50 books to read before you die discussion

Wuthering Heights
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Book Discussions - 50 Books > Wuthering Heights

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Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments May group read led by Karlyne


Tammy ~Witching Hour Reads~ (03tammy-lynn) I loved this book all 3 times I've read it, but then I'm weird. ;)


Martha (marthas48) | 34 comments I haven't read it. I plan to start Wednesday.


Karlyne Landrum This should be fun!


Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments I've also read it 3 times, it's a very dark look at the human psyche


Andrew Hall (edgeledge) | 9 comments Tammy ~Witching Hour Reads~ wrote: "I loved this book all 3 times I've read it, but then I'm weird. ;)"

You're not wierd, I have read five times since I was 13.


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Williamson | 66 comments I've read it twice but it's been a long time. As I remember my biggest pet peeve when reading was keeping the characters straight as everyone was named after someone else.


message 8: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 85 comments Kim wrote: "I've read it twice but it's been a long time. As I remember my biggest pet peeve when reading was keeping the characters straight as everyone was named after someone else."

I read this a few years ago and had the same problem. Also, I thought I was going to be reading a love story and was pretty surprised at all the violence and psychological turmoil! I definitely liked the book overall.


Karlyne Landrum My Goodreads feed kept "Internet Explorer cannot display the page" on me all morning, and now I have to leave. Hopefully, be back tonight to see all your reactions to this interesting read!


Karlyne Landrum What do you all think of the narrator?


message 11: by Buck (new) - rated it 4 stars

Buck (spectru) I read Wuthering Heights recently, so it's still fairly fresh in my memory. I thought the narration was just a little unnecessarily complicated, but perhaps it was the norm of the times. We had the tenant (I can't quite recall his name - Mr Stockwood?) telling the story told to him by Nellie, or Ellen, the housekeeper. Nowadays, the author could have been the narrator anonymously.


message 12: by Karlyne (last edited May 02, 2014 06:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karlyne Landrum From the very beginning, I find him annoying. I wonder if Bronte really meant him to come across as a thirteen year old boy - one who's amazingly self-centered and childish (my apologies to all thirteen year old boys who are not).


Aimie Sharp | 2 comments I've read this several times since I was about 14, and it's amazing to see how my view of the characters and the plot actually changes each time I read it. The first time I read it I thought Cathy and Heathcliff were great and their story so romantic. The last time I read it (about a year ago for uni) I hated them both! However, from my last reading I don't think we're meant to like either of them.


message 14: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Karlyne wrote: "What do you all think of the narrator?"

I've only ever encountered this in the Bronte sister's work, where the narration is so layered. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is similarly styled.
The narrator does impress as young.


Karlyne Landrum Lisa wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "What do you all think of the narrator?"

I've only ever encountered this in the Bronte sister's work, where the narration is so layered. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is..."


The part where he's making faces at the dogs and then wonders why they attack him makes me think of a youngster. I can see myself saying to him, "Well, what did you expect?!?"


Karlyne Landrum Karlyne wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "What do you all think of the narrator?"

I've only ever encountered this in the Bronte sister's work, where the narration is so layered. [book:The Tenant of Wildfell H..."


It is a rather odd narration, isn't it? The young male narrator gets his information from the middle-aged woman who has it second hand. Layered is a good description.


Aimie Sharp | 2 comments I kind of like the layered narration. It creates the idea of a kind of myth, which adds to the supernatural element of the novel. It's a story that has been passed on through word of mouth making everything we're hearing unreliable. Like most myths, it has probably changed with every retelling.


Karlyne Landrum Aimie wrote: "I kind of like the layered narration. It creates the idea of a kind of myth, which adds to the supernatural element of the novel. It's a story that has been passed on through word of mouth making e..."

