Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
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Jun 11, 09

bookshelves: classics, re-read, book-club, 2009
Read in June, 2009, read count: 2

** spoiler alert ** When the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, Mr Lockwood, arrives, he goes to visit his landlord, Heathcliff, at Wuthering Heights, a house up on the moors. The household that Lockwood has stumbled upon is an unusual one, with an ancient and sanctimonious servant with a thick Yorkshire accent called Joseph; a rough farmhand and "clown" called Hareton; a surly but beautiful young woman with bad manners called Cathy; the housekeeper Zillah and the haughty Heathcliff. None of them are welcoming, and their relationship to each other seems strange.

Mr Lockwood spends the night at Wuthering Heights because of bad weather and is visited by a ghost of Cathy Earnshaw - when Heathcliff comes to see him and he relates the story he sees Heathcliff at the window, crying and begging Cathy to come haunt him.

Beyond curious, he beseeches the housekeeper at the Grange, Ellen "Nelly" Dean, to tell him what she knows. Having grown up with the original family at Wuthering Heights, and being a party and a witness to the events of the intervening years, she has plenty to say, beginning in 1771 with the arrival of Heathcliff as a little boy at Wuthering Heights, a friendless orphan found by Mr Earnshaw in Liverpool. With the dark-skinned appearance of a gypsy, he becomes the favourite of Mr Earnshaw and so earns the enmity of his son, Hindley. With his dark scowling countenance and arrogance, only Hindley's younger sister Cathy befriends the boy, who idolises her in turn.

So begins an intense friendship and love between Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff, until she agrees to marry young Edgar Linton and Heathcliff overhears her telling Nelly that it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff. Reappearing three years later, Heathcliff sets in motion his plan for revenge against Hindley Earnshaw and Edgar Linton, destroying their children and robbing them of their inheritance.

This is only the second time I've read Wuthering Heights - the first being in 2005, and I actually couldn't remember what happened until I was reading it. The first time, I expected it to be more like Jane Eyre, dark and brooding but ultimately happy. I was completely thrown by Heathcliff's nature, by the violence and hatred and Cathy's premature death. This is one book where it is better that you know something of what to expect before starting it - knowing that Cathy and Heathcliff don't find happiness helps prepare you and free you to delve in and notice everything else that's going on. So while I won't reveal everything that happens, I have no qualms about what I have revealed.

There are several familiar Gothic themes in this book, but it will always be a fresh and original novel. There can only be one Wuthering Heights! Interestingly enough, Heathcliff is a classic Byronic hero - tall, dark, handsome, intense, possessive, obsessive, passionate, in love with his "sister"... This is a character that appears time and time again in romance novels. You'll see him everywhere, but with a big difference: a woman conquers him - yes the ultimate fantasy - and softens him, removing his streak of cruelty or humbling his arrogance or what have you. I come across Heathcliff all the time in historical and paranormal romance, where he's a fixture, but only the original defies our expectations.

Likened to a devil or demon, and coming from the factory town of Liverpool with its smoke and misery - factory towns were a symbolic stand-in for Hell - even Heathcliff's wife Isabella says she doesn't think he's a real man. Yet I felt sympathy for him. One of the themes is nature vs. nurture - just how much is Heathcliff's personality, and how much is the fault of the way others treated him because of his looks, his status etc.?

This is also a book of parallels, the most distinct being between Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw, and Hindley's son Hareton and Cathy's daughter Cathy Linton. Heathcliff makes sure Hareton grows up rough, wild, uncouth and illiterate, when really he is a gentleman's son and of the "first" family in the neighbourhood. He's a great admirer of Cathy (Linton) but she despises him, teasing him mercilessly for being illiterate and stupid - yet she later befriends him, he overcomes his upbringing, learns to read and everything is righted with a happy ending - for them.

This isn't the romantic tale you might expect, but a dark gothic one of misery and torment and cruelty. It's also absorbing and fascinating and you can never really get to the bottom of it, so to speak. It will haunt you as Cathy's ghost haunts Heathcliff. I'm not in the least surprised that this is considered a literary masterpiece. Aside from the clever way it is structured, with the dual narrators taking us back in time to show how the group Lockwood met became that way, forcing us to reassess; there is also the setting - the isolated world of the Heights, the Grange and the village of Gimmerton, beyond which the story never goes, and of course the moors - not to mention the ghosts and the way the characters are haunted by real people, real past events and choices.

The narrative is cyclical, coming full circle, and I did read into it a slight critique of classism and, as Lizzy Bennet famously said (which I'm taking slightly out of context here), "a selfish disdain for others". It's hard to say what Emily's motives were in writing Wuthering Heights, but if it were clear-cut we would have become bored with the book long ago. It's its ability to provoke us, challenge us, puzzle us, fascinate us that draws us. Definitely one worth studying in greater detail.
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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Your review made me want to try to read this, Shannon.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Oh I hope you do Danielle! It really is better if you're not expecting something nice, which is what happened to me the first time.

