Wuthering Heights

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I'm sure that most people read this book sooner in their lives than I did. But the occasion just never came up. Unlike most of Austen's books, I wasn't surrounded by people who had read and loved this novel.

The only person who has told me anything about the book was my mom. And she HATED it! Which didn't motivate me to run out and read it.

But after some thought, I decided I really should. After all, it is a classic. And can I really call myself of lover of classical British literature without reading Wuthering Heights?

My first thought about the book was the odd voice that the story is told through. Not first person, not third person. It is not told by one of the main characters. But rather it is told as a story, the housekeeper/nanny related the going-ons of Wuthering Heights to an individual who is new to the area. The entire story is slanted by the housekeepers personal feelings towards the characters, and thus it was difficult to develop my own opinions of the different people.

Heathcliff should be the villan that all villans are compared to. He is the standard of all villans. Bitter because of his childhood friend, Catherine, bestowed her love on someone else, he sets out to destroy the happiness of everyone related to her and her new family. He sets out by financially ruining Catherine's brother, but does not stop there. He manipulates everyone until he has complete physical and emotional control over everyone around him.

The dispair that he brings with him is tangible in every page of Emily Bronte's story. The oppressive presence of Heathcliff is unsurpassed by any book I have ever read.

Nearly done with the book, I felt that there was no way for the story to end happily. Nearly everyone had died, many purely because of the lack of a nurturing hand and the hope of joy. The "heroine" had also come under Heathcliff's powers and slowly I watched her change into a bitter, detached individual instead of the vivrant, caring girl she was.

But happiness came, just as it always should. It came for the heroine and her love. But it never comes for Heathcliff, despite his desperation for it. He never feels the peace and serentiy that love can brings. Even to the end, everything was extreme, desperate, and wild for Heathcliff.

Most literary villans have their redeeming quality. But Heathcliff had none. He could have used his love of Catherine as a redeeming quality. But he never did. He treated his own feeling of love as a weakness, as a reason for revenge.

For the other characters, it was their love that became their redeeming quality. How they used it to be long-suffering, self-less, forgiving, and sacrificing. And in the end, peace came to them.

In the end, it is not what we have, but what we do with it that determines what we are. And no where is there a more powerful allegory of this than Wuthering Heights.


Karen said...

I'm with your mom. I HATED Wuthering Heights. I read it because I wanted to, not because it was assigned. And I didn't read it until a few years ago. It was supposed to be one of the most amazing love stories ever told. Instead, I found it frustrating. I was irritated by all of the characters and their selfishness. And I didn't see Cathy as having any redeeming qualities either.

But I did appreciate your review. I think you summed up the book nicely, even if I don't totally agree with you. :-)

Katherine said...

I didn't necessarily think that it was a love story. And to me, the heroine was Cathy, the daughter, not Cathy the mother, who I felt did have redeeming qualities.

Bonnie said...

The OPTIMIST has spoken here. I'm still with Karen. Most people have redeeming qualities, regardless of their human contribution. To me the story was about Emily Bronte's own confused and difficult life. There are enough lives with unheroic, sad, desperate wasted years, that I regretted reading it as a vicarious way to cary additional disfunction. I saw the book as a record of the wasted life, even if love did come, it could never recapture the vibrant years of living. Sometimes that's how it goes, but classic status? Not on my book list. Glad you read it, and found the true value. Thanks for the review.

Hailey said...

im undecided. the book is horrible and there isnt a single character that i like, it is strangly compelling. as for the redeming quality being love i agree but i also belive that love is also heathycliff redeming quality. at the start of the book heathcliff loved cathy and would do anything for her, this still remained towards the end of the book but not as often and more subtle. i belive cathy and heathcliffs love for eachother prevented them from becoming the monsters they were always accused of being by the characters in the book.