Good point, Aimie! Taking the narrator's narration with a grain of salt wouldn't be wrong, would it? It's kind of like a spooky ghost story told around the campfire.


message 19: by Buck (new) - rated it 4 stars

Buck (spectru) There are three books, that before having read them, I had always grouped together as being of the same ilk. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and Wuthering Heights byEmily Brontë. Wuthering heights was the third of these that now I have read.

I didn't care a whit for Austen's writing. I still have trouble keeping straight which Bronte sister wrote which book. Jane Eyre is a good story, well told. I think it is better written than Wuthering heights, but I think I liked Wuthering Heights the best of these three.

I must say that I had trouble identifying with the main characters in any of these books. Their motivations escaped me, for the most part. I'm sure many must find Catherine compelling, but I just didn't get her. She seemed to be her own worst friend. And Heathcliff! What was with him? I think he probably would have been just as antisocial even if he had had Catherine from the beginning. I didn't care about Catherine and I just wanted somebody to get the best of Heathcliff - somebody, anybody, to put him in his place. Didn't they do duels in those days? Heathcliff certainly earned a glove in the face.


Karlyne Landrum It's funny that you're comparing these particular three, Buck, because I read them all within about a year as a youngster. I had no idea who was who, but just grabbed them off the library shelf. If you hadn't known anything about any of the authors, who would you have thought was the earliest writer?


message 21: by Lisa (last edited May 07, 2014 02:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Buck wrote: " I still have trouble keeping straight which Bronte sister wrote which book..."

I'm always surprised by the fact that Austen and the Bronte's get classed together. Is it because they are well known women writers? They didn't write in the same era. Austen was regency and the Bronte's Victorian. The themes are different too.

Austen wrote social commentaries where she always gave her female characters happy endings, her own way of commenting on women's role in society. I love Austen; her wit, sharp eye and pursuit of a happy ending makes her books light and enjoyable.

But I love the Bronte's more. (Jane Eyre is probably my all time favorite book.) One of the reasons is that I find it astounding how talented this family was. The other is that there is an incredible psychological complexity to most of their work which is tremendous for the era.

So Buck, here is a crash course in the Bronte's:-) most of this is based on published fact. However, I form opinions of authors as I read their works and have included my thoughts(which has in the past really annoyed some people)
There were originally 6 Bronte children born to an Irish Anglican curate father and a mother who passed away when they were children. The children were Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell, who were sent to boarding school when their mother passed away. The elder two girls died in their teens at boarding school of TB, the other four returned home and were further educated there. Their father wrote poetry and I think games of imagination and literary pursuits were much lauded in there household.

Charlotte Brontë would have now been the 'eldest'. From what I have read, I understand that she was responsible and intelligent and kept things together. She and her sisters became governesses and published a collection of poems under male pseudonyms. She also wrote The Professor, which was rejected for publication (her husband had it published posthumously). Charlottes big success was obviously Jane Eyre (considered an 'improper' book back then). Shirley is far more of a social commentary, more in the lines of Dickens and Gaskell and was written after she lost her brother to alcohol related illness and her sisters to TB. She married a curate before the publication of Villette which is considered a rewrite of The Professor. Charlotte died at 38 due to complications of pregnancy- reference is made to hypeemesis gravidarum and TB.

Emily Brontë
I get the impression that Emily and Charlotte were close. While I think I know about Charlotte and Anne, I find Emily elusive. Charlotte created Shirley in Emily's likeness: fashionable, witty, intelligent. I find it hard to marry that image of Emily with the pain and complexity of Wuthering Heights, her only published novel. Our only other clue to Emily, is some juvenilia and her poetry from the Bronte's initial collected works.

Anne Brontë
The least known sister. It irks me when her works are disregarded as Anne was definitely talented. Her first novel, Agnes Grey was published about the same time as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. There's a beautiful naïveté to this book, it has been regarded as semi autobiographical.
For me, Anne's big success is The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It's subject matter made it greatly contentious for the time. Her descriptions and the lurking sense menace mimics her sisters.
I've been reading some Bronte juvenilia. Charlotte refers to Anne as odd. The impression is that Anne was devout, quiet and introspective and a bit of a puzzle to her oldest sister. Anne's poetry reinforces this sense.


message 22: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Karlyne wrote: "What do you all think of the narrator?"

