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Heathcliff's quote to WH readers who romanticize him?

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Michael Remember this quote to Nelly regarding Isabella, who looked past all negative aspects of Heathcliff. I'm wondering if Emily Bronte also meant this for her readers, who would mistake him for a romantic hero.

"She abandoned them under a delusion;" he answered; "picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character, and acting on the false impressions she cherished."

message 2: by Amanda (last edited Feb 08, 2014 05:07PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amanda Alexandre I never thought Heathcliff would be considered a romantic "hero". He's anything but a hero, but I still like him, because I could empathize with his harsh background. I know that he became a detestable man, but somehow he is (or was?) also a victim. [Even if it doesn't say much in the light of everything he's done.]

And I think people romanticize him because of this. We all suffered with him when he was degraded to a servant by his jealous brother and mistreated by Catherine when she said that it would be degrading to marry him. By the time we meet other characters, like Isabella, we are already too involved with Heathcliff.

Also, a lot of women likes love interests which involves dominant and agressive men. Maybe it's because being the object of affection of a nice guy doesn't come as a surprise, since his affectioness (is this a word? Sorry, bad English) comes by nature. So, the angry-brooding-bad-guy becomes a more flattering conquest, because he is more difficult, he doesn't give his affection freely. That explains why Edward Cullen, Christian Grey, Mr Darcy are so popular. My visions are not very mature, I know, but it's just my two cents regarding this issue.

Amanda Alexandre Jamie Lynn wrote: "I never thought Heathcliff was in any way attractive. He was a monster. Yet WH is one of my very favorite books. "

Yes, Ralph Phiennes was handsome but that's just it. :)

message 4: by LoveVickyHolt (last edited Feb 10, 2014 07:23AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

LoveVickyHolt LoveVickyHolt Are great books made great by the collection of amazing quotes and insights within them?

"Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."

I actually strongly disliked this book, because of Heathcliff. And Catherine.

I didn't like their interactions together, and I couldn't find a purpose to reading about their aborted relationship.

I can, however, see why the book is considered a classic.

LoveVickyHolt LoveVickyHolt Oh, and the quote that could very well be Bronte to the readers: BRILLIANT.

Michael WH is probably my favourite book of all time. My point is why did Hollywood and the reading public feel the need to dumb down Wuthering Heights from its original source?

It seems like every reader goes into it expecting a wonderful romantic tale, and many hate the book because it isn't like that at all. If anything, Wuthering Heights has suffered a lot because of its reputation as a great romantic tale. Emily Bronte probably would have been more disgusted with what the modern public turned the book into, more so than the initial hate and controversy it received for being so shocking and ahead of its time.

Rosie To understand why Heathcliff has been called a romantic hero you have to understand what the Romantic Hero was in historical terms and disregard the current definition of romance as gentle devotion and selfless love.

Emily Bronte grew up in the throes of Romanticism, she was born into a period where philosophers were abandoning the cold empritical reason of the Enlightenment in favour of individual emotion and experience. The Romantic rejected rules (which were such a central value of Enlightenment thinking) and believed that feelings come from within, not from evidence - true art comes from ones own experiences.

The concept of the Hero in Romanticism is an extreme; he is not bound by societal convention, he is entirely driven by the self and the pursuit of his own desires, he's a bit of an outcast - in today's terms we would probably consider him self-indulgent as he is so tragically misunderstood. (In a way he wants to be tragically misunderstood, his own strength of feeling makes his world unpenetrable and he'd be annoyed if you tried to understand.)

Heathcliff is a classic Romantic Hero, he shuns and is shunned by society, he lives for his own gratification, the pursuit of feelings leads to enormous destruction but he does not care because feeling is everything. He is far more a Romantic Hero than any of Jane Austen's characters for example - they are too bound by society and expectation. Wuthering Heights is Romantic with a capital R; hardly Emily Bronte's fault that the words romantic and hero have evolved so greatly since the 1840s ;)

Amanda Alexandre Thanks for the explanation, Rosie! It was very enlightening! It's funny how we learn these things at school, but forget about the original concepts of Romanticism. [It seems like we need to align ourselves on the concepts of Romanticism, romantic, romanticize... Which one of them is original and whih one of them has been changed through centuries?]

