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Group Read Discussions > Wuthering Heights - Spoilers

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message 1: by Lori, Super Mod (new)

Lori (tnbbc) | 10123 comments Mod
Sure, it's a classic. I know it all already.

message 2: by Carol (last edited Feb 01, 2011 08:51AM) (new)

Carol I am not re-reading this. I have skimmed through it again to get a feel for the storyline.I have read it numerous times.

What do you think makes this book an enduring classic? Is it the pull of the entire Bronte family that draws the reader in ,or the actual novelty of it being written by a woman, at a time when women were not usually pursuing a literary field.? Maybe it is just a darn good story?

Emily knew how to set the stage for the dark brooding Heathcliff. The whole atmosphere of the book is dark and moody. It was representative of her I think. She was the most reclusive of the four .

Heathcliff was a most despicable man, but if ever there was a good psychological subject about the abuse of children this is one excellent study.
He was so affected by his throwaway status as a child, how else could he show love, but as obsessive.

I have always wondered why Emily chose to have an outsider as one of the narrator's. I thought it was a brilliant choice but I wonder at her reasoning. I suppose we will never know. There is a school of thought that concludes Emily based Hearthcliff on the dark side of her brother's demons. I tend to agree with this. She had a knowledge about the complexity of human nature to not have seen it first hand. What say others?

message 3: by Hollis (new)

Hollis (hdow) | 347 comments Read this a while ago and really liked it. I don't know what to say really that hasn't been said. It's just a really good novel and maybe one of the best, nuff said.

message 4: by Catie (new)

Catie (nematome) I read this way back in high school and liked it. It's not one of my favorite books of all time or anything, but I like it. That's interesting about Emily basing Heathcliff on her brother, Kitty. I hadn't heard about that. Last year I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and I think that one is definitely based quite a bit on her experiences with her brother, especially when they tutored for the same family. I wonder about Heathcliff? I love how Heathcliff is so despicable, yet so compelling.

message 5: by Little (new)

Little I just read Wuthering Height for the first time a few months ago and absolutely loved it. I didn't know what to expect other than it was a well known classic and I was actually apprehensive about getting into it. I thought it was really well done and kind of a 'Meaty' book (is that a good term) and i really enjoyed how developed the characters became. I too had never heard about the bases of her character being on her brother, but thats very interesting and gives a little insight. I feel the same about Heathcliff as Catie, although he could be atrocious i felt somewhat drawn to him.

message 6: by Catie (new)

Catie (nematome) I guess the same can be said of Cathy. I felt like she was a horrible person at times, but then I could see where she was coming from and still found her compelling.

message 7: by Carol (new)

Carol The Bronte's did not go out much as children they entertained themselves with stories they made up and poetry/ Charlotte and Emily did attend school away from home for a while. But returned home to an eccentric father and a brother who was an alcoholic and supposedly abused drugs.

Why do you suppose Emily chose Mr. Lockwood as a narrator and an outsider at that? I forget the old lady's name who was the other narrator. Do you think she was a reliable one?

I think Cathy was a woman of the times. She dallied with Heathcliff but was never seriously going to marry him. She was too class conscience, as women were at that time.

Heathcliff was too consumed by jealousy and revenge to really care for some one. His love was obsessive don't you think? He required excessive attention from Cathy so I think she could not tolerate his outrageous possessiveness.

message 8: by Julia (new)

Julia Bella | 9 comments Kitty wrote: "The Bronte's did not go out much as children they entertained themselves with stories they made up and poetry/ Charlotte and Emily did attend school away from home for a while. But returned home to..."

I have started reading this book for the second time. The first time, I didn't get very far and right now I'm only half way through. I want to engage in the discussion, but I may make a mess of it. Sorry in advance.

