Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

“Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.” 

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At first glance, Wuthering Heights appears to be a Gothic romance set amidst the wilderness of the Yorkshire moors. It encompasses the ferocity of raw emotions- of treachery, obsession and revenge. W.H is dark and brooding and does not have the light-hearted or witty societal interactions present in Jane Austen’s works. In my opinion, it is less a story of love, and more of possession; something deeper, a rawness of spirit that propels them to inflict the pain and damage to one another. It is almost spiritual in that Heathcliff believes the ghost of Cathy haunts him still after her death, and there will be no peace for them in the afterlife.

The narrative encompasses a period of 50 years and passes through 3 generations of two households- the Lintons and Earnshaws. I can understand why some readers may find it confusing; I had to keep turning back over the pages to find out who was who (cousins marrying cousins and various surname changes). It is told by a housekeeper Nelly Dean and a visitor to the moors- Mr. Lockwood. Between them they manage to piece together the event for the reader (reliable voices or no, it is up to you to judge!) it is one aspect of storytelling. I feel a lot of gothic novels such as Dracula, Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, are written as first person through journals and letters. This allows us to experience from a subjective point of view, but I wonder if this make us feel 100% committed to a character, or even to form our own unbiased opinion.

Wuthering_Heights_family_tree One thing you notice- no character is likeable. Though I felt no emotional connection with the individuals, (Heathcliff is violent, domineering and abusive, Cathy flighty and emotionally erratic), there was something about their plight that moved me. In my opinion a successful book is supposed to make you feel a range of emotions, frustration, anger maybe, or even hatred- these are all significant to your growth as a reader. To move you to feel these things- an essence that makes you feel a natural affinity to a novel. For me W. H though highly dramatized, is closer to reality for me than something like “Pride and Prejudice”. It encompasses the devastation of reality, of death and disappointment and unfulfilled yearnings. I don’t know why I drew this comparison, but I feel W.H has similar gritty, stark truths (murder and mental torture) comparable to certain scenes of the North in ‘Game of Thrones‘, albeit a censored, classical literature version!

Bronte’s depiction of the nature of Heathcliff and the wild Catherine are reflective of the setting- the harsh weather and isolation of the country. W H did leave a lasting impression on me, certain songs would remind me of scenes. I would imagine Cathy tapping on the glass, a ghost girl with a shrill cry and blood dripping on the windowsill, trying to break through the casement to reach inside. All images the Yorkshire Dales can inspire! Honestly, I think it’s important to have some sense of the isolation of the place, to imagine the structure of the buildings, the weather, landscape and daily pursuits of the young Heathcliff and Cathy to get a better idea of what Emily Bronte envisioned to be the backdrop of her novel.

w.heightsAnd last but not least, I will leave you with Hayley Westenra’s version of “Wuthering Heights”(originally sung by Kate Bush)

Some questions I want to ask you guys:

– How is W H comparable to Romeo & Juliet as a love story?

-What do you think Emily Bronte’s main message was, that she hoped to carry through to the reader? Main themes?

-Do you think it’s important to know about the author, in order to understand a book better? Emily died 1 year after completing “Wuthering Heights” at the age of 30, her sister Anne following. They had such short lives (if we compare to the life expectancy now). The novel was published posthumously by her sister Charlotte.

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9 thoughts on “Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

  1. swongs1126 says:

    Great post! I haven’t heard of that song before! Can I answer the third question? It’s really helpful to know some backgrounds about the author to understand the work better, concerning his/her intentions of writing that book and the themes of it! Although I don’t have good knowledge of the Brontës, I know the brother and sisters had been home governesses / teacher, and especially Anne, there could be personal and working experiences that propelled her into writing Agnes Grey ((ill-treatment of governesses and criticisms to parental education in middle-class families) and The Tenant (her brother Branwell’s addiction to alcohol), not without mentioning the religious and marital views influenced from her unmarried aunt. Interestingly, what I read from the Introduction of Oxford World’s Classics edition written by a scholar, it’s deducible that based on the high mortality rate in the family and the place she lived in, she emphasized the notion of “temperance” a lot regarding body health, love/passion in relationships in order to give readers an idea of living a wholesome life…so it might be interesting to see that if readers are interested in a writer’s background, they might find a lot of joy in reading a novel and might have discovered some ideas/messages which are innovative and hidden to other readers but themselves! I think that’s how a scholar was born in analyzing a novel etc…! By the way, Yorkshire seems a great place to visit and explore!

    Liked by 1 person

    • katewjwhite says:

      Thank you ! ❤ and yes I agree with you! People's experiences and background certainly affect what they write (or how they perceive the world). However… there are some cases where knowing about the authors can disappoint you (especially for a work that you love)!

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    • katewjwhite says:

      which links to another interesting further question- from a literature students vs writer’s point of view- we are taught to find meaning in an author’s work- reasons for what&why they wrote it- but as a writer , we are told to experiment with language & style, just for the purpose of creating something new/writing in an unexpected way. So do you agree that authors (especially the ones in the past) wrote for a purpose, to raise awareness, or just for the pleasure of it ?? Or…both?

      Liked by 1 person

      • swongs1126 says:

        This is indeed an interesting question! Perhaps authors like the ones in the past has got the resilience to reflect their personal experiences and confrontation in lives onto writing and become a source of energy rather than grief, and then writing would become their pleasure. But what you say is good that authors are encouraged to try something new regarding narrative styles, language, and even setting the stories in a totally unfamiliar backdrop. But authors have a great lot are writing about relationships, and then as humans we can always relate to them. By the way, have you read “Of Human Bondage” by Maugham? I haven’t but I always want to because I’ve heard that it’s a novel about reading! I also have something to say, I haven’t read Wuthering Heights, I did borrow it one time but daunted by the dialect throughout the story, but I promise I’ll get it done this year; and I read Jane Eyre in Chinese when I was 11, I think I was quite impressed at the time!

        Liked by 1 person

      • katewjwhite says:

        No i haven’t read it 😛 haha but i certainly agree that it is their experiences and emotions (also their growth as an individual) that makes them focus on certain aspects in their writing or as you say find an outlet for their grief! (especially for the brontes) The only reason i bring the q up is because since I studied eng lit & c writing at uni- they were quite conflicting. i remember my eng lit teacher being passionate about gertrude stein’s poetry- analysing each sentence to an inch of its life , giving elaborate reasons behind what she wrote. but i said she could be experimenting with word form, sound & language, rather than have a specific purpose- (something we learnt in c writing) of course the teacher didn’t have a reply to this… i think we should study it for enjoyment and for understanding the time/period or the author’s clever portrayal of human nature – the classes we have focus too much on specific ‘lines’ of poetry, ‘specific’ sentences and ‘why they are there in the text’ ….sometimes i feel there’s no underlying reason why.

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