Catching up on Classics (and lots more!) discussion

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Bronte Sisters Collection > Wuthering Heights SPOILERS

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message 1: by Trisha (last edited Jul 01, 2011 10:16AM) (new)

Trisha | 492 comments This novel is not incredibly long, so we are only going to use one thread for it.

I have read this book multiple times and I love it! I can't wait to join in the discussion! A word of warning, this seems to be one of those books where you either love it or hate it. Also, it can be a little confusing at times because many characters seem to have the same, or similar, names. My edition had a family tree in the front and I found that very helpful!


message 2: by Lena (new)

Lena | 23 comments That would have been helpful. I think i'm one of those who didn't like the book. I'll try to be nice! :)


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

This is one of my all-time favorite books! I'm in the "love it" camp...


message 4: by Lena (new)

Lena | 23 comments Okay, I swear I'm being nice. But can someone from the LOVE camp please explain what you love about this book?


message 5: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 0 comments Lena wrote: "Okay, I swear I'm being nice. But can someone from the LOVE camp please explain what you love about this book?"

I would like to hear that too. Although I didn't hate the book, I didn't love it either. It's just okay in my opinion.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

@Lena and @Jenn, I love the writing. I am always amazed at how an early 19th century woman, in a remote location, could come up with such diabolical characters and story and tell it so well. I love Emily Bronte's prose. I will be the first to admit there is not a single character in the book that has any redeeming qualities, and the storyline is dreary at best. But the language she uses to create the characters and to push the story along is absolutely stunning to me. I think Emily Bronte is one of the strongest female authors I've ever read, and it is a pity she died before she could publish another novel.


message 7: by Jenn (new)

Jenn | 0 comments Sharon wrote: "@Lena and @Jenn, I love the writing. I am always amazed at how an early 19th century woman, in a remote location, could come up with such diabolical characters and story and tell it so well. I lo..."

I think I see what you are saying. She did paint her characters very strongly and used some great language. But no matter how great the writing is, if the story isn't great than it doesn't matter as much.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

It matters to me, but that's only my opinion.

I think Trisha is right - people will either love it or hate it. It certainly lends itself to strong opinions!


message 9: by Lena (new)

Lena | 23 comments I wouldnt say i hated it. I certainly didnt love it. I remember some of the scenery was described in a bleak, very effective way that lent itself to the story. I think I liked one of the Cathys (the daughter) but otherwise, the characters were all loathsome and the story was...well, I didn't think there was much of a story. I do agree that it was well-written, though. And you're right, Emily Bronte might have written far better novels had she not died tragically young.


message 10: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 492 comments I think that I am the exact opposite, I love the novel and have read it mulitple times. The characters may be plotting, manipulative, and vengeful, but I am always surprised by the intensity of their feelings. I think that Bronte did a superb job in capturing, not just love, but the pain, jealousy, and stalker-esque obsession that these characters feel. It is absolutely a tragic love story, all you need to do is read the back cover, but the characters Heathcliff and Catherine will live on forever. People may hate them, but that means they know who they are, and for two characters to be remembered forever means that Bronte did an excellent job in making them unforgettable :-)


message 11: by Lena (new)

Lena | 23 comments Maybe that's the problem for me. I don't have to like characters to like a book, but if it's a tragic love story...Well, if I don't relate to or like any of the characters in that type of book, I honestly don't give a crap what happens to them. Most of the characters didn't deserve to be happy, so I didn't care about their 'tragedy.' Since the love story was the main point of the entire novel, it left little else to recommend it IMO. I'd need some kind of plot beyond the love affair if I was going to like a book w/o any likeable characters.


message 12: by Mandy (new)

Mandy I have to agree with Trisha, I read the book as a teenager and wasn't a fan. I read it as an adult and loved it. It had all the elements of real life tragedy. At times it reminded me of some people I know and behaviours I had seen.


message 13: by Terri Lynn (new)

Terri Lynn (terrilynnmerritts) | 4 comments I have read this book several times since childhood. I don't hate the book nor do I love it. I like the moody descriptions of the physical locations but otherwise I find this to be a sort of soap opera rehash of Shakespeare's plays now set on the moors. No one was likeable at all and I found myself wishing they'd all get bumped off so Agatha Christie could send Miss Marple to find out whodunit.


message 14: by Judy (new)

Judy Olson | 18 comments Terry, I loved that comment. Made me laugh.


message 15: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 492 comments Before anyone gives too much away, let's give the first-timers a chance to read it and share their opinions :-)


message 16: by Lena (new)

Lena | 23 comments Oops, sorry! I'll delete that....


message 17: by Bollinger (new)

Bollinger | 21 comments Lena wrote: "I wouldnt say i hated it. I certainly didnt love it. I remember some of the scenery was described in a bleak, very effective way that lent itself to the story. >

I think you've hit on the best part of the book for me. The moors or the heath, or whatever they call that giant peat wilderness...it's the best part of the book. I think it's really my favorite character. And it's definitely one of the characters of this book.