I have also wondered how much I can trust Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, as a narrator. I'm not sure that she's intentionally deceitful, but I think that she skews the facts to make herself look better to Lockwood and to herself. For instance, when she goes to see Isabella after she's married Heathcliff. Heathcliff wants her to arrange a meeting between him and Catherine. Nelly says she refuses "fifty times," but she winds up doing it anyway, and justifies it to herself by saying that she'd prevented another blow up and that it might help Catherine. I'm not sure how she can really believe that when she says she's just told Heathcliff it would be selfish and cruel to destroy Catherine's tranquility by visiting.

Doesn't it make more sense that she's trying to reunite her old friends? And I would think that since she and Heathcliff are on the same social level that she would feel some sympathy towards his attempts to seek revenge on those that humiliated him.

Speaking of which, does anyone else get a sense that this book is meant to critique the class/caste system in English society?

That may be an extremely obvious point, but the reputation of Wuthering Heights is that it's a great love story. I'm not feeling ANY love from anyone in this book (except maybe Edgar Linton).

message 9: by Carol (new)

Carol Nelly had a fondness for Heathcliff as a child as I recall. You are right in that she is an unreliable narrator. I don't know if I would consider it a great love story or an excellent study in the psychosis of man. Let me think this book was written in the mid 1800's , the arts and craft movement was beginning to take root in Europe and England. Bohemian lifestyles were trying to break down barriers right? Emily was reclusive but Charlotte was more open and traveled to various places so I am sure they were aware of the changes happening in the country don't you?

Anne was a staunch woman's suffrage advocate. She strongly supported women and the right to have more say over their own lives. So yes I think this is a book filled with breaking down all kinds of barriers for the poor, children and women. They call to the surface all the ills in the society and when you are aware, then you can implement change.

message 10: by Julia (new)

Julia Bella | 9 comments Kitty wrote: "Nelly had a fondness for Heathcliff as a child as I recall. You are right in that she is an unreliable narrator. I don't know if I would consider it a great love story or an excellent study in the ..."

Thank you for the background on the Bronte sisters. I'm rather ignorant about them and their influences.

Considering that background, does it seem far fetched to suggest that the Brontes believed that the artificial barriers that affected women, children, and the poor created Heathcliff's twisted personality, Catherine's madness, and Isabella's really poor decision to "rebel" via marriage?

message 11: by Carol (new)

Carol Heathcliff was just twisted, I suppose if you want to read something into it you could say Heathcliff represents the skewed values of the day.

Do you think Catherine was mad? I always thought her to be depressed. She was manipulative also in my opinion. Isabella was totally spoiled as was Cathy.

Can we say by the characters in this book that there was a generational curse? I did think Heathcliff's son would eventually break the curse though didn't you?

message 12: by Catie (new)

Catie (nematome) Yes, I think that the situation and family dynamic surrounding Heathcliff and Cathy sort of poisoned their "great love" and maybe that's the point of the book. When Heathcliff attempts to mimic the conditions that he was raised in with Hareton, he eventually fails to ruin the love between Cathy and Hareton. I think that's what breaks the curse.

BTW, I just read As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann which was amazing - it's like if Heathcliff narrated a book.

message 13: by Julia (new)

Julia Bella | 9 comments I suppose "mad" was an inarticulate shorthand way of saying that Catherine was suffering from a mental illness like depression, caused by the separation from Heathcliff and just overall disappointment with life.

She seems so independent and strong-willed in the descriptions of her childhood. She was attracted to Heathcliff' not just because of his own attributes,but that he represented freedom and she lived vicariously through it. As she says during the "I AM Heathcliff" passages, "I love him ... and not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am." I can't imagine how crushing a life of dependency and solitude must have been for her.

I also think she was manipulative, but I think that her manipulations were a pathetic attempt to exercise a little bit of power over her life. I think that her misguided attempts to control SOMETHING, is also reflected in Isabella's elopement. She's so desperate to do what she wants she ignores Heathcliff's obvious cruelty.

I do think that there was a "generational curse" - a cycle of abuse that was exacerbated by the class distinctions and the limitations placed on women. I'm only on page 183 so I don't know if Hareton and Cathy break through yet. But if they do, it raises another question for me.