Just a thought. The Bronte's wrote under male pseudonyms (Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell). Books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall would not be considered appropriate books to be written by women. I wonder if the layered narration, with the initial narrator being male was intended to reinforce the idea of the author as a man.


message 23: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Karlyne wrote: "Aimie wrote: "I kind of like the layered narration. It creates the idea of a kind of myth, which adds to the supernatural element of the novel. It's a story that has been passed on through word of ..."

Agree it is a good point


message 24: by Karlyne (last edited May 07, 2014 10:20AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Karlyne Landrum I don't know why the Brontes and Austen are often lumped together as though they were writing at the same time, when, as you say, Lisa, they weren't! I still remember the surprise I felt when I learned that Austen was not only not a contemporary of the Brontes, but was a predecessor of theirs. I always thought that Austen's cool wit must have made her closer to "modern" than the Bronte's more emotional prose. As I've learned more, though, it does make more sense. Each "age", from Austen's to the Bronte's to our own, produces writing that reflects the values of its time.

And what we're talking about is a matter of taste, too, isn't it? Or even of what we're in the mood for at the time?

I have to say that reading WH as a sort of ghost story has really enhanced my enjoyment of it, by the way!


Longhare Content | 107 comments Austen is a nearer contemporary of Ann Radcliffe, whose work she (nicely) parodies in Northanger Abbey. The Brontes wrote in the vein of Radcliffe, so it's fun to follow up a Bronte binge with Northanger Abbey.

The initial round of Bronte novels were not only considered inappropriate for women to have written--the "male" authors (or as some believed the single male author behind all three books) was criticized for his fiendishness, especially in WH. Anybody who would write such stuff must have been some kind of degenerate creeper! Gotta love those girls.

They wrote for the sheer love of it and poured out their natures without the usual filters. I have the sense that they didn't know how far out of step they were with Victorian values. Among themselves, in their father's house, out in the boonies far from more "polite" society, steeped in Byron and gothic romances, their stories passed muster with each other. I don't think they saw anything objectionable in what they wrote. As far as the market, Agnes Gray didn't go far enough; Wuthering Heights went over the top; Jane Eyre hit the mark. Bless Charlotte for ensuring the immortality of her sisters' works.

I can't help wondering if critical opinion would have been more accepting of the Brontes if they had used their own names. Probably not, but then again, women's novels were generally taken less seriously--it was just chick lit. They used male names when they published their poetry, which came out first and was fairly well received. It was definitely an advantage to go with male pseudonyms for the poetry volume, and once they were known as the Bell boys it would have been throwing away a big advantage to use their real names for the novels. If I remember right, they tied on their bonnets and went to London to reveal their true identities, not to prove that they were women but to prove that they were three. Anne and Emily didn't mind being Acton and Ellis so much as they didn't want to be merged with Currer.

Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books, and I am always dazzled by Emily's brilliance. It's a lunatic book layered and layered with howls of sanity.


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

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Longhare wrote: " I can't help wondering if critical opinion would have been more accepting of the Brontes if they had used their own names. Probably not, but then again, women's novels were generally taken less seriously--it was just chick lit"

I think that without the original male pseudonyms, these books would not have been published.

Loved the bonnet- tying story.


Longhare Content | 107 comments Probably not. But WH was published at Emily's expense (early self-publishing), so I'm not sure gender made a difference there. I'm not sure about the other two. It is interesting to compare the works of George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell with Dickens and Thackeray. It seems to me that the ladies were edgier and more daring in some ways--certainly the Brontes were.

Yeah, I love the image of those little country mice spilling into the publisher's office and introducing themselves as the authoresses of those three degenerate books of monster passion.