Michael, I totally get you. I recommend this book to a lot of people, but everytime someone reads it expecting a regular love story they become disappointed.

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Jamie Lynn wrote: "Even today people thrive on dysfunctional relationships. It seems to be human nature."
People must be masochists at heart then.
Or maybe it's because one person's pain is another person's pleasure.

Michael I still think it's too simplified labelling him a "romantic hero". Heathcliff was always his own unique creation. He stands apart from the typical "Romantic Hero" of those times.

Wuthering Heights is far too unique to be labelled as "Romantic with a capital R". If anything, Emily Bronte was attacking the typical "Byronic Hero" of the time, Heathcliff shared a few similarities, his dark and brooding solitary nature, but was much more complex.

Kelly I don't think Romantic is as narrow as Byronic heroes. If you compare Heathcliff to Victor's monster in Frankenstein and the themes there about innocence and how it can be fractured by harsh treatment and the references to Rousseau, I think he's much more similar to that than the typical Promethean argument

Andrea Leoni Heathcliff is one of the first modern anti-heroes, as we are used to enjoy them every week in our television shows, and that's a great deal of the appeal and love the readers have for the character. But I don't think he's not capable of love, I think in his own twisted way he really loved Catherine...

Michael I agree that the term "anti hero" better fits who Heathcliff is, but he is an odd one.

Catherine aside, I never thought of him as a total villain either, he has a charm about him. He is cordial towards Nelly always. He used Hareton, but always admired him to the end of his own life, even Mr. Lockwood he seemed to like.

And he was quite funny. Even the line I quoted, if you read over that long tirade he spouts against Isabella, there is some great sarcasm in there by Heathcliff.

Michael Not sure about mental illness, but who can deny Emily Bronte's skill in crafting a hostile and fascinating situation with a crazy bunch of characters?

Wuthering Heights can be studied to death for its layers, symbolism, religious allusions, and yet Emily Bronte is never condescending to the reader, the story remains very accessible and entertaining, even for a modern reader.

Michael Very much so, part of the attraction is Emily wrote Wuthering Heights and it was published. That's pretty much it. No living the high life, or mixing it up with the Victorian elite like Dickens (who I also admire).

Emily left no letters or reasons for writing Wuthering Heights, no explanation or response to the critics who were condemning it. For me the novel feels completely fresh, it has rawness, ambition and purpose, all of the insanity in the novel is there for a reason. Emily wasn't attacking morals and organized religion without reason.

Michael I think what initially attracted me to Wuthering Heights was its energy, which permeates throughout the novel. Even in the contemplating moments, there is energy in the language and conversation. Even a character like Linton Heathcliff brings a frustrating and bothersome energy, in how others react to him.

It's a natural energy, something that existed in Emily Bronte.

message 17: by Meghan (new) - added it

Meghan I've always felt the biggest misconception about WH is that it is a romance. It's not, at least not in any kind of traditional romance novel way. It is a criticism on self-absorption and the greatest love in the novel is Catherine's love for herself. "Nelly, I AM Heathcliff" is a statement of love, but not for Heathcliff but for the realization that by loving him is she able to revel in her self-absorption. The fact that there seems to be almost no one else for the characters to interact with would be a main reason why there's an obsession with Catherine. When you remove the corrupting assumption that the book is supposed to be a Gothic romance, you are able to see it for its deeper layers and nuances. If you are looking for a romance, you will be sorely disappointed. But, approach it as a multi-generational look of the effects of class and gender societal pressures of the time on isolated lander-gentry, you will see so many more options. Wuthering Heights is a book that all but defies classification. Many discussions and papers are to be had trying to define its genre.