Did their surroundings poison Heathcliff and Catherine's love as Catie suggests or were Heathcliff and Catherine basically incapable of selfless love because of the way they grew up?

message 14: by Hollis (new)

Hollis (hdow) | 347 comments I dunno.

message 15: by Carol (new)

Carol I think it will be a matter of personal interpretation for many. I have my opinions and will look forward to yours.Julia.

You do make valid observations that I concur with in general. I am still holding out as to whether it was soul mate love or selfish love: in as much as they could offer up love to each other.

message 16: by Catie (new)

Catie (nematome) I think that I must be an optimist - I'm going with the "they really loved each other but it was poisoned" route :)

message 17: by Marija (last edited Feb 09, 2011 03:05PM) (new)

Marija (helengraham) | 2 comments I’ve always considered Wuthering Heights one of my favorite pieces of literature. But whenever I revisit the work, I always have this little question in the back of my mind: What would the story have been like if it was told from Heathcliff’s and Cathy’s points of view. I think when we’re reading we tend to forget that their story is Ellen’s retelling; that we’re witnessing what she’s seen. Unlike the intimacy of interaction between, say Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester through Jane’s first person narration, whenever I read those impassioned sections of the text describing Heathcliff’s or Cathy’s sentiments, they’re mostly being described to and by Ellen. Because of this at times, the intimacy between the pair becomes veiled, knowing that there’s a third party always watching.

Though regardless of the questions surrounding the reliability of the narrator, I do find the prose beautifully haunting, and for me that’s always been the book’s asset.

message 18: by Carol (new)

Carol Do you think the book would have been more compelling if we had Heathcliff's point of view. Maybe we could have understood his motives , especially his need for revenge. At least that is what Nelly has led us to believe. I enjoyed revisiting this book.

I have never participated in a discussion about Jane Eyre, for some reason I think it lacks a certain distinction. Charlotte did write one of the earliest Gothic novels didn't she.

message 19: by Catie (new)

Catie (nematome) Gah!! Jane Eyre is my favorite! I've read it quite a few times (I'm not saying how many; it would be embarassing). That's the only novel of Charlotte's that I've read, however. I found Anne last year and she's so different from her sisters - there's no fantasy in her novels, just stark reality! I think that she also has a bit of a dark sense of humor.

I do think that Wuthering Heights would have been intersting from Heathcliff's POV - I guess his is the story I would most like to hear about. I know I mentioned it earlier, but Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt  by Maria McCann was like that for me. It's a love story narrated by a possessive, tortured man. I highly recommend it.

message 20: by Marija (new)

Marija (helengraham) | 2 comments Gothic fiction was around nearly 100 years before the Brontë sisters' works. The first Gothic novel is considered to be Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, published in the early 1760s. Walpole's book's OK, but I think it lacks the depth you'd find in 19th century Gothic fiction—like Wuthering Heights.

I generally find 18th century Gothic fiction dull with all of those lengthy descriptions of the scenery. Twice I tried reading The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe, and each time I was only able to read about 50 pages before falling asleep. ;)

Catie, you're right about Anne's work... that "stark reality" and the "dark sense of humor." At times, in Agnes Grey I found traces of Jane Austen in the writing... that satiric humor. But with The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the moralistic freedom and the epistolary format of the text, it reminds me more of an 18th century novel. It's also interesting to note that Charlotte viewed the choice of subject matter of Anne's book as "an entire mistake."

message 21: by Carol (new)

Carol Thanks for the Information Helen. I tried reading Villette but found it difficult to stay focused.

message 22: by Catie (new)

Catie (nematome) I know! I was kind of mad at Charlotte after I read about that. I guess she actively tried to stop The Tenant of Wildfell Hall from being published again after Anne died, and many believe that might be one of the reasons that most people know about Charlotte & Emily, but haven't read Anne. It was a very brave subject for the time and I was impressed by such a realistic representation of addiction and domestic violence.

message 23: by Dani (new)

