your invalid son by using her ailing father as leverage and be considered a good guy. It doesn’t work that way, labeling him as a bona fide antagonist. Yes, yes, “but he loved Catherine! That’s what drove him to such revenge!” I don’t care how much you love someone, that’s no excuse to beat, manipulate and torment people, especially carrying on with it eighteen years after her death. Or dig up her grave. Twice.
Wuthering Heights has a very eerie feel to it, out on the moors and seemingly deserted from any proper civilization with the exception of the two houses. This presents a very strong, collected sense of the story as a whole, as there is little else to distract from the main plot. Granted, the plot is already screamingly powerful that that only heightens it, possibly why this novel is regarded as being so potent.
The writing was actually bearable! I usually find with Victorian literature that it is usually too long and drawn out to enjoy, (with the exception of one of my all time favorites, The Picture of Dorian Gray), but that was thankfully not the case in Wuthering Heights. With the exception of the first fifty pages, the book was a smooth read, and therefore it is a definite recommendation to contemporary readers.
People debate what the central theme of this novel is; what it’s trying to teach the audience. I think that’s silly. To assume that every book has a moral it’s trying to preach, -while noble-, is naive. Wuthering Heights is one of those few books that, yes, portrays a very controlling and vengeful love, but communicates it with such reverential passion that it’s almost impossible to say Brontë was trying to toss it into a warning light. I don’t find an overarching message in this, I find a disturbing yet somehow enjoyable story. It’s bizarre, gut-wrenching and dementedly romantic all at the same time. To fashion a tale as such is enough to go down as a classic for, where Wuthering Heights firmly has its place secured. (Much to the hilarious dismay of one critic at the time of its publication, whose only comment was “the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read“. Ha.)
For its fluid writing, twisted romance and haunting quality, Wuthering Heights earns itself a 4 out of 5.