Michael Well said Meghan, I can't stand the labels such as "dark gothic or "wild romanticism", implying that Wuthering Heights is mere fabrication of the imagination, and doesn't deal with themes such as alcoholism, abuse, gender, religion. Wuthering Heights is a melting pot and cannot be classified.


From what I know, Emily was a practical and strong person, she too would probably hate people saying that. I wasn't so much implying she was tortured, but the energy of her imagination was incredible, it spirals from all of the characters. For a novel with near flawless structure, it still reads to me completely spontaneous. Every time I go back to WH, it still reads fresh and exciting.

Andrea Leoni I didn't see it that way. Mainly because, if Meghan's point of view is right, I couldn't pass the appearance of romance, to get the true sense of those quotes. I should do another reading to try to get the sense of this interesting point of view. I always simply thought of Catherine and Heathcliff of deeply flawed characters, entangled in a toxic and consuming romance.

Michael Isabella's infatuation and idolisation of Heathcliff as the dangerous rebel is important, because I think Emily Bronte is calling bullshit on the romanticisation of such guys. He has the characteristics of the Byronic hero which initially appealed to Isabella, and then Emily throws water on that fire.

Catherine and Nelly understood Heathcliff far better, and even though you could say it was a toxic romance, was there ever any romance shared between Catherine and Heathcliff? I don't think Catherine ever was attracted to Heathcliff in that way, despite his social standing.

Michael Just to add to Meghan's point, another reason I feel labels such as "Romanticism" are nothing but a straight jacket on Wuthering Heights, they forget the novel has a sense of humour. Jokes, insults and wit are scattered throughout Wuthering Heights.

I can't be the only one who picked up on things, such as Joseph's first reaction to Linton Heathcliff, suggesting that Edgar sent over Cathy instead and that "yon's his lass!". Heathcliff's reactions were just as funny, cruel yes, but it's dark humour.

Andrea Leoni I'm not an English speaking reader and I have to admit, I had a little trouble reading Joseph's lines...that's a shame

Michael That's one of my favourite chapters in the book, it's brilliantly written. The nice sunny weather on the ride to the Heights making it seem a happy occasion, Linton's refusal, and then curiosity about where he's going. Nelly leaving this feeble sickly child with Heathcliff, Hareton and Joseph.

Meg Joyce Carol Oates wrote a fabulous essay on Wuthering Heights that addresses the original question in this thread. Oates purports that Bronte relentlessly beats the reader with Heathcliff's horrific actions the same way Heathcliff beats Isabella.

JCO Wuthering Heights essay: http://www.usfca.edu/jco/magnanimityo...

Carolina Morales Amanda wrote: "I never thought Heathcliff would be considered a romantic "hero". He's anything but a hero, but I still like him, because I could empathize with his harsh background. I know that he became a detest..."

Your vision is very mature, Amanda; nevertheless, the Romantic Hero stereotype is more 'approachable' if we recall the Byronian profile of protagonist: virile, restless, dark and disturbed. And Heathcliff fits into the square perfectly!

message 26: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann Barlow This was the first love story I read and in my opinion the best. I loved it. And no I didn't think Heathcliff was a hero but who doesn't want someone to love them like that.

Michael The "romantic" hero tended to show his true inner intentions, and his inner virtue always shone through in the end, despite all his melancholy and brooding and dark nature

Heathcliff remained true to his convictions till the end, never taking that honourable good turn, never repenting for what he did. So, for me he was definitely an attack (or a counter) to the typical Romantic hero of the times. Much more complex and real.

As for the essay, well I definitely agree with the humour aspect, and Emily Bronte had a great wicked sense of humour. Remember when Catherine tells her husband Edgar that Heathcliff would as soon hit him, as the "King would march his army against a colony of mice"? Hilarious putdown.