Dani (The Pluviophile Writer) (pluviophilewriter) | 237 comments Meh, it was okay. I know that's not much of a review but the book itself isn't that all enthralling. Despite the fact that I put off finishing this novel for video games I would have probably put it off for something else if a new game had not caught my interest. The last half of the novel was definitely better than the first half as you really get to see the dynamics of all the characters and the twist that changes the whole novel. Overall I enjoyed the book but I don't foresee myself putting Emily Brontë as one of my favourite authors down anytime soon.

message 24: by Regina (new)

Regina (reginar) I re-read this book last year. I feel that when I was younger, I completely missed the intensity and depth of this book, and my re-read was really a first time read. I had sympathy for Catherine and Heathcliffe as children. They were clearly neglected and abused. Their childhood was hearbreaking.

However, once they reached adulthood, while I was complelled by the story and fascinated, I strongly disliked Heathcliffe and Catherine. They were both cruel and selfish characters. Especially Heathcliffe.

message 25: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne (thisoilfieldwife) | 134 comments I felt that Catherine was a little more selfish than Heathcliff was. If she hadn't have been so shallow and snobbish and decided to marry Edgar instead of Heathcliff just because Edgar had money and status and blah blah blah, then she deserved the misery she got out of her marriage. I felt sorry for Heathcliff. It wasn't his fault that she wouldn't marry him because of his social status. And when he realized that she wouldn't have him because of that, he went out and did something about it. We never do find out where all of his money came from, and that is probably just as well. However, he saw what was keeping him from being with the love of his life, and he sought to fix it. Granted, when he returned he became a very detestable man. But his pride was hurt. His soul mate was someone else's. What was he to do?

message 26: by Diane (new)

Diane (readergirl235) Well said, Suzanne. Although I'm not sure I'm quite as forgiving of Heathcliff as you are . . . .

message 27: by Regina (new)

Regina (reginar) He wasn't forced to ruin his wife's life. He made his own choices.

message 28: by Dani (new)

Dani (The Pluviophile Writer) (pluviophilewriter) | 237 comments Regina wrote: "He wasn't forced to ruin his wife's life. He made his own choices."


message 29: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne (thisoilfieldwife) | 134 comments Regina wrote: "He wasn't forced to ruin his wife's life. He made his own choices."

I agree that he did wrong by Isabella. She was one of the more innocent bystanders in this one. I believe, however, that he never led her on too much. I don't think he ever told her that he loved her, or that she would have a wonderful blissful life of luxury with him if she were to accept his proposal. In fact, he hangs her dog as they are leaving to elope, and yet she still goes with him. It wasn't entirely his fault, in my eyes, for those reasons.

I feel that he only went after Isabella in order to hurt Edgar the way he was hurting. In his eyes, Edgar stole Catherine from him and so he stole someone that Edgar held dear.

message 30: by Diane (new)

Diane (readergirl235) Uh huh, uh huh.

message 31: by Amalie (last edited Feb 20, 2011 06:48AM) (new)

Amalie I really liked going through the various comments on Wuthering Heights. I love the Brontes, novels, poetry, the art all that, because Emily only lived to finish a single novel, I guess we'll never know if it was to be her best or whether she was THE best oot of these three, but she's definitely a wonderful writer.

I personally give the "best writer award" to Anne, and I agree with Catie up there, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was heavily influenced (according to the sources) with Branwell. But I don't think Heathcliff is based on him, if there was a sister who really truly loved him, despite all this shortcomings, it was Emily.

I also agree with Nelly being an unreliable narrator, it's funny now to mention it but I never really considered this to be a romance. If any of you are interested in learning more about the 3 sisters read The Brontës by Juliet Barker You'll find a lot of valuable reference and information there and you'll start to see Charlotte in a different light but not in a good way.

Did anyone else know that Emily had a final draft to her second novel at the time she died but Charlotte decided not to publish it? True.

message 32: by Regina (new)

Regina (reginar) Suzanne wrote: "Regina wrote: "He wasn't forced to ruin his wife's life. He made his own choices."

