We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Sunday, 1 July 2012

#3 Book 70 - Wuthering Heights

“I have dreamt in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind. And this is one: I'm going to tell it - but take care not to smile at any part of it.”

My edition
Title: Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

First Published: 1847

Pages: 431

Publisher: Harper Collins

Source: Bought

Some friendly advice:
If you are attempting, have attempted or are planning to attempt a read of Wuthering Heights, you will want to check this out. Joseph's speech is quite difficult to decipher, especially if you are not sure about how to pronounce it, so this will definitely help you. In fact, just make use of the entire site of The Reader's Guide to Wuthering Heights.

The Synopsis

When Catherine and Heathcliff’s childhood friendship grows into something so much more, what ensues is one of the greatest love stories of all time. Even as fate conspires against them and passion consumes them, nothing can keep Catherine and Heathcliff apart. Not even death… for their forbidden love is unlike any other.                                                                                                                                 From Goodreads

If you would like a summary of a different sort, then watch this video by Kate Bush of her hit single Wuthering Heights which as you would guess was inspired by and based on Wuthering Heights. Do be warned though, that it has the tendency to get stuck in your head. 

The Review

I went into reading Wuthering Heights rather blindly, and sometimes that is a good thing. I knoew there was a character called Heathcliff, and that there was a character called Cathy and that some how it was a love story.  In fact, I deliberately did not read anything about Wuthering Heights because I wanted my mind to be a blank slate when it came to making sense of this story.

I think that there are various phases that you go through when reading Wuthering Heights, and these phases greatly impact how you feel about the characters. Please do forgive me if some spoilers do slip in, I just need to be able to explain fully to do this book justice. 

When you first start reading Wuthering Heights, you are confronted with a bevy of unlikeable characters, and it really does take a while to see how it is that they all became so unlikable. The key to it all - well most of them, is Heathcliff. Heathcliff you see as being rather unpleasant, and you wonder why - thinking that he must be that way because of the people that he is surrounded with. But as the story unfolds, and your perspective changes, you see how all this unpleasantness starts with prejudice, and yes, I'll say it - Pride. No this is not Pride and Prejudice, but these are the things that have helped to form the story of Heathcliff, and then there are two other factors - hatred and vengeance.

When first hearing of the story of Heathcliff - his origins and the mixed treatment he got when he first came to Wuthering Heights, you do feel a great deal of sympathy for him. He was adored by Catherine and her father, and despised by Hindley and his mother. Things only get worse for poor Heathcliff after the passing of Mr Earnshaw, and we see the seeds of true vengeance being planted in Heathcliff's heart. Heathcliff is treated no better than a slave by Hindley, and is forbade from being with his playmate Cathy. When one day Heathcliff leaves, after hearing something distressing from his dearest Cathy, we do not see him again for many years. Upon his return he is ready to so the seeds of destruction for his oppressors, and we see how evil Heathcliff really is.

Heathcliff's darling Cathy is married to Edgar Linton, and he calls on her at Thrushcross Grange, much to Edgar's distress. Heathcliff ofcourse has his own plans for revenge, and sows great unrest in the Linton house, running off with Edgar's sister Isabella, marrying her and then treating her quite despicably when they return taking up residence at Wuthering Heights.  Isabella's treatment is so awful, that she runs away, maintaining contact with her brother Edgar. Heathcliff and Edgar had a falling out which had the most terrible effect on Catherine, and she takes to a very long sick bed.

Heathcliff goes to see Catherine one last time, and this is the day that her daughter Catherine is born (2 months early) and it is also the day that Catherine dies. Catherine's death leaves Edgar most distrought, and despite having a daughter - who he calls Cathy, he never fully recovers from the loss. Heathcliff learns that Isabella also had a child, whom she names Linton, and the evil cogs in his mind turn to ensure his revenge.

The final stages of Heathcliff's evil plan come to play when Isabella dies, and sends Linton to live with Edgar, only to have Heathcliff send Joseph for him. Linton Heathcliff is a sickly boy whom his father does not take very good care of, he just needs him to live long enough for his plan  to fall into place. And things do happen as Heathcliff wanted, and he gets his revenge, but it is still not enough for him. I really do not understand how anyone can carry out these vengeful plans as cunningly and consistently as Heathcliff did.

Our narrator Mr Lockwood, who relates to us the story as he hears it from Mrs Dean, leaves with the story at a certain place, he sees now why the inhabitants of Wuthering Heighths are so unhappy and so unpleasant, not knowing that things have changed. Fortunately he learns about this upon a coincidental visit to the nearby Gimmerton, and goes to enquire about Mrs Dean. He goes to Thrushcross Grange to find that Mrs Dean is not there, but at Wuthering Heights. He goes to Wuthering Heights and sees how very different things are. He smells flowers, which he never did upon his previous visit. He remarks how the house seems different, and you do have to wonder what happened? Did Heathcliff finally realise that enough was enough, he got what he wanted, and he could try to be pleasant.

We are informed that Heathcliff has died months previously after what had to be a bout of mental illness. He acted so strangely, and one cannot help but deduce that in his final days he saw his beloved Cathy whom he had cursed to roam the moors for as long as he was alive. Heathcliff's death brings a lovely rainbow into this stormy story, and justice is served for the poor oppressed Hareton Earnshaw and his cousin Cathy Linton - who finally get the happiness that they deserve but were denied by Heathcliff's constant pursuit of revenge.

Wuthering Heights is a book that plays with your emotions. As I write this is I still feel rather distraught about the happenings in Wuthering Heights. I have never felt so much intense emotions for a character before. Heathcliff I went from pitying to loathing and then feeling a sort of pity again. Heathcliff's son Linton you also feel pity for at first, but then because he is such a weak person, more concerned for himself than anyone else, you cannot help but loathe him, even after his death.

Whilst Wuthering Heights is not a bad story, it is not a story that you can enjoy. It is not a love story, well it is, but in a very twisted way. To say that it is purely a  love story is to not have read it properly. It is a story of revenge, of hatred, of pride. