Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Brontë
Date Finished: 04/04/12
Re-Read? : First time read
Challenges? : Yes – Victorian Challenge 2012 & The Classics Club
Overall: 4/5 – rather good
This book has certainly taken me on a journey. To start with, reading this was a bit of a chore if I’m honest. I didn’t really know who anyone was – I was confused as to why there was this Catherine who was Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law and not his love, so I assumed I must have misunderstood something. I was also a bit put of when I realised that it was not narrated by neither Cathy nor Heathcliff, as I assumed it would be, as Jane Eyre is narrated by Jane (falling into the trap of presuming the Brontë sisters’ novels will be similar again).
Funnily enough, everything I felt at the start of this book seemed to be completely turned around by the time I had finished! For example, at the start of the book I felt sorry for Heathcliff – he was treated cruelly and at a time where status and class were everything, no wonder he felt alienated and resentful. However, by the end of the story, especially when he locks Ellen and Catherine in the Heights to prevent them from seeing Edgar before he dies, I loathed his unnecessary cruelty.
Anyway, I remember Jillian writing that she was surprised that this novel was so emotive for her, and now I know what she meant. The way I resented some characters for their sheer spite and found my heart beating rapidly when others were in danger really moved me. It is a true credit to Emily Brontë that she evokes such strong emotions in people well over a hundred years later than when she wrote her only book.
The plot is really original – without being unrealistic, it was shocking and clever and took turns I never would have predicted. Throughout the novel, I was constantly wondering “what the hell can happen now?!” The slight downside, for me, is that sometimes we were told of events before they were narrated. For example, Nelly states that Heathcliff has died before she tells the tale of how, which slightly diminished my desire to read on quickly.
In terms of characterisation, Emily has depicted some of the most unforgettable characters throughout English literature; personally, I believe Heathcliffe and Cathy are on a par with some of Dickens’ creations. This, of course, is definitely not to say that I like the characters in Wuthering Heights. On the contrary, I abhor the majority! At some time or another, almost all of them are mean to one another and seemingly the only person who isn’t, Ellen, is pretty unrealistic, in my eyes. All those years of serving the family and still going strong at the end? Oh, and being perfectly content to discuss the entire history of a family she has been so intimate with? Not likely.
Another instance of the way my view completely changed over the course of the book was with the character of Edgar. When we were first introduced to him when they were all so young, I found him irritating and meddlesome. How dare he stand in the way of two people so obviously destined for one another? I think I saw him as the personification of the requirement to conform to stereotype, in this case marrying to your appropriate social level, and that annoyed me. However, as I progressed with the story, Edgar’s kindness and devotion to both his wife and daughter won me over and he became one of my favourite characters by the end.
The prose is undoubtedly superb, with no sentence sounding odd or disjointed. All writing by the Brontës I have encountered so far has been flawless and a pleasure to read; I can’t help comparing with Dickens again, whose lengthy descriptions sometimes have my mind wandering – this is not an issue with Emily Brontë’s descriptions of the moors. What an amazing setting! I have family in Yorkshire and next time I visit them, I am definitely going exploring.
To conclude, I now understand what is meant by the view that Wuthering Heights is not so much a novel, but an exploration and education on passion, dominance, revenge and many other strong emotions. For me, I think it educates on how cruelty can spring from all places, despite background or situation.
A very vivid and thought provoking read.
Although I did not award 5/5 (I couldn’t completely disregard the apathy I felt towards the characters and plot at the start) it is definitely going straight on my re-read list, as I think I have so much more to learn from this book the second time round.