Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Reading Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights


Wuthering Heights is quite a story. Whereas with Lorna Doone I struggled with every sentence, I hardly want to put Wuthering Heights down, it's so dark and moody and intriguing. I'm about to chapter 11 . . . Heathcliffe has just returned after being absent for 3 years to find Catherine married to Edgar Linton. Her exuberance over Heathcliffe's return has already raised some issues with her husband (can't imagine WHY!)

Having never seen a film version in its entirety other than the 1939 version starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, I'm sketchy on the details of the ending. The 1939 version skipped a great deal, resulting in a cleaned-up, nicer version of the story and of Heathcliffe. I know it doesn't end well in reality, that's just a given for this story, but it's interesting reading a classic where I'm not 100% sure of the plot twists.

Things that have already jumped out at me are:

1) Catherine is a spoiled brat and I dislike her intensely. There really is nothing nice to say about her AT ALL. She doesn't treat her husband right or her servants or just about anybody, even her father. The only person she ever treated right or appeared to genuinely love was Heathcliffe, but what a love! Passionate and obsessive and quite a bit terrifying.

2) Heathcliffe has no soft edges. There is nothing kindly or redeemable about him, making him very different from Mr. Rochester who, even though I have yet to read Jane Eyre, I've always liked in the film versions.

3) It's fascinating that the story is told from Ellen's perspective as a memory. It makes for a very intriguing narrative and it makes me wonder how truthful of a narrator she is since she isn't inside anyone else's head but her own. She could be an unreliable narrator of Heathcliffe and Catherine so it raises the question of whether they were like my above descriptions of them or if they weren't as bad as she made them out to be. How good was her memory and who kindly was she intending to be in her depiction of them to Mr. Lockwood?

So says Marlon Brando, one of my favorite actors of all time.

Have you read Wuthering Heights? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

I'm enjoying it, if enjoying is the right word, far more than I imagined possible. Not because I like the characters because I really don't, but because the story fascinates me. It torments and grieves the reader in countless ways.

My personal copy has a label on the back that says it is one of the most unforgettable romances of all time. I disagree. That would be like calling Romeo & Juliet a romance instead of a tragedy. Perhaps it could be a romantic tragedy, but for Wuthering Heights, Heathcliffe and Cathy are tearing themselves apart with this obsession that can't be quenched. There is nothing romantic in their inevitable demise, only sorrow. 

Favorite Quotes so Far









8 comments:

  1. One of my friends loved this story. She always said the movie adaptations were rubbish and never did it justice. I have a free copy on my Kindle, but... so much else to read.

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    1. Mmmm, well, what I saw of Timothy Dalton's, it did take some license, but then so did Olivier's version. The thing is, I don't know if you want a completely accurate version of this story since it is a literal tragedy. There is nothing likeable about Heathcliff or Cathy or pretty much anyone except the Nelly who's the narrator, except that even she isn't wholly likeable at times. An accurate film adaptation would be depressing beyond belief. But the book is still intriguing and excellently written and I do like it so far. It doesn't really hide anything, just hits you over the head with corrupt, cruel people.

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    2. I have had the great (mis)fortune to see... four versions? DEPRESSING, one and all. Olivier's ends in the best place. :P

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    3. And I'm willing to bet that people don't like Olivier's version simply because it isn't a complete version. Like you, that's why I like it. Let Heathcliff have some small semblance of honor! He doesn't have to be quite as savage and coarse as Emily Bronte wrote him. He's not a romantic hero, but rather a terrific and terrible villain!

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  2. Oh, this book... I really wanted to like it or at least find it interesting, because it is a classic. But I just couldn't, all the characters were so horrible and there was hardly a thread of hope. I did like some of the writing, word choices and profound sentences, but this couldn't redeem the book for me...

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    1. I actually did finish reading it, wonder of wonders. I think it was such a train wreck of trauma that I couldn't put it down. So I wrote my official review, and a part of me wanted to like it while fully admitting that it's a morbid story of horrific proportions. Like you said, there are some profound moments, but not really enough to put it in my favorites list. At least we both can say we've read it! Go us!

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  3. I should re-read it. But I had the opposite reactions from you! I really enjoyed Lorna Doone, but had to shove myself through Wuthering Heights.

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    1. I think I was so horrified that I couldn't stop reading. it was like watching a train wreck happen, you just can't look away.

      I still intend to finish Lorna Doone one of these days. I just think when I trying to read it before that the timing just wasn't right. But I do want to read it since I love the film so much.

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