In fact, there are several books in which the heath is a main character. You might really enjoy reading The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte or The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. They both featured the same wild, beautifully described countryside...and the other characters tended to be much more likeable than Heathcliff and Cathy.
****SPOILER ALERT*******
I personally happen to like Heathcliff and Cathy because they're so wonderful at being tragic. When I first read WH I thought, "Oh, these two are going to have their little troubles, but we all know it's going to work out fine in the end." How amazing is a book that completely defies your expectations?



message 18: by Alex (new)

Alex | 118 comments I'm a love camp guy. I read this a couple weeks ago - in early preparation for this discussion - and was just enthralled by it.

Certainly it's full of loathsome people. Which, by the way, I didn't know; I had some idea that it was a great love story, which it certainly is not. A great hate story, maybe.

I did find the plot gripping, so I'm surprised some of you disagree. I thought it was a page-turner!

It's a strange world they live in; not exactly ours. It's tiny and dark and peoples' actions and emotions are more extreme than they'd be in our world. And there may or may not be ghosts.

But it's so sure of itself! Emily knows exactly what her world is, even if we don't; she has a fully realized, unique voice. Astonishing that this was her first book.


message 19: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new)

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
This is my first ever reading of a 19th century old world classic. I would be lying if said it was easy, but not nearly as difficult a read as I thought it would be. It took awhile to get used to the prose and I kept a dictionary close. I will never fully understand the words spoken by Joseph, but after reading the first two chapters the book flowed much better and my enjoyment for the story started growing. I find that this can be said for lots of books when starting the first couple of chapters. This gives me hope for reading other classics.

I was surprised by the dramatics and the over exaggerated emotions. I am reminded of old Hollywood “B” movies and soap operas come to mind. I haven’t read the book yet, but I wonder did Margaret Mitchell put a little bit of Bronte’s elder Catherine in her Scarlet? The other thing that caught my attention is how easy people took sick in this story. I wonder is that the authors own invention or an observed reality of the times she lived.

While this is not going to be in my top 10 favorite books, I am glad I read it. I hope I will enjoy other classics as much as I enjoyed this one.


message 20: by Alex (last edited Jul 08, 2011 07:46PM) (new)

Alex | 118 comments Hey Bob, obviously some won't agree with me but I think you did well to use Wuthering Heights as your introduction to the old stuff. It's like long-distance running: you gotta train for it, and it gets easier and awesomer as you go. But WH is a fun and brilliant book.

Not all 19th-century novels are as dramatic as Wuthering Heights, although some of the best are. Dickens and Hugo are very dramatic, though in a different way; Tolstoy and Charlotte Bronte are more realistic. (I am about to be disagreed with.)

One thing that does hold true in other books from this era is how easily people took sick - women, particularly, are constantly catching deadly fevers just from excitement - and how often women died during childbirth. That's certainly partly true - obviously medicine kinda sucked at the time - but I've always wondered if it's exaggerated a bit because it's a convenient and exciting plot device. Anyone got any perspective on that?

There's probably a thread around here somewhere where you can or may already have asked about suggestions for your next classic read; there are an awful lot more kickass ones.


message 21: by Bollinger (new)

Bollinger | 21 comments Alex wrote: "-obviously medicine kinda sucked at the time- but I've always wondered if it's exaggerated a bit because it's a convenient and exciting plot device. Anyone got any perspective on that?

I always thought it was merely a plot device too, but after reading up a little on women's fashions of the period, it turns out that women really did get a lot of lung ailments. Wearing corsets all the time constricted a woman's breathing to the point that her lung capacity became greatly reduced over the years. If she caught a cold, she wouldn't have the breath to cough or breathe deeply enough to fight off pneumonia. Scary thought, huh?



message 22: by Mrs. C. (new)

Mrs. C. | 10 comments Bob wrote: "This is my first ever reading of a 19th century old world classic. I would be lying if said it was easy, but not nearly as difficult a read as I thought it would be. It took awhile to get used to..."

