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.
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.