A great essay I found on Wuthering Heights, is how EB uses dogs in potentially hostile situations throughout the novel


message 28: by Minnie (new)

Minnie Amanda wrote: "I never thought Heathcliff would be considered a romantic "hero". He's anything but a hero, but I still like him, because I could empathize with his harsh background. I know that he became a detest..."

Amanda, I didn't read the book, but saw the movie when
I was very young and very impressionable.

IMO, Heathcliffs and all their mannerisms still exist even in the real world. Women still fall in love with them, hoping they can change the faults. Your vision is mature enough.

message 29: by Geoffrey (last edited Nov 20, 2014 11:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Geoffrey No, the 1939 film sticks pretty much to the original text. Heathcliff is an orphaned child whose adult years are played by Laurence Olivier. Merle Oberon plays Catherine. The cinematography alone is worth the price of video rental, especially the early life love scenes in the craggy hillside, some of the most romantic scenes ever filmed.

Victoria Heathcliff is a Byronic hero and the Bronte sisters were big fans of Byron and his poetry, so it's a tricky one to call. They moulded Heathcliff's character on Byron, and it all depends on whether they saw Byron as too reckless to be a hero, or whether they idolised him as many women of the time did. I reckon it was a mixture of both; they perhaps admired Byron and his poetry and were somewhat attracted to his charming yet violent personality, although they could also recognise the implications of this. Maybe in Isabella's character, Bronte was commenting on her own naivety and warning herself to be wary of the flaws of the Byronic hero?

Geoffrey Thank you Cemre. I will go back and read the book again. It's been too long and I remember the story from the movie.

Donna I think Heathcliff could have been the poster boy for the original "bad boy" to which a lot of young girls are drawn. I grew up with 4 brothers--I think I was pretty much immune to that aspect.

Jacque I wrote a 13 page paper on why Wuthering Heights and similar romantic classics have such misleading legacies and how it sucks that they do. I went in to Wuthering Heights expected a whirlwind groundbreaking romance and read... that. For Heathcliff, I defined him as an anti-hero, because a Byronic hero still has some redeeming qualities while Heathcliff's only excuse for being the way he is are the shitty cards dealt to him. To answer your question, though that definitely does, out of context, look as though Heathcliff himself is saying he is not a hero in any way and in fact is a bad man and for her to put him on any pedestal is naive and laughable. I don't recall the context that his line came in, but from this quote yes, he is. To a die-hard arguer of Wuthering Heights being a romantic novel and Heathcliff himself being a romantic hero of any sort, Byronic or no, this may be his redeeming quality, his low-self esteem and self abhorrence. But to me, yes, he was admitting he was not a good person and knew it.

Donna Cemre wrote: "Heathcliff is far from being the poster boy for the original "bad boy". Don't make Wuthering Heights into something that it isn't ."

So...explain to me how am I making "Withering Heights into something that it isn't"?

Donna Rosie wrote: "To understand why Heathcliff has been called a romantic hero you have to understand what the Romantic Hero was in historical terms and disregard the current definition of romance as gentle devotion..."

Rosie, I really appreciated your comments. I did not like "Wuthering Heights" (mainly because I don't like romance stories) but after reading your comment I have a new respect for the novel. Thank you. You managed to enlighten without being pedantic or condescending.

Donna ...and ?

message 37: by Aida (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aida Eltanin But Heathcliff says "HERO of ROMANCE", not "a Romantic hero"...

message 38: by Aida (new) - rated it 5 stars

Aida Eltanin Michael wrote: "Remember this quote to Nelly regarding Isabella, who looked past all negative aspects of Heathcliff. I'm wondering if Emily Bronte also meant this for her readers, who would mistake him for a roman..."

I think you're right 100%. I read this quote today after listening again to the audiobook for the umpteenth time and for the first time this quote hit me hard and bang, I felt Emily was talking to all women who wanted to (and did) turn Heathcliff into a romantic hero and so I went online to see if I could find that quote to post it on Facebook and found your post and yes, that's the very same thought I had and it's the key to all the book to me...

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