Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte with the same—or a similar morbid curiosity with which one might watch a train wreck, or watch the paramedics as they do their job. One page into the story it was evident that all classic novels are not created equally.
Sorry Emily.

True confessions—I decided to read Wuthering Heights after reading New Moon, by Stephanie Meyers. The latter author referenced it in her novel and I wanted to see how it fit in, and why Edward sympathized with Heathcliff.

In truth, I still don’t understand why he (Edward) did, other than it was occasionally suspected that Heathcliff was a vampire. Heathcliff was a dark, miserable, malevolent person and no one knew his exact origin or parentage. Perhaps Edward used Heathcliff’s life to direct his—I mean direct his path away from the choices that Heathcliff took.

The books were similar in that two opposites were attracted to the same woman—and she in turn loved them both. Is Wuthering Heights a love story? Perhaps—yet in a totally less romantic way than Romeo and Juliet. Wuthering Heights is chiefly the story of Heathcliff—a young boy brought to live at the Earnshaw residence by the family patriarch after his visit to London. You’d think that a near starving orphan would take kindly to the person and family saving him from starvation.

Not so with Heathcliff.

He grew up spoiled and selfish, and full of ill will toward everyone he knew. His near step-sister he loved with a passion but it wasn’t a true love, it was truly selfish. Heathcliff despised his near step-brother, Hindley Earnshaw, and after Hindley’s parents and wife were gone, Heathcliff did his best to accelerate Hindley’s death and secure the Earnshaw estate for himself.

Catherine loved Heathcliff but she knew his vile character and wouldn’t marry him. She married Edgar Linton instead. He loved her purely and doted on her every need. During Catherine’s life, Heathcliff did everything he could to cause Edgar Linton grief and was partly to blame for Catherine’s illness and subsequent death.

During Heathcliff’s life, he did everything in his power to make everyone around him miserable. He was bent on exacting revenge on everyone he knew and people, to him, were merely pawns to get what he wanted. He took over the Earnshaw estate, treated Hindley’s son as a slave—not only as a slave, but taught him to loathe his own father and to cuss, but never taught him to be an important part of society nor how to read or write.

Out of spite, Heathcliff married Edgar Linton’s little sister, Isabella, then despised her for loving him. She bore him a son, but snuck away to London before the boy’s birth. After her death (yes, everyone dies), Linton as the boy is called, is forced to live with Heathcliff, who then through intrigue and deceit manages to get Cathy, (Catherine and Edgar’s daughter), to marry his son, Linton, before the lad dies (see, everyone dies) so that he can have the ultimate revenge by making Edgar miserable and then steal his estate.

His plan backfires to a degree. Edgar doesn’t mind that Cathy marries Linton—he doesn’t know the boys temperament or that he’s on his deathbed—and Edgar dies believing that his daughter is happy and well taken care of.
The casualty list: Papa Earnshaw, Hindley Earnshaw, Catherine Linton, Edgar Linton, Linton, and eventually Heathcliff himself. Heathcliff also did his best to ruin Hareton’s life and Cathy’s lives—yet this odd couple are the only ones who end up with a happily ever after.

The story is told through the eyes of the maid. She witnesses the whole thing and unwittingly plays an important part in helping Heathcliff ensure the fate of Catherine and Cathy, and all the others.

Toward the end of the book, when everyone has died except Heathcliff, Cathy and Hareton—Heathcliff owns everything he’s ever dreamed of, yet he is still miserable. He’s been tormented his whole life by his love for Catherine. Then Heathcliff is all of a sudden haunted by Catherine’s spirit—it brings him more joy than he’s had his entire life. He’s so giddy he forgets to eat or sleep and eventually dies with a smile on his face. In one last coup, he insists on being buried next to his life-long love, Catherine.


Valerie Ipson said...

Whoa, quite the story. I've never read that one. You're review might be enough for me.

Joyce DiPastena said...

For some reason, Wuthering Heights absolutely fascinated me when I read it. To me, Heathcliffe was an abused child (though the analysis at the back of my copy "analyzed" him completely differently), abused by his abandonment and abused both emotionally and physically by the family that took him in. I guess that's why I carried a kernel of sympathy for him all through the book.

Though what Heathcliffe had to do with Edward, or vice versa, in New Moon, is completely beyond me!

Donna Hatch said...

I'm glad to finally know someone who thought the story was as awful as I do. To add to your review, I hated Catherine, too. She was selfish and wicked and I think she deserved Heathcliff. She should have married him and contained their misery by not having children.

I love your trainwreck analogy. I made myself finish it because it's a Classic. Ugh. I always fall for that one.

I'm lost as to the Heathcliff reference for Edward, too. Anyone know Stephanie personally who can ask her?

Naomi Buck said...

I think that Edward relates to him because Edward views himself as a monster. He see's himself ruinging the life of all those around him because he cannot keep himself away from Bella. He also has all that he could impagine and is tormented by his love for Bella - because he knows that he is not good for her. It is funny that both Bella and Edward also talk about how they had hallucinations of the other while they were apart and the desire to hear Edwards voice almost makes Bella kill herself by jumping off the cliff. I haven't ever read Wuthering Heights, but from reading your review these are the similarities that I see between the characters... perhaps after I finish Loyalties Web I will give it a go!

Kate said...

Hi, I have to say I completely love Wuthering Heights partially because it is so different from other love stories. Catherine and Heathcliff's love isn't pure and beautiful it is dark to the point of obsession and ugliness. Yet the more pure characters i.e. Edgar, Cathy just seem so much less interesting. I enjoyed the review though

Kate x