Book Review: Wuthering Heights By Emily Brontë –– Love Story My Arse
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a multigenerational story of love and revenge that revolves around the inhabitants of a desolate farmhouse called Wuthering Heights and its owner Heathcliff.
“My greatest thought in living is Heathcliff. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be… Nelly, I amHeathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure… but as my own being.”
Wuthering Heights is the only novel of Emily Bronte, who died a year after its publication, at the age of thirty. A brooding Yorkshire tale of a love that is stronger than death, it is also a fierce vision of metaphysical passion, in which heaven and hell, nature and society, are powerfully juxtaposed. Unique, mystical, with a timeless appeal, it has become a classic of English literature
A Sneak Peek Into “Wuthering Heights”
1801–I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist’s Heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, as I announced my name.
‘Mr. Heathcliff?’ I said.
A nod was the answer.
‘Mr. Lockwood, your new tenant, sir. I do myself the honour of calling as soon as possible after my arrival, to express the hope that I have not inconvenienced you by my perseverance in soliciting the occupation of Thrushcross Grange: I heard yesterday you had had some thoughts–‘
‘Thrushcross Grange is my own, sir,’ he interrupted, wincing. ‘I should not allow any one to inconvenience me, if I could hinder it–walk in!’
The ‘walk in’ was uttered with closed teeth, and expressed the sentiment, ‘Go to the Deuce’: even the gate over which he leant manifested no sympathizing movement to the words; and I think that circumstance determined me to accept the invitation: I felt interested in a man who seemed more exaggeratedly reserved than myself.
When he saw my horse’s breast fairly pushing the barrier, he did pull out his hand to unchain it, and then suddenly preceded me up the causeway, calling, as we entered the court,–
‘Joseph, take Mr. Lockwood’s horse; and bring up some wine.’
‘Here we have the whole establishment of domestics, I suppose,’ was the reflection, suggested by this compound order. ‘No wonder the grass grows up between the flags, and cattle are the only hedge-cutters.’
Joseph was an elderly, nay, an old man: very old, perhaps, though hale and sinewy.
‘The Lord help us!’ he soliloquised in an undertone of peevish displeasure, while relieving me of my horse: looking, meantime, in my face so sourly that I charitably conjectured he must have need of divine aid to digest his dinner, and his pious ejaculation had no reference to my unexpected advent.
Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.
Before passing the threshold, I paused to admire a quantity of grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys, I detected the date ‘1500,’ and the name ‘Hareton Earnshaw.’ I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner; but his attitude at the door appeared to demand my speedy entrance, or complete departure, and I had no desire to aggravate his impatience previous to inspecting the penetralium.
“Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends;
they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.”
One step brought us into the family sitting-room, without any introductory lobby or passage: they call it here ‘the house’ pre-eminently. It includes kitchen and parlour, generally; but I believe at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter: at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues, and a clatter of culinary utensils, deep within; and I observed no signs of roasting, boiling, or baking, about the huge fire-place; nor any glitter of copper saucepans and tin cullenders on the walls. One end, indeed, reflected splendidly both light and heat from ranks of immense pewter dishes, interspersed with silver jugs and tankards, towering row after row, on a vast oak dresser, to the very roof. The latter had never been underdrawn: its entire anatomy lay bare to an inquiring eye, except where a frame of wood laden with oatcakes and clusters of legs of beef, mutton, and ham, concealed it. Above the chimney were sundry villanous old guns, and a couple of horse-pistols: and, by way of ornament, three gaudily painted canisters disposed along its ledge. The floor was of smooth, white stone; the chairs, high-backed, primitive structures, painted green: one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade. In an arch under the dresser, reposed a huge, liver-coloured bitch pointer, surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies; and other dogs haunted other recesses.
The apartment and furniture would have been nothing extraordinary as belonging to a homely, northern farmer, with a stubborn countenance, and stalwart limbs set out to advantage in knee-breeches and gaiters. Such an individual seated in his armchair, his mug of ale frothing on the round table before him, is to be seen in any circuit of five or six miles among these hills, if you go at the right time after dinner. But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire: rather slovenly, perhaps, yet not looking amiss with his negligence, because he has an erect and handsome figure; and rather morose. Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling–to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He’ll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again. No. I’m running on too fast: I bestow my own attributes over liberally on him. Mr. Heathcliff may have entirely dissimilar reasons for keeping his hand out of the way when he meets a would-be acquaintance, to those which actuate me. Let me hope my constitution is almost peculiar: my dear mother used to say I should never have a comfortable home; and only last summer I proved myself perfectly unworthy of one.
