Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

6712426Novel: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë | Goodreads
Release Date: October 6, 2009 (first published in 1847)
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 stars

When Catherine and Heathcliff’s childhood friendship grows into something so much more, what ensues is one of the greatest love stories of all time. Even as fate conspires against them and passion consumes them, nothing can keep Catherine and Heathcliff apart. Not even death… for their forbidden love is unlike any other.

Emily Brontë’s masterpiece remains as compelling and thrilling as ever. Beautifully presented for a modern teen audience, this is the have edition of a timeless classic.

What a book. And what a JOKE of a book description. The HarperTeen edition of Wuthering Heights, which I admit that I bought freshman year because it looked like Twilight and is a prevalent topic of discussion in Eclipse, sorely misrepresents this classic novel. The tagline on the cover is “Love Never Dies.” But enough about the particular edition I read and on to my thoughts of the work itself.

Overall, I really liked Wuthering Heights.

The first 50 pages or so were really difficult to get through. I was so confused, because I’d had an idea going into the story of what it was going to be, and the detached narrator and characterizations didn’t match up with my preconceptions. I would HIGHLY recommend pulling up a character chart or family tree when you start to read Wuthering Heights, because there are two Catherines, two Heathcliffs, and a Hareton and Hindley that are mentioned and seen often before the reader is fully introduced to the story. Once I finally sorted out the characters and their relationships to one another, I began to enjoy the book much more. That same point also coincided with the beginning of Mrs. Ellen (Nelly) Dean’s tale of the Earnshaws, Lintons, and Heathcliffs. Surprisingly, after drudging dutifully through the first fifty pages, I ended up flying through Wuthering Heights.

My favorite part of the book was the first half of Nelly’s tale, the part that chronicles Catherine and Heathcliff’s upbringing, friendship, family life, and love affair. This portion is why I have decided that Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite classics. The only truly good and pure character throughout the entire novel is Nelly; every other character is severely flawed, and two—Catherine and Heathcliff—are quite morally ambiguous. I found it so fascinating to read about their relationship, because in a strange way, it was inspiring. I think the fact that the only real redeemable quality about either of them was their love for each other made that love all the more potent. And I find it strangely admirable that both are fully aware of the other’s faults and shortcomings, and do not try to hide or protect them from the world’s knowing, and yet they love each other both for and despite those flaws. Of the pair, I think Catherine the less wicked, though she was manipulative and considered herself blameless in everything. Heathcliff is more interesting, though, because he has so many dark motives, and the ways in which he goes about achieving them are deceitful and mysterious. He’s a plotter. The scene in which Heathcliff enters her chambers and holds her in his arms on the night she dies was powerful.

The children of Catherine and Heathcliff, who make up the second half of Nelly’s tale, were decidedly less pleasant to read about. Cathy, while kinder and gentler than her mother, was too tender for my liking. Her cousin Linton, Heathcliff’s son, was such a sniveling pile of shit and she wasted way too much time, energy, love, and tears on that boy. He was a coward, a selfish baby in a teenage body, and any pity I might have had for him vanished at his infantile and dramatic behavior. I might have liked Cathy more if she’d taken more of a hard-line approach in her dealings with him. But every time she stood her ground, Linton would throw a fit and either make her worry so much for his health or cause her to pity him so that she would recant her ground-standing and coddle him further. It was aggravating! I actually found Cathy and Linton more repulsive than Catherine and Heathcliff, and far less interesting, though as with the latter pair, I found the female to be less horrible a person than the male (Cathy is really, for the most part, a good person, though prone to dramatics and feeling too much sympathy). I didn’t enjoy reading the second half of Wuthering Heights as much because neither the characters nor their relationships with each other interested me as much as those of Catherine and Heathcliff.

The ending of Wuthering Heights, however, was redeeming because Cathy finally begins treating her other cousin Hareton with respect and nurtures his desire to learn and become a gentleman. Their happiness redeemed Cathy to me, and I had been interested by Hareton’s character and backstory throughout the novel. He was probably my favorite character, and the one I’d have liked to have seen more of. My favorite aspect of Wuthering Heights was Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship, but neither of them were admirable characters on their own.

Other tidbits:
I could hardly understand a word Joseph said, so I skimmed over most of his lines. Edgar was a fairly docile character; I liked him simply because of his gently nature, though he wasn’t fiery or particularly intriguing. The narrator, Mr. Lockwood, is simply an observer of the happenings at Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights; his purpose in the story is simply to be a person for which Nelly to tell the story to, and thus I found him uninteresting and unnecessary. Brontë’s descriptions are lovely and full of poetic imagery and figurative language; I found the writing easy to read and I felt that I understood the context in which the novel was written and the setting in which the story takes place. The book has a dreary, dark mood to it; Wuthering Heights is a depressing abode, while Thrushcross Grange is vast and lonely. The ending strips all this away, creating warmth and cheeriness in the mood where before there was none.

Wuthering Heights was perhaps not the most enjoyable book to read, due to its slew of dysfunctional characters and, at times, tedious narration/plot line. However, I so admired the ways in which Brontë connects the stories of two generations’ of characters (and the influence of the first on the second), and was so gripped by the juxtaposition between Catherine and Heathcliff’s unconventional personalities and fierce, unwavering love, that it has definitely earned a place on my list of favorite classics. For around 200 pages, I was more immersed in Wuthering Heights than I think I’ve ever been whilst reading a classic, so much so that I didn’t feel like I was reading a classic at all.

Thanks for reading.