Just a comment on Bob's reference to the syntax and vocabulary of novels from this time period: I don't know the ages of anyone posting here, but I always tell my students that reading more and more of the classics helps your brain to build stronger neural pathways so that it gets easier and easier to read this stuff. I have always fancied myself a good reader, and reading has been my lifelong love. But I learned a few years ago that even an old dog CAN learn new tricks. When I started teaching at a classical school where our students read twenty classics per year for six years (grades 7-12), it wasn't too long before I realized that all the reading I was doing alongside them was helping me to read even Plato with more and more ease! Who would have thunk? So, for those who are cutting their reading teeth on Emily Bronte's book, keep goin'! Let the brain do its work on your behalf.


message 23: by Mrs. C. (last edited Jul 12, 2011 02:57PM) (new)

Mrs. C. | 10 comments Alex wrote: "Hey Bob, obviously some won't agree with me but I think you did well to use Wuthering Heights as your introduction to the old stuff. It's like long-distance running: you gotta train for it, and it..."

Regarding the sickliness of characters in the book: yes, it probably is an overused device in the works of Emily Bronte and (earlier on) Jane Austen. However, those of us who live in an age where medicines of all kinds are readily available and where moving from one spot to another does not involve walking through rain and snow only to arrive at a house heated only by a fireplace here and there--we have to keep in mind that the authors and the people of whom they wrote knew no such palliatives and had a much shorter life expectancy than we have. At the turn of the 20th century, even in the U.S. the average lifespan was only about 50. Of course, it may be heresy to note it, but 20th century feminism floats on a sea of technology, birth control and less frequent pregnancies being perhaps foremost. Without getting too specific, I think most of us can figure out that there were actual physical barriers that made it less likely that many women would be traveling for long periods of time and were, thus, unable to build up the same sort of immunities that men might have been able to attain. (Of course, they were more subject to being killed in a battle or a duel--so it all does even out in the long run, I suppose.) Women writers, I think, can be authentic reporters of women's experiences in their own time period, and we should also remember this little adage: "The past is a foreign country. They do things different there."


message 24: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (willcaxton) It's hardly an overused device since the two eldest Bronte sisters died of tuberculosis at school, Emily died of tuberculosis at the age of 30, Anne at the age of 29, Branwell 31 (helped by alcohol and drugs). Charlotte did a bit better and died of tuberculosis in childbirth at the age of 38. Their mother had died of cancer when Charlotte was about 5.
It reflected their own experiences.


message 25: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Vandever (laurenalyssav) I just finished reading this one about a week ago for the first time. I thought I was going to love it, but I found it to just be a "like it" book.

I appreciate the passion and love between Catherine and Heathcliff, but I thought that the entire book was going to be about their struggle based on what I had heard about it for so many years. I know it is there throughout the entire book, but I ended up being more wrapped up in what was going on with Catherine/Linton/Hareton than Catherine/Heathcliff. I think I was mainly disappointed because the book has a reputation for being one thing, but it is so many things and just one of them is the Catherine/Heathcliff love story. However, the "I am Heathcliff" speech was definitely up to par.

And I will agree with what others have said that it is amazing that Emily Bronte could write such an amazing novel of depth and character development all while being practically a recluse with only her two talented sisters and a crazy father and brother around her. All three of the Brontes are amazing for their abilities.


message 26: by Laura (new)

Laura Lawless (lauralawless) This is my second time reading Wuthering Heights, though the first time was very long ago. I think I appreciate it more now than I did then. I am in the "love it" camp.

The language is so beautiful; the characters are so deftly created, they jump off the page at you, and frankly, I like the story. It grabs me and won't let go, even when I know I should turn off the lights and go to sleep.

Cathy and Heathcliff suffered a dark, mad love and the tragedy is that it tainted everyone with whom they came in contact.


message 27: by Dana (new)

Dana | 8 comments I can't wait to get started on this one again after loving it as a teenager - I think that was when I read it. Anyway, I'm forcing myslef to complete Hawthorne first, which is going much more smoothly now than at first! Happy reading, all!


message 28: by Alex (new)

Alex | 118 comments Lauren, yeah, I had the same trouble: I had completely the wrong idea about what this book was. It's so much darker and weirder than I was expecting.

But Laura. I agree with you: it's so self-assured and smart that I think I liked what it was better than what I thought it would be.