“I am now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town.
A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.”
While enjoying a month of fine weather at the seacoast, I was thrown into the company of a most fascinating creature: a real goddess in my eyes, as long as she took no notice of me. I ‘never told my love’ vocally; still, if looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed I was over head and ears: she understood me at last, and looked a return–the sweetest of all imaginable looks. And what did I do? I confess it with shame–shrunk icily into myself, like a snail; at every glance retired colder and farther; till finally the poor innocent was led to doubt her own senses, and, overwhelmed with confusion at her supposed mistake, persuaded her mamma to decamp.
By this curious turn of disposition I have gained the reputation of deliberate heartlessness; how undeserved, I alone can appreciate.
I took a seat at the end of the hearthstone opposite that towards which my landlord advanced, and filled up an interval of silence by attempting to caress the canine mother, who had left her nursery, and was sneaking wolfishly to the back of my legs, her lip curled up, and her white teeth watering for a snatch.
My caress provoked a long, guttural gnarl.
‘You’d better let the dog alone,’ growled Mr. Heathcliff in unison, checking fiercer demonstrations with a punch of his foot. ‘She’s not accustomed to be spoiled–not kept for a pet.’
3 Words to Describe This Book
MADDENING, DRAINING, THEATRICAL
So here we are, at last. I have repeatedly mentioned about how I needed to get on with my classics reads for…gee, years probably. And I just never got to it. Reason being, well for one, I’m one lazy ass cockroach who just can’t be bothered to step out of my comfort zone and google words every few pages and two…it just never felt like a good timing back then. However lately, for some reason unbeknownst to me I have been looking to push and challenge myself with the books I read, and I finally deemed it appropriate to start pulling out these classic novels that has been collecting dust in my bookshelves for quite some time. Wuthering Heights was the first of many classic novels to come––I hope.
A disclaimer before we go further into the review; if you are looking for the kind of review where I go in depth, all round glasses and smart looking with my red wine and dissect each and every single thing that happened in the book, then this review is not for you. I know how readers of classic novels sometimes enjoy reading reviews on the contents of the book including the culture, era, literature and whatnot. And to be totally honest with you, I totally would have written a review like that if I could, but the truth is, your girl is still quite the dumdum to even pretend to know about the topics mentioned above, let alone write about it.
Is this the right time to mic-drop? No? *chuckles*
PEOPLE ARE ARSEHOLES
I think the saying of, “everyone are mean in Wuthering Heights” is something we have all heard at least once. And when I first heard it, I––like everyone else who has never read the book before––didn’t believe it. Not one bit. I mean, come on now, I have read books way worse than this, and even then I could find a way to like the characters no matter how diabolical they were. If I could do that, surely I can find a character to root in this novel…right?
Well…..not entirely wrong because I can’t say I loathe all the characters in Wuthering Heights with all my heart, becasue then that would be a lie. I don’t hate them, but I wasn’t exactly rooting for them either. Which in turn make the book that much harder to get through, on top of it already being filled to the brim with older English words that I’m not used to.
The main characters are not likable, nor were the supporting characters for that matter. A lot of the people in Wuthering Heights do things out of selfishness, to either further their own means or to watch other people suffer from their actions. Now, while I don’t agree with their actions in the book, I didn’t judge them for it either. I think I akin my experience reading Wuthering Heights to watching a train wreck. It’s not exactly something that you enjoy doing––well I guess some do––the characters are basically assholes, but for some reason, it’s hard to stop looking.
Lady of the hour. Basically, almost all of the awful little things that happened in Wuthering Heights was because Heathcliff wasn’t able to be with Catherine and marry her. As much as Catherine loved and enjoyed Heathcliff’s company, she could not see herself marrying him due to the lack of his family wealth and name, on top of the fact that nobody knows who his real family is to begin with since he was adopted by Catherine’s father when he was a child.
To be frank, I don’t get what the deal is with people’s fascination with Catherine. Both Heathcliff and her husband, Edgar Linton seemed absolutely smitten with the lady, yet from the narration––which might be unreliable––she doesn’t really seem worth all the attention and, in Heathcliff’s part, revenge. Her attitude of constantly rebelling and causing trouble leaves little to be desired, not to mention her sometimes overly theatrical acts when things doesn’t go her way.
“She was a wild, wicked slip of a girl. She burned too brightly for this world.”
