In my last entry, I heavily emphasized the strengths of feminism, and then I realized that I had not yet written an entry about a Classic book by a female author. What a crime to Classic Literature! Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is my favorite book written by my own kind. And since we just celebrated Halloween, the dark and eerie nature of the plot seems to fit right in with this time of year.
Every Christmas and summer for the last four years, a good friend and I have given each other reading assignments. We have different tastes in literature, but we both love to read. It's a great way for each of us to broaden our horizons. When she told me to read Wuthering Heights a couple years ago, I must admit that I felt a bit reluctant. I assumed that it would be another frilly, fluffy romance about socialites and witty banter. I expected a predictable plot and a neat, bow-tie ending. Boy was I wrong! In fact, if you reverse those descriptions completely, you'll get a much better picture of this fantastic novel.
The story of Catherine and Heathcliff is the most riveting love story I've ever encountered. I could not tear myself away from it. They are both quite flawed characters, but that's what builds the tension. There are so many moments in which the two just barely miss each other in some way or another. As a reader, this can be very frustrating, and some people may view their feelings of frustration throughout the novel as a weakness in the story. On the contrary, I think this is the strength of the story because it compels us to keep reading. Through our frustration, we are engaged and attached. We don't read it passively or even clouded in the bliss of peaceful reading. It is meant to be a painful, frustrating read because it's painful and frustrating for the characters too. It is, after all, a dark story. Yet even when the odds are stacked against them, there's an undeniable pull you can feel that Catherine and Heathcliff have toward each other. I will resist saying more about their relationship so I don't spoil it for you if you haven't read it.
I especially love the character of Heathcliff. He is so complex, full of moments that make you love him and moments that make you cringe. He does not follow a particular framework of "good" or "evil," for he exhibits features of both almost equally. He often acts out in anger, but there is a genuine, vulnerable sweetness deep in his heart. And only Catherine can tap into that sweet spot. I found myself completely forgiving of him, rooting for him, and hurting with him. Not everyone will feel this way, but I was a sucker for him.
Now this is one book that I fully intend to reread. I'm sure that there are layers of meaning in the text that can be found in symbolism if you look closely. For example, the children of the story add an interesting dimension to the novel. They get so strangely mixed up in both their names, family lines, and personalities that it can be hard to keep track of them. I'm sure that this confusion was created intentionally, and I would love to study the children in detail to figure out what they reveal about the adults. I also think it's a fascinating narrative structure. The story is told through the perspective of the only character who wasn't really involved (Lockwood). Nevertheless, he's still a character interacting with the others in the story. Of course, this challenges the veracity of the events because we can only see them through a certain level of subjectivity. (Familiar theme, once again). I do not think we should be deceived into thinking that this has no relevance on the story. Nelly, the housekeeper who dishes on the past, must be an important key in the understanding of all the characters. Maybe I should have saved this entry for later because I don't have a great theory right now of what that "key" is. I hope you all can fill me in on some of the depth and various messages you discovered in your reading of this book. I'd love to hear it!