I had long since wanted to read this book, but only recently got the right time (and mood) to pick it up from my bookshelf and read it. I knew that some said they liked it much, some disliked it, or some just found it plainly boring; I started it without any particular expectation nor presumption, though I also thought that I would possibly tend to like it simply as I love reading beautiful prose or a well-written book. And with that attitude I read, and I ended up liking this book much! I found the book so intense that I couldn’t just put it down before it reached the ending; the emotions involved in the characters are so strong, whether it is anger, hatred, sadness, longing for, hurt, or disappointment. Happy tone is only slightly induced, and that what makes this book seems so dark. The constantly windy weather surrounding the setting just adds its gloomy feeling. But I just found it all beautiful, with the uncommon twists of plot and the fact that the whole story was narrated mostly by a servant and not by any of the main characters; it all just makes this book even an original. Yes, there seems to be no likable characters, but the way the story is conveyed is what makes it quite different.
So what is the book about? To me it is not a romance; it is more about defending one’s dignity, in a wrong way though; rage and revenge that ending up in destroying oneself and the people around; pride hindering one to know his or her true feelings; a hurt feeling and a broken heart making one badly want to hurt and break others’ hearts; ‘love’ in a very different perspective, if we can call it love, a doomed and possessive one.
The story starts with Mr. Lockwood arriving in Thrushcross Grange in the northern England in search for peace and meets his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff at the Wuthering Heights, not so far away from the Grange. Trapped by snowed weather, Lockwood then stays the night at the Wuthering Heights, and later he makes acquaintance with Mrs. Ellen “Nelly” Dean, the servant of the house since long time, and from the mouth of Nelly the story of Wuthering Heights family and their tragedy from generation to generation are revealed.
Wuthering Heights was owned by Earnshaw family, who has two children, a teenage boy Hindley and a younger one Catherine Earnshaw. Heathcliff was a homeless boy who was adopted by the father and lives there ever since. The three children, plus Nelly as a servant girl, then grow up together, with Hindley always hates Heathcliff and makes him small in every situation, while Catherine just enjoys Heathcliff’s company. When the father died, Hindley puts Heathcliff as a plain servant and humiliates him even more. Heathcliff falls for Catherine but he hides his feeling. He is hurt when Catherine finally chooses Edgar Linton from Thrushcross Grange more because it is an easy choice to save her status. Hurt then turns into hatred when he overhears Catherine saying that by marrying Heathcliff, which she loves, she would be degrading herself. So with rage Heathcliff leaves the house, just to be back with a dark plan to make the whole situation upside-down, involving their and his own heirs. So that’s how the story then rolls on.
The hatred is so consuming Heathcliff, as I can feel in this passage:
“I’m trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it, at last. I hope he will not die before I do.”
“For shame, Heathcliff!” said I. “It is for God to punish wicked people; we should learn to forgive.”
“No, God won’t have the satisfaction that I shall,” he returned. “I only wish I knew the best way! Let me alone, and I’ll plan it out: while I’m thinking of that, I don’t feel pain.” (p. 58)
Though at the beginning I sympathized with Heathcliff with all the unjust treatments he receives, the character then grows to become so dark, and later in the scene where he is so angry and treating Catherine Linton (the daughter of Catherine Earnshaw) so violently, it is like I was looking at a real monstrous man! Nevertheless he is actually a very miserable soul.
“… Mr. Heathcliff, you have nobody to love you; and, however miserable you make us, we shall still have the revenge of thinking that your cruelty rises from your greater misery! You are miserable, are you not? Nobody loves you — nobody will cry for you when you die! I wouldn’t be you!” (p. 282)
The book and the characters also remind me of a humanly fact that how we see the world is just a reflection of how we feel inside, of how we feel about ourselves. How can we love others if we hate our own existence? How can we respect others if we don’t have respect to our beings? Those who are loved and esteemed will then need to love and esteem others, and those who are not esteemed will just desire to be esteemed. In whatever way. I can’t see happiness in all the main figures in this story: each has his or her own misery, or anger, or dissatisfaction, despite their status or wealth. I think then instead the servant(s) are the happiest persons in this scene, at least they are moderately happy and Nelly being the most sensible one of all the characters.
Emily Brontë’s language is far from flowery, more it is compact and straightforward, yet it succeeds in transferring me into the emotions and the atmospheric mode of the moors; even the last sentence still gives me a bit of that touch. Beautiful for its intensity. Loved it.
Wuthering Heights is the only published novel by Emily Brontë, written between 1845 and 1846 and published in the following year. It was firstly printed under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Then the second edition, which came out after her death and was edited by her sister Charlotte Brontë, was published under the real name. Emily Brontë died young at the age of 30, a year after the first edition of her book was published. She was one of the children in the known Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and big brother Branwell. Together, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë were writers and their works are all considered classics.
The book: Wuthering Heights/ Emily Brontë/ Classics/ Oxford University Press/ 2008 (1847)/ English/ 332 pages.