Andrew Hall (edgeledge) | 9 comments Buck wrote: "There are three books, that before having read them, I had always grouped together as being of the same ilk. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Jane Eyre by..."

Heathcliff is bitter and cruel because he can't have the one thing he wants, his adoptive brother treats him very badly, and Catherine is so flitty she doesn't understand the implications of her behaviour on Heathcliff. He is just obsessed, obsessed people behave very oddly.
Another thing to remember this is set in a very remote part of Yorkshire, harsh climate, harsh people who (even to this day) are not very welcoming of strangers, they are 'different'. So it isn't like it is set in a traditional English Manor.


message 29: by Longhare (last edited May 08, 2014 05:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Longhare Content | 107 comments Spoilers Ahead!

Heathcliff (and Mr. Rochester, too, to a lesser degree) are Byronic heroes. This particular kind of uberman was defined (not invented) by Lord Byron, who held up the Satan of Paradise Lost as the prototype. There has always been a fantastic irony about Milton's epic about the fall of men and angels in that the most compelling character in the poem is the archvillain--Satan himself. In his pride, his rage, his suffering, and his vengeance, he is larger than life and, strangely, sympathetic. It is key to understanding the novel that Heathcliff and Cathy identify as each other. Cathy's dream about being thrown down onto the moor out of Heaven by angry angels is a strong echo of Satan's involuntary exit from the same place and for some of the same reasons--rebellion, willfulness, ingratitude. She sobs with joy at having escaped (and later wanders the moor awaiting her "soul"--Heathcliff), without whom she is not whole.

Cathy is hard to like. She's just a hard skulled character all around. But there are a few things to remember. She really does love Heathcliff, and after her father dies, she is in the position of standing between Heathcliff (who would like to pound Hindley) and Hindley (who would not only like to destroy Heathcliff but also has the power to do it). Edgar is a convenient and happy solution to the whole problem from Cathy's perspective. Edgar would keep Hindley satisfied and Edgar's money would fund Heathcliff's upkeep. One of the things I love about this book is Cathy's utterly calculating take on marriage. So refreshingly unromantic. It's a financial arrangement with social perks, one of them being able to choose her companions.

It isn't surprising that Heathcliff finds this arrangement unsatisfactory, especially as Cathy grows more visibly pregnant and all the benefits seem to be on her side. But. Marrying Heathcliff was not an option. It just wasn't on the table at all. When Cathy says "it would degrade me now" she means that she would have to elope with him. She would lose Wuthering Heights, her social position (which was pretty solid), her brother (such as he was), and probably any financial aid from that quarter. Heathcliff, angry satanic Gypsy that he was, was not likely to find a position in a bank or law office, and wouldn't he make a lovely country doctor? Any future with him was going to be a downgrade for sure.

Cathy never intended to be heartless to either man. She was faithful in body to Edgar and faithful in soul to Heathcliff, assigning to each what she believed was fair and appropriate. Wasn't it ungrateful and unreasonable for both of them to want all of her? She never made such demands on them.

I don't like to judge Cathy too harshly. Like Heathcliff, she was larger than life--at least, larger than life allowed for women at that time. She might have caved to passion and run off with Heathcliff. (She was underage, but what the heck. No child services back then.) She might have broken her heart and sent Heathcliff packing when he came back (no divorce option), or she might have run off with him and lived in adulterous sin at WH. That wouldn't have been awkward at all. She might have taken Heathcliff as a lover on the QT. But Cathy, weirdly and ironically, was more of a lady than Isabella. Her great fault was that she tried to please everybody, including herself, and fried her circuits when she discovered that any choice she made would not be her own, though the suffering for it would be. Her death is actually heroic, because she reserves to herself the only choice left that is truly hers. Misguided, maybe, but for a Byronic hero, that is entirely beside the point.


