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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wuthering Heights

Bronte, Emily. 1847. Wuthering Heights.

In my effort to give books a second chance, I finished Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights over the weekend. My question was this, would I love it--or like it even--if I weren't being required to read it. If I could divorce my memories associated with the novel from English class. (Now, before I get jumped on in the comments, I'm not complaining about literature classes. I spent roughly six years studying literature.) But. I have to be honest. I'm still not that thrilled with Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff doesn't make my heart go pitter-pat. (I'd question my mental health if it did). Heathcliff and Catherine? More than a little annoying. I'd be hard-pressed to find a character that I feel sympathetic towards.

The story--in case you don't know--is about a hopeless love affair between two grouchy people. Perhaps grouchy isn't quite the word. Both are tempermental. Both are stubborn. Both are prone to melodrama. Both are selfish. One is more diabolically evil than the other. But neither one is likeable. Heathcliff and Catherine. The novel is about love and hate, revenge, bitterness, cruelty, heartache, greed, power, ambition, and above all manipulation.

I will grant the book this, I didn't fall asleep this go round. One thing that I think really and truly helped me out this time was Bella and Edward. Don't laugh. It was Eclipse where Bella oh-so-dramatically quoted on and on about Wuthering Heights and how the very fact that these two loved each other redeemed everything; it made two unsympathetic people be sympathetic. (The two wrongs make a right philosophy, I suppose.)

I can't believe you're reading Wuthering Heights again. Don't you know it by heart yet?

Not all of us have photographic memories, I said curtly.

Photographic memory or not, I don't understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others' lives. I don't know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. it isn't a love story, it's a hate story.

You have some serious issues with the classics, I snapped.

Perhaps it's because I'm not impressed by antiquity. He smiled, evidently satisfied that he'd distracted me. Honestly though why do you read it over and over? His eyes were vivid with real interest now, trying --again-- to unravel the convoluted workings of my mind. He reached across the table to cradle my face in his hand. What is it that appeals to you?

His sincere curiosity disarmed me. I'm not sure, I said, scrambling for coherency while his gaze unintentionally scattered my thoughts I think it's something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart -- not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end...

His face was thoughtful as he considered my words. After a moment he smiled a teasing smile I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality.

I think that may be the point, I disagreed. Their love is their only redeeming quality.

p. 28
The way Catherine spoke about Heathcliff, about love, her tendency to be so melodramatic reminded me so much of Bella. (True, Edward is a better hero than Heathcliff in that he isn't evil incarnate.)

My mind also kept jumping back to Frankenstein and trying to find comparisons between the two. I'm not sure what that was about. Perhaps it was the framework of the story, perhaps it was the harshness of some of the environments, perhaps it was the hopelessness of it all. But while Frankenstein had a soul to it, Wuthering Heights, I felt lacked it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


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