♥♥Mari♥♥ 's Reviews > Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
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Aug 12, 10

bookshelves: literary-fiction, books-reviewed
Read from January 23 to 30, 2010 — I own a copy, read count: two

When it was first published, "Wuthering Heights" elicited strong criticism. Although Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre" also received its share of negative criticism, it was not as markedly disliked as her sister's book. As time went by, the pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and it was Emily's book that eventually came to be hailed as superior to Charlotte's, particularly as the 20th century got under way.

I have read the book three times. It was part of a high school English Lit assignment. To be quite honest, I could barely stomach the book back then. It was too strange, wild, and terrifying to me. The second time I read it, several years ago, I was much older. Thus, I was able to appreciate its masterful prose style and brilliant characterizations. In fact, it was these two factors that kept me reading until the very end. The same thing happened a few months ago. Once more I was hypnotized by this horrible tale of people whose lives went so very wrong. It was one character in particular who exerted a rather puzzling pull on me - Heathcliff. I read almost against my will, hoping against hope that I would be able to find some good quality in him. Of course, I vaguely remembered the plot from the second reading, so I knew that I would not find any such thing.

This book, in its entirety, is about Heathclif. It's about how the abuse he suffered at the hands of his benefactor's son, Hindley Earnshaw, twisted him into a demonic caricature of a human being. As such , it is definitely not a pleasant read. However, it does serve as a testament to Emily Bronte's genius. That such a hideous creature sprang from this young woman's imagination is nearly unbelievable, considering her background. Something dark and cruel stirred in the nether recesses of her mind. M. L. Von Franz, a Jungian analyst writing in "Man and His Symbols", edited by Carl Jung, mentions Heathcliff, describing him as Emily Bronte's animus, the masculine part of a woman's psyche. The animus can be evil or good. Heathcliff is demonic indeed. Bronte brings him to life with great vividness, and this undeniably displays her great talent for making a character truly live in a reader's mind.

Therein lies the rub. Heathcliff is so repulsive, so utterly demonic, and so overpowering, that he makes the book sheer torture to read. His influence is seen on every page. The one redeeming quality he might have possessed, his love for Cathy, turns into a monstrous, sick obsession toward the end of the book.

While I can admire the powerful way the author delineates character, as well as her obvious command of writing style, I simply cannot say that this book is one of my favorites. I find it especially strange to see it referred to as a love story, and tagged as "romance" on Amazon. There is little to none of that in this novel. The supposed love story between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw is sketchy at best. They are separated for three years, due to her stubbornness, as well as his pride. When he suddenly reappears, determined to see her, she is already married to another man, one whom Heathcliff despises as a weakling, due to his passionless nature. Yet it is that very man who treats Catherine with kindness, catering to her every whim. Had she, instead, chosen Heathcliff, things might have been very different. Such a tumultuous relationship could very well have ended in tragedy. Had Bronte taken the story in this direction, the book could, indeed, be classified as "a dark romance". As it stands, however, it certainly cannot, nor should it be.

Catherine Earnshaw herself is not a wholly pleasant character, either, although she never descends to the depths of depravity Heathcliff does. She is, however, a very self-centered creature; her sole reason for marrying Linton is so that she won't be brought below her station by marrying Heathcliff. She attempts to rationalize her decision by claiming that she can use Linton's money to "help" Heathcliff, but this is a rather flimsy excuse.

Through Heathcliff, this also becomes a tale of family dysfunction, and of how that dysfunction poisons anyone who comes into contact with that family, whose most disturbed representative, Heathcliff, engages in a very elaborate plan of revenge throughout the latter part of the book.

Allthough, again, the writing is brilliant, the book does have one major flaw, and that is the plotting. Characters are killed off when they are no longer necessary. Now, I do agree that a writer has to include sad and unhappy events in a novel, even if he or she is writing within the parameters of the modern romance genre. However, having characters die every few pages or so is just too contrived. Even Cathy's death is contrived. It's designed to make Heathcliff even more of a monster than he already is. Besides, there is no clear explanation for her death. True, she had gotten herself into a state of near hysteria due to auto-suggestion, but this is hardly enough to cause anyone's death; at least, not as suddenly as hers comes about. It's just not believable. Furthermore, the reader finds out, after her demise, that she was pregnant! She very conveniently gives birth, too, before she inexplicably departs from this world. This seems to be a rather forced way of increasing the pathos.

Other reviewers have objected to the narration-within-a-narration technique Bronte uses. Actually, I found this quite intriguing. This is one of the elements about the book that actually maintained my interest. Nelly Dean turns out to be a very shrewd, highly perceptive observer, with an especially keen eye for nuanced detail.

I was glad that poor Hareton got a chance at love with Catherine Linton. That was another element about the book that I liked. Still, their union is also a bit too contrived, since they happen to be cousins.

All in all, although I do recognize the greatness of Emily Bronte as a writer, I have to say that I consider her sister's novel, "Jane Eyre", far superior, as well as a much more enjoyable read with a more polished plot structure.

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Quotes ♥♥Mari♥♥ Liked

Emily Brontë
“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë
“Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”
Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights


Reading Progress

01/23/2010 page 212
47.32% "I've decided to concentrate on this book now. I can't put it down! And yet, I dislike Cathy and Heathcliff. What a masterpiece!!"
01/24/2010 page 267
59.6% "I am now concentrating on this book. And I have to say that I HATE Heathcliff, even though I do feel some compassion for him..."

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