Heathcliff is a fascinating and unforgettable character, and it truly is a unique novel. (Who knows, maybe the third time I read it my rating bumps up again?!)


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) I saw the movie with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche and it put me off reading the book. But I would like to read the source and make up my minds. Movies are dicey because they are someone else's filter of the book. Thanks, Shannon.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I haven't seen that movie but I've heard it took a great many liberties with the book and the two are quite different - and WH "purists" really hated it!


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Good to hear. I didn't want anything to do with WH after watching it. (I am relieved, actually).


Susan I saw the latest remake and thought it was very good. Actually felt sympathetic toward Heathcliff, rather than thinking he and Cathy deserved each other - and not in a good way.


Susan Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Cathy. British actors. This production was made for PBS. Very atmospheric. I truly enjoyed it. If you watch it, be sure to post your comments here! :)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) (It was made by ITV, the rival of the BBC)


 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja) Oh I think I'd like that one, Susan. Tom Hardy is cute. I hope I can get a copy of it. I will post my thoughts. :)


Maribel Shannon, I'm soooo glad you liked this book. It is in my top three favorites list. Everything about it is soooo heartbreaking. And, I fell in love with the moors (. . . beyond the garden trees, and the wild green park, the valley of Gimmerton, with a long line of mist winding nearly to its top (. . . ). Wuthering Heights rose above this silvery vapour . ..). (sigh) Thank you for reminding me why I've read this so many time and why I have to read it yet again.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Oh Maribel, I wish I could love this book like you do! I definitely really liked it, and it's an incredible book, for its time and the power of it. The atmosphere is great isn't it? You really do love it! I feel bad... for me it's all because I thought - assumed - it would have a happy ending for Heathcliff the first time I read it (I knew NOTHING about the story!), and that was a stupid thing to think! But it did effect the way I read it. It was much better the 2nd time around.

Jane Eyre is a personal favourite, though :)


message 13: by Maribel (last edited Jan 06, 2010 01:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Maribel I agree with you on the shock the ending may have had. I've read it so many times that I honestly don't remember how I handled it the very first time. I think I've become immune to it becase of all the books/movies (Titanic/Atonement) where there is this perfect love but just not meant to be, and I've made my peace with it (sigh). (Please don't let me keep rambling or we'll be discussing this till the cows come home) I think what I loved most is that there's not doubt left that they really did love each other, beyond reason, or social economic status. Just 1 tiny example of what I love:
'Kiss me again; and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer—but yours! How can I?' (sigh, sigh).
My brain is really dried up - I can't remember if I read Jane Eyre or not. I know my daughter just recently bought me a really beautifully bound edition, so I'll be reading it soon enough regardless.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Well, I mean it was a shock when Catherine died. There's no Lizzy and Darcy thing where they become better people (with each other, anyway). Catherine was a horrible, unlikeable woman but I still didn't want her to die, simply because I'm a romantic and death is so final, there can be no reunions in life!

I'm impressed - you remembered that quote? I'm terrible about remembering things like that, no matter how many times I read a book!

Oh god, Atonement, yes exactly! I cried when I read the book, I cried when I watched the movie, each time I want the end to be different and I think, if I only wish for it hard enough, but no, and it just makes me cry all the harder! Honestly, that story makes me sob.

Oh I hope you like Jane! And once you've read it (not before), you absolutely must watch the BBC's newest adaptation, the one with Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester - it's a two-part mini-series, absolutely gorgeous and totally addictive! I've never seen a better adaptation.


Eastofoz This is one of my all time favourite books. I cried my head off forever at the end. I read it when I was about 17-18 and I've always wondered if I'd react the same way reading it now as an adult. It just tore me up. Heathcliff was psycho!

Hey Danielle, Kylemore looks perfectly sane compared to this guy (lol!)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I'd love to hear what you think of it if you read it again now, Eastofoz. I like it better and better each time, it just gets more and more powerful!


Maribel I usually don't remember much but that stuck with me from the very first time I read Wuthering Heights. I just watched (1st time) Wuthering Heights with Lawrence Olivier and it was just heartbreakingingly magnificent when he said those lines. I cried.

Jane Eyre is next on my list and I've set up the movie on my Netflix queue. Thank you so much for the recommendation. Can't wait!!!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I haven't seen any of the adaptations - but I love listening to Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" - or even better, watching it on YouTube. It's the song she wrote for the Ralph Fiennes version - it looks very melodrammatic!


Maribel HOW do you find time to read, post on GR and watch ANYTHING??? lol. Now I have to search for this on YouTube. You are keeping me busy!!!

Hope all is well otherwise : )


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I haven't had time to post anything here or on my blog in ages, not regularly anyway. I've come online just now to write up 2 book reviews but first I've got to go through all my emails... and before you know it it's 9 o'clock and I haven't written ANYTHING! I wish I had more time!

Hope you enjoy Kate Bush (she's a required taste but this song is lots of fun!)


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