I agree that he did wrong by Isabella. She was one of the more innocent bystanders in this one. I believe, howe..."

Sorry, I had a longer post than my sentence, but lol it must have dissappeared. My sentance sounded so abrupt. I apologize. I agree with you that this was his perception and it created a wonderful depth in his character and in the story. But I still do not find it appealing or justifiable. He did not lead her on, you are definitely correct. I agree, he was honest that he was a jerk. However, it was clear she didn't understand the complexity of the situation or the depth of his indifference toward and perhaps his level of malice -- and he knew this. If (in real life) a person presents themself to us and perhaps knows we may hurt them and that are motivations are not good, this does not excuse us of our behavior toward them. We are still responsible for our actions -- just as Heathcliffe is. In may explain his actions, but it does not clear him or excuse him. He is still a villain. A mavelous one to read about however.

message 33: by Regina (new)

Regina (reginar) Amalie wrote: "Did anyone else know that Emily had a final draft to her second novel at the time she died but Charlotte decided not to publish it? True."

That is really interesting. Is it available for scholars to read? I keep planning to read

Villette by Charlotte Brontë (different sister), has anyone on this thread read it?

message 34: by Amalie (last edited Feb 21, 2011 08:18PM) (new)

Amalie No it's not available, actually I might've exaggerated it a little up there, sorry. The manuscript was never found. There are many assumptions and all of them are based on a letter, found in Emily's little folding writing desk many years after her death, and in two references in Charlotte's letters. You can find about it in details in the book:

"The Bronte Story: A Reconsideration of Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte" Margaret Lane 1953.

About Villette, yes I've read it, it's different in style, a slow read but a great novel. So enjoy.

message 35: by Regina (new)

Regina (reginar) Thanks!

message 36: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Kitty wrote: "The Bronte's did not go out much as children they entertained themselves with stories they made up and poetry/ Charlotte and Emily did attend school away from home for a while. But returned home to..."

While reading the novel I often felt that the constricted environment of the characters may have something to do with all this viciousness.

I'm not sure whether I like Nelly or not and she does not seem trustworthy and too interfering and dishonest. Her motives are not always clear to me. Why, for instance, would she not let Edgar know about Linton's state of health? Would Edgar have wanted to know the truth?

message 37: by Diane (new)

Diane (readergirl235) Nelly didn't tell Edgar the truth about Linton's health because Edgar was so frail and close to death himself. She felt if he knew about Linton, the shock and sadness might advance his own illness and Edgar was so close to death anyway, Nelly didn't want to burden his last days with unpleasant news.

message 38: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Diane wrote: "Nelly didn't tell Edgar the truth about Linton's health because Edgar was so frail and close to death himself. She felt if he knew about Linton, the shock and sadness might advance his own illness..."

Yes, that is her reasoning. But is it justified? What if she had acted differently, what if she had decided to tell the truth? If I had been in her shoes, I could not have told this lie.

message 39: by Diane (new)

Diane (readergirl235) She didn't lie. She just made a conscious decision not to tell him. Her intent was to be humane in a dying man's last days. What good would it have done to tell him, except to cause pain?

message 40: by Amalie (new)

Amalie Diane I see what you mean but I think we have to look at from all angles. To me, Nelly is unreliable narrator, I think it's something most of us agree on and she's not a person who LOVES Catherine and she doesn't seem to like Heathcliff either. She is the one refers Heathcliff as 'a cuckoo' or 'it'. So we have to ask ourselves is she completely truthful in her narration to Lockwood.

I feel Nelly as "a traiter" within her own class. If we use the terms Oppressor and Oppressed. Nelly and Heathcliff both belongs to the Oppressed, and she instead of understanding Heathcliff, is taking sides with the Oppressor, The Lintons, Hindley etc. So I don't really see Nelly's decisions in a Great light. Same goes to Joseph.

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

This is a novel I read when I was far too young to fully appreciate the story. I enjoyed it, but I think some of the finer points escaped my notice. I will have to reread this one now I am older.

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