I was out last night with (among others) two friends who broke up over a year ago, and just can't stop being utterly toxic to each other. Even though they've both got other partners now, they keep fixating on each other and insisting on hurting each other. WH may be an even more sensational version of it, but it does speak to some real life.


message 29: by Jediraven (new)

Jediraven | 12 comments I always hear such good things about this book. I was so excited to read it and...I didn't like ANY of the characters. They were all spoiled little brats. It's hard to enjoy a book when I don't side with any of the characters. Disappointing.


message 30: by Alex (last edited Jul 14, 2011 02:18PM) (new)

Alex | 118 comments Bovary inspired a big discussion with another group because of exactly that, Jedi: seems like some people can handle books with no likable characters, and some can't. Doesn't bother me. Certainly Flaubert knew what he was doing.

My best advice is to not read Wuthering Heights Madame Bovary, woops.


message 31: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 492 comments My goodness! This novel has stirred up quite a bit of conversation!!
Like I said in the beginning, it is one of those novels that you either love or hate....or perhaps you love to hate!
But just remember everyone, share your thoughts about the books but make sure to keep it friendly, we don't want to scare away any shy members with "passionate" posts :-)


message 32: by Lena (new)

Lena | 23 comments Awww, don't be shy! We can all be passionate w/o hating on each other.


message 33: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Vandever (laurenalyssav) The book is all about passion. It's only fitting.


message 34: by Trisha (new)

Trisha | 492 comments Haha! That's true! :-)


message 35: by Alex (last edited Jul 14, 2011 02:18PM) (new)

Alex | 118 comments Oh hey, Jedi, I mistakenly said "My advice is to not read Wuthering Heights," which comes off kinda snotty; what I meant to say is "Don't read Madame Bovary," as another example of a book where no one is likable. Sorry, totally my bad.


message 36: by Leila (new)

Leila | 20 comments Just before I joined this group, I read Wuthering Heights for the third time. It's one of my all time favorite books, and I liked something Alex said about it:

"It's a strange world they live in; not exactly ours. It's tiny and dark and peoples' actions and emotions are more extreme than they'd be in our world."

That's certainly true; I myself grew up in a closed environment (a cult) and I can say with all honesty that people make up for it by playing out their petty little dramas on a colossal scale. They had nothing else to do!

This book also reminds me a lot of Gone With the Wind; Scarlett and Rhett are not exactly likable characters, either. But I love that story, too. It's kind of the point, isn't it, that they are selfish and spiteful, and... look what happens. The characters not being likable has a purpose. To me it seems like one of the main points of the book.

And if you notice, there are several times in the novel when they could have gone another way, but they gave into pettiness. Anyway.

Has anyone seen the movie version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche? It's one of my favorite movies. The soundtrack is excellent, doing a great job of capturing the bleak/creepy feel of the book. They change a few things to make it easier to watch as a movie, but they keep most of the novel intact. And the "I am Heathcliff" speech in the movie was incredible. Okay, I guess I've said plenty, huh? ;)


message 37: by Alex (new)

Alex | 118 comments That's a really interesting point, Leila. I'd thought of WH as taking place in a different world, but I can totally see how in a particularly insulated environment, peoples' actions might just amplify themselves - even to an extent that would seem unrealistic to an outside observer.

And that reminds me that the Brontes themselves lived in a very sheltered world.


message 38: by Leila (new)

Leila | 20 comments Yes, I meant to mention that they themselves were very sheltered, but I forgot to in my giant comment, so thanks. ;)


message 39: by Laura (new)

Laura Lawless (lauralawless) Leila, I saw the movie and liked it as well. Even though I don't think ANY movie does a book justice, I thought this particular one stayed as true as possible to the story. One difference I note between the two is that the madness seemed more amplified and real within the book. Not sure if it was because in reading, we are privy to more details of thought and action or what? It's only my opinion, but I thought Binoche could have done a better job of portraying Cathy's emotional state.

I particularly enjoyed the visual of Cathy's hands reaching through the windows for Lockwood as her ghost implored him to let her in.


message 40: by Karol (new)

Karol This is my first read with you all, and I have to say I've really enjoyed all your comments.

I'm about halfway through . . . and I haven't decided which camp I'm in! But I do agree with Alex's characterization of the book as a "great hate story".

