Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
My rating: 8 out of 10 stars.
Summary (from Goodreads, because I simply can't seem to sum up this book): 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.
Comments: Wuthering Heights is a book that people either really like or really despise. I thought I would despise it, but I ended up really liking it and I couldn't even tell you why. The same thing happened with The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they're both Gothic novels...? Both books are rather dark and dismal. And with both books, I really didn't like any of the characters.
Wuthering Heights is one of the rare books that made me eager to keep reading to find out what happened next. Not many books give me that feeling (though it is becoming a more common phenomenon for some reason. Maybe it's because I reread so many books that when I get one that I don't know too much about, I'm excited to find out what happens next).
The plot follows two families who live in close proximity to each other on the English moors. The two houses are seemingly secluded from civilization (despite the nearby village) and really have nothing to do with people.
The first house is that of the Earnshaw's, who have two children: Hindley and Catherine. They also have a maid-in-training Nelly Dean. One day, Mr. Earnshaw returns with an abandoned boy named Heathcliff, whom he found in London, and adopts as another son. Slowly, the Earnshaw household becomes more and more secluded and more and more ungentlemanlike.
The other family is the Linton's. They also have two children: Edgar and Isabella. They are of a more noble society. The children and well-educated, but also secluded.
The two families are brought together and Edgar falls in love with Catherine. This is a problem because Heathcliff - who has grown rough and mean - also loves Catherine. Eventually, Edgar and Catherine marry, and Heathcliff marries Isabella. Neither of the marriages are happy. Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to her and Edgar's daughter Catherine mark II. Isabella runs away from Heathcliff around this time and a few months later gives birth to their son, whom she names Linton out of spite.
Years pass, and Linton comes to live with Edgar and Catherine after his mother dies. Unfortunately, Heathcliff gets a hold of his son and forces him to come and live with him. He also forces Linton and Cathy (II) to marry, though Linton dies shortly afterward.
The novel ends with Heathcliff's death and Cathy (II) and Hareton's - Hindley's son - intended marriage. The book ends on a happy note.
Other characters include the two narrators, Nelly Dean, and Mr. Lockwood, who is a tenant of the Linton's house after Edgar Linton dies. Another character is Joseph, who serves as the "comic relief" (if you can understand what he's saying!). His is described as "the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself and fling the curses to his neighbours." There's also Hareton, Hindley's son, whom Heathcliff "raises" to be an illiterate servant. Hareton really has a soft(ish) heart and wishes to learn to read and write to impress Cathy (II).
The way the book was written impressed me very much. It starts out with Mr. Lockwood coming to live in Thrushcross Grange (try saying that out loud - it's so difficult!), the Linton's old home. After catching a terrible cold in the snow, he asks the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him the story of Heathcliff and the others over at Wuthering Heights. She begins her tale when Heathcliff first arrived as a child... and goes up to present day.
After that, Mr. Lockwood decides to leave the area for awhile. When he comes back, about six months later, there have been some developments in the story of Heathcliff. Nelly is no longer working at Thrushcross Grange, but is at Wuthering Heights. Mr. Lockwood goes to see her and she tells him what has transpired in the past few months. Mr. Lockwood gives up Thrushcross Grange, and everything ends as happily as is possible with such a dark book.
I absolutely LOVE books that have narratives like that - stories within stories. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is like that. So is Canterbury Tales (though Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is much better than Canterbury Tales).
The characters... like I said before, I really hate most of them.
Heathcliff is probably THE WORST man in the entire fictional world. He is mean, nasty, revengeful, selfish, and just plain evil. Okay, okay... so it probably has something to do with the fact that he was abandoned as a child, and that Hindley - his adopted brother - hated him and abused him... and that Catherine, the girl he loved, left him for another man... BUT STILL. Everything in life is a choice. Heathcliff had a choice to forgive Hindley, to let Catherine go, to enjoy life, to be happy... but instead he let revenge take over his life. He wanted revenge on Hindley, so, like Hindley abused him, he abused Hindley's son Hareton. He wanted revenge on Edgar for marrying Catherine, so he married Edgar's sister Isabella, and made Cathy II, Edgar's daughter, marry his own son Linton.
He also had an obsession with Catherine. I think Edward Cullen took creepy lessons from Heathcliff. Sure, Edward Cullen may have crawled into Bella's room while she was sleeping... but Heathcliff dug up Catherine's grave to have one last look at her dead face.
Speaking of Catherine... She is one of the most self-centered characters I have ever read about. She hopes to keep the love of Heathcliff, while entertaining the hopes of Edgar. She eventually goes slightly mad and always throws a fuss when things don't work out her way.
Cathy II is a little bit the same way, but she's a lot better than her mother. It's only when she is introduced to her cousin Linton and her uncle Heathcliff that she starts down a bad path. By the end of the book, thankfully, she is a lot better off.
Cousin Linton is a disgrace. He's a wimp and just plain mean. His father manipulates him and uses him to do and say awful things, especially to Cathy II.
Hareton is also manipulated by Heathcliff and worked as a slave.
Edgar is also rather wimpy... He didn't make a very good decision by marrying Catherine. I feel a bit sorry for him.
I think the reason I enjoyed this book so much was because of the conflict between everyone. As I said before, I wanted to know what happened next. The story intrigued me. How could someone be as malicious as Heathcliff? What would have happened if he and Catherine had gotten married?
Which brings me to an interesting point... Through the whole book, even after Catherine dies, Heathcliff lusts after her. I wonder, if they had gotten married, how long would it have lasted? Both were intolerably self-centered and prone to anger if they didn't get their ways. How long would they have been able to tolerate each other before they started getting on each other's nerves? Was Heathcliff in love with Catherine, or a manifestation of his 'perfect woman'?
Anyway... this book gives further evidence that man should not be alone. I believe that when people are solitary for too long, their focus shifts off others, and turns solely on themselves. Imaginary problems start popping up, and eventually, a person becomes completely self-centered. This is what happens to many of the characters in Wuthering Heights. The two families are self-contained. For however many years, they only interacted with each other. Therefore, they had their own self-contained and self-centered world.
I wonder if this was reflective of Emily Bronte, the author, and her family's environment? I'm pretty sure the Bronte children were the ones who created the antisocial homeschooler myth. They were an odd family who, like the characters in Wuthering Heights, lived on a moor, and were very secluded. The children - especially Emily - were shy and not very adept in social situations. This obviously had an impact on their writing.
And perhaps that is the ultimate reason I enjoyed Wuthering Heights. I love finding connections between Author and Novel. That's why I think it's so important to study not only the work, but the person behind the work as well. You can find insight into the work, which you wouldn't have caught before, and you can find insight into the author. It adds another layer to the work which fascinates me. People fascinate me. Human nature, why people do what they do, the reasons behind things.
Wuthering Heights and Emily Bronte, I believe, do an excellent job of this.
Would I recommend it? Yes! I think this is a book that everyone should study at least once in their life.