Andrew Hall (edgeledge) | 9 comments Love your review Longhare, really sums up and explains Catherine wonderfully, better than Kate Bush did ;).


Karlyne Landrum Well, I'm thinking that I shouldn't be reading Wuthering Heights right after Long Walk to Freedom, although the contrast between the selfishness and self-centeredness of WH's characters and Mandela's is certainly interesting.


Andrew Hall (edgeledge) | 9 comments Karlyne wrote: "Well, I'm thinking that I shouldn't be reading Wuthering Heights right after Long Walk to Freedom, although the contrast between the selfishness and self-centeredness of WH's characters and Mandela..."

There is reason for their selfishness and behaviours, whether justified or not is another question. But they are not just selfish for selfish sake, they have underlying reasons for why the behave like they do.


Karlyne Landrum Andrew wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "Well, I'm thinking that I shouldn't be reading Wuthering Heights right after Long Walk to Freedom, although the contrast between the selfishness and self-centeredness of WH's charac..."

But doesn't everyone think that they have reasons for their behavior? Even if it's just because they "want" to, or think they deserve it?


Andrew Hall (edgeledge) | 9 comments Karlyne wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "Well, I'm thinking that I shouldn't be reading Wuthering Heights right after Long Walk to Freedom, although the contrast between the selfishness and self-centeredness..."
Definitely, but in this case, especially Heathcliff, his behaviour is the direct result of others treatment of him. So if someone is bullied, oppressed or abused their behaviours may be defined by that. In saying that, the individual suffering those things has the choice not behave badly towards others, like Heathcliff's behaviour, but it is not always possible. Again, I did say I wasn't justifying or condoning, just sometimes their is a catalyst for how they behave.


Karlyne Landrum Andrew wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "Andrew wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "Well, I'm thinking that I shouldn't be reading Wuthering Heights right after Long Walk to Freedom, although the contrast between the selfishness and s..."

I do think, too, that Heathcliff is probably the only honest person in the bunch. At least he knows he's less than perfect; any self-knowledge is better than none, right?

I'm wondering, too, if Cathy's mirror isn't a metaphor for the lack of clear-headedness about their own selves that the whole crew has. They're so far out of touch that they don't even really attempt to justify their own behaviors.

I do believe, too, that innate personalities have a lot to do with behavior. Some people, abused as Heathcliff was, become sneaky or timid or morally strong or kind and caring rather than, as he did, revengeful. What turns one person towards the "bad" and another towards the "good" is hard to see.


Longhare Content | 107 comments Innate personalities come out all over the place in the second half of the book. Edgar withdraws from the world; Heathcliff prospers. Hindley disintegrates; Isabella fires up. Linton inherits the worst aspects of both his parents; Catherine inherits the best of hers; Hareton's Earnshaw nature is ironically preserved from his father's destructive course by Heathcliff's "revenge." Hareton and Catherine refine away each other's corrupted qualities, finding the mutual tranquility that Heathcliff and Cathy are allowed to find only in their graves.

Heathcliff's revenge is ultimately swept away from him by the mysterious workings of his own better nature. By bringing Hareton up in his own image, he has de facto acquired a son--a devoted one at that, and Heathcliff, despite all his rough talk cannot help his own involuntary affection for Hareton. When Catherine and Hareton are forced to confess about Joseph's bushes, Heathcliff is merely surprised and doesn't become angry until Catherine claims that Hareton is now on her side. Hareton tries to hush her--he hasn't signed on to that. Heathcliff tries to get Nelly or Hareton to get Catherine out of the room before his homicidal tendencies take over--but Catherine appeals to Hareton to defend her, which pushes Heathcliff over the edge. When Hareton does intervene, Heathcliff desists, pulls himself together, and considers Catherine closely. He's done. He's seen Cathy in her daughter and himself in Hareton, and the sight of either of them becomes an agony for him, though they are the only objects in his life that still have any "material appearance" to him. He hasn't become Mr. Nice Guy, but his fury has burned itself out, and in seeing the "ghost of his immortal love" in Hareton, he is ready to meet the incorporeal ghost of his immortal love, who has presumably been kicking around the moors for 18 years waiting for this.