Comments about mortality rates - dying in childbirth used to be so much more common than it is today. Part of that is due to something actually very simple: washing/sterlizing one's hands. The nature of hand-to-person transmission of infection was still largely unknown at this time. Sadly.

I am finding the novel fascinating, more from what it tells about the era and the immediate environment of the moors than from the actual storyline. Although I admit the storyline has drawn me in sometimes, kind of the way a bad soap opera can. (Why am I thinking of Dark Shadows all of a sudden?)

I cannot figure out what Joseph has to say at all - except that he seems utterly santimonious and just naturally obnoxious. I don't believe any person on the earth would have gotten his stamp of approval. He thinks he is going to heaven no doubt - but I'm thinking there is likely a very special place for him elsewhere.

There does seem to be some genius in the author's penning of this novel. WH obvious evokes all manner of emotion (except possibly the warm and fuzzy kind).

I'll check back in again later once I've gotten a little further along in my reading - can't wait to see more of what you all have to say about this one.


message 41: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Vandever (laurenalyssav) I kind of see as Joseph as the moral/common sense center for the rest of them. While all the rest of the people are running around mad and deceitful, he is always right there to tell them how crazy they all are and quote biblical scripture at them. However, I did have a difficult time figuring out what he was actually saying because of his dialect, but it was fun trying!


message 42: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new)

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
I’m wondering is this book respected for being a fantastic once in a lifetime story. Or was it a good story written in a time when books and authors were not as plentiful as today. Also we have the notoriety of a female author who published with a male name and died young? Did this aid in the books 160 year longevity? What if WH was written and published today, has it got what it takes to become a best seller? If it did do you think people will still be reading and discussing it in the year 2170?


message 43: by Alex (new)

Alex | 118 comments Lauren wrote: "I kind of see as Joseph as the moral/common sense center for the rest of them..."

Jeez, really? I see him as a total hypocrite. He's self-righteous and spiteful, and appears to wish the worst for everyone.

Bob, I think Wuthering Heights is fantastic. Books were extremely plentiful at the time - the Brontes wrote near the beginning of an explosion of literature - and there were plenty of female authors who published with male names, died young and aren't still admired today.

I know the feeling I suspect you're communicating: I've certainly read some classics and been mystified about their staying power. (*coughSamuelRichardson*) And like most classics, WH has its lovers and its haters. For me, it deserves its reputation.


message 44: by Karol (new)

Karol Alex, obviously I'm 100% with you on Joseph's character!


message 45: by Debbie (new)

Debbie (spkhoney) | 14 comments Unfortunately I started the novel a little late, but I like it so far. I have to note however, everyone seems to be angry all the time. I'm sure this gives way to very passionate displays of character later in the novel.


message 46: by Laura (new)

Laura Lawless (lauralawless) I agree with Alex on Joseph's character. He's a total hypocrite, and no doubt, enjoys the feeling of superiority he gains from preaching at everyone else.


message 47: by Lauren (new)

Lauren Vandever (laurenalyssav) I can definitely see how he is a hypocrite based on how much enjoyment he gets out of preaching at all of them.

Maybe Emily Bronte was attempting to add in the mix of the morals and Biblical elements into the story while making a commentary on how many religious people are hypocrites in their faith and worship.


message 48: by Alex (last edited Jul 20, 2011 12:46PM) (new)

Alex | 118 comments Debbie wrote: "I'm sure this gives way to very passionate displays of character later in the novel. "

Ha! That's...ah, that's one way to put it.


message 49: by Bob, Short Story Classics (new)

Bob | 4913 comments Mod
I also agree with the majority that Joseph is the perfect example of a truly grumpy old man, if you say it’s white he say’s, no it’s black, for no other reason but spite. I did get a sense that he held genuine affection for Hindly Earnshaw and Hareton. But there is no room for debate on his feeling for gooseberries, he loved them.


message 50: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jennyc89) I've stopped reading it about 40% in. I don't dislike the book, but I don't particularly like it either. Usually I would finish the book anyways but with school starting my free time is becoming precious.

Like others have said, the characters aren't likeable. I don't think I can enjoy a book when there's not even one character I like. Also, almost the whole story so far has been Nelly talking about the past. That wasn't so bad, but when it got to Isabella's letter where she then started recounting events in detail too, I couldn't take it anymore.

I did find the story interesting, I suppose I just wasn't a big fan of how it was told. My mom warned me that I might not like it because it's melodramatic, but that didn't bother me. Although I'm giving up on it now, I think I'll try it again at a better time.


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