Who knows, maybe she is really beautiful in person, maybe that’s why boys are falling on the feet like she’s the Queen of England. But at least based on the narration of Nelly about how the whole ordeal went down, I’m not a big fan of Catherine Earnshaw.
I don’t know what it is about men who are mean on the outside but a total softie on the inside, but there is something about them that makes me melt. Without fail.
Don’t get me wrong, Heathcliff is still an asshole for all that he did in Wuthering Heights by not only taking his revenge on people who did him wrong, but also using the next generation children as collateral damage. Yet, I could not help but wonder if the readers’ opinion of him would change had the narration of the story be from his point of view instead of his childhood nanny’s. I don’t know what it is about Heathcliff, despite all the wrong and cruel things that he did, that still made me want to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
It could have been those fleeting moments when he showed his emotions whenever it involved Catherine that made me feel as if there was something deeper to him. Something that he kept to himself. Also there was that time where he disappeared for 3 years and came back rolling in gold. Where did baby Heathcliff go? What did he have to endure to gain all those riches? Did he suffered?
We all wonder, but in this case, no one will know the real answer other than the author herself.
THE UNRELIABLE NARRATOR
While the book opens with our narrator Mr. Lockwood who was renting a property called Thrushcross Grange from Heathcliff, the story about Heathcliff, Catherine Earnshaw, and the Lintons were told to Mr. Lockwood by a housekeeper in Thrushcross Grange called Nelly Dean. So while Mr. Lockwood was the primary narrator, all he does was to serve as an intermediary between Nelly and the reader.
And Nelly on the other hand, was telling the story as someone who was watching the whole thing from the sidelines. While yes, she was telling the story of what happened at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, she was telling her version of it. Framing the characters––Catherine, Heathcliff and all the shebang––in the light that fits best to Nelly’s narrative. We as readers didn’t truly know for sure if what Nelly said happened was what truly happened or something that was exaggerated to paint a certain character in a not-so-good light.
Not only that, the more I read, the more I realize that while Nelly tells the dirt on everyone, she paints herself as this mother of all saints who does no wrong and who was always helpful, even though there had been some instances where she was straight up passive aggressive and rude. So with that, it comes to question if everyone in Wuthering Heights are really as unlikable as they were because that was their true character, or were they all unlikable because Nelly Dean framed them to be?
IS IT A LOVE STORY? OR A REVENGE STORY?
This book has been touted as a love story that transcends time and space. Actually, that was the reason why I decide to read Wuthering Heights in the first place, because I was sold on this idea about reading a book about romances in the 1800s with their grand gestures and flowery romantic words. And as long as they continue to market Wuthering Heights as such, there will be many readers after me who went into this book thinking the same thing and would come out disappointed and exasperated.
“It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.”
After reading the novel, I can’t say that Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel. Just like I cannot say that there are no humans who don’t enjoy eating human flesh. Point is, while there are romance in the book, it made up of a very teeny tiny percentage of it. Maybe this was how romance novels were written in the 1800s, but reading this in the 21st century, I really wouldn’t classify Catherine and Heathcliff’s story as a love story. Obsession, maybe. But love? I don’t know about that.
Personally, I’d say Wuthering Heights fall more along the line of a book about human characters and morality. Reading this book has opened my eyes to how despicable and horrifying humans can be, given the right circumstances. And while I do not despise the characters in the book, I couldn’t say that I was exactly fond of anyone in it either. Almost every single one of the people in Wuthering Heights are quite unbearable to read, and while they make an interesting character study, an enjoyable read they do not make.
Would I recommend this book? Honestly, no. To be really frank with you, I don’t know how and why is it so wildly popular and constantly being praised as a masterful piece of writing. Maybe it’s the shock value of it? Or the fact that almost all the characters are so massively unlikable that it rendered the readers speechless, therefore it being a masterpiece?
I truly have no idea.
The reason why I read it was to just check it off my list and so that I could be able to say, “yes, I’ve read Wuthering Heights before.” That’s literally all there is to it. Well, I suppose you can say reading this book was an experience in and of itself––not one that I would like to repeat again, mind you––but definitely one that has opened my mind and gave me somethings to think about. So if you are looking for a book that would challenge you, then by all means, go right ahead with this one. Because it’s not an easy book to get through.
However, if you’re looking for a classic novel that is enjoyable and will bring you all the lovey-dovey feelings due to how Hollywood sells Wuthering Heights as a romance novel, you’d be better off just skimming the Sparknotes version of it. All the juice without the suffering of having to go through hundreds of pages of lamentation and whining of the characters written in the 1800s.
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