Karlyne Landrum I just had a moment of laughter. After Mrs. Dean describes the meeting between Hareton and Miss Cathy and the subsequent hissy fit of the latter, she describes her charge as always being "a sweet little girl". Sarcasm (by Bronte,I mean, as I don't see a smidgeon of it from Mrs. Dean) or just another case of out-of-touch-with-reality?


message 38: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 85 comments I really need to reread this book after reading through all these comments and analyses. I need to figure out how to quit my job so I can read all day.


Karlyne Landrum Linda wrote: "I really need to reread this book after reading through all these comments and analyses. I need to figure out how to quit my job so I can read all day."

I know, Lisa! I've read this several times, but I'm still finding new stuff. And as for the job... well, it does depend on how much you like to eat and have a roof over your head and all of those luxuries, right?!?


message 40: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 85 comments Karlyne wrote: "Linda wrote: "I really need to reread this book after reading through all these comments and analyses. I need to figure out how to quit my job so I can read all day."

I know, Lisa! I've read this..."


I'm Linda, but it's OK. My dad calls me Lisa all the time (his sister's name). lol. :)

Yeah, too bad I like to eat. Plus having kids is not cheap.


Karlyne Landrum I hate it when people get my name wrong, so I apologise profusely! My only excuse is that Lisa is one of the moderators of the group and I must have been thinking of her. No excuse is good enough, but there it is!
My daughter's name is Melyssa, and people are always calling her Michelle. She's not crazy about it, either.
When my kids were young, I always figured my wages if I had to pay me to do what I did at home, and I could never afford to work! (I can justify almost anything)

Anyhow, feel free to jump in about your memories of WH; they have to be better than mine were until this read!


message 42: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 85 comments Karlyne wrote: "I hate it when people get my name wrong, so I apologise profusely! My only excuse is that Lisa is one of the moderators of the group and I must have been thinking of her. No excuse is good enough, ..."

No worries at all! I though it was pretty funny, given that is was "Lisa" that you called me. :)


message 43: by Lisa (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lisa (lisadannatt) | 743 comments Hey guys, I'm going to have to bail until end of May.
Enjoy this book and discussion


message 44: by Buck (new) - rated it 4 stars

Buck (spectru) Lisa wrote: "Hey guys, I'm going to have to bail until end of May.
Enjoy this book and discussion"


Good luck!


Karlyne Landrum Lisa wrote: "Hey guys, I'm going to have to bail until end of May.
Enjoy this book and discussion"


Ok, LISA! We'll see you when you get back!


message 46: by Linda (new) - added it

Linda | 85 comments Karlyne wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Hey guys, I'm going to have to bail until end of May.
Enjoy this book and discussion"

Ok, LISA! We'll see you when you get back!"


LOL. :D


Karlyne Landrum Linda wrote: "Karlyne wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Hey guys, I'm going to have to bail until end of May.
Enjoy this book and discussion"

Ok, LISA! We'll see you when you get back!"

LOL. :D"


Thanks for appreciating my feeble attempt at humor, LINDA!


Karlyne Landrum Well, having finished this, I stand by my original thoughts on Heathcliff; I still think he was the only honest one of the bunch.


Andrew Hall (edgeledge) | 9 comments Karlyne, he sure was, and he is a much maligned literary character, so honesty is not always seen as a good thing.


Karlyne Landrum It really is funny that Heathcliff is seen as a villain (and that's his own take on himself, too), but all the rest of the characters are taken at their own less than honest estimation of themselves. They're sneaky, vicious, whiny, judgmental, grasping and yet they think they are "nice" people. I'm not sure which one I disliked most, but I think I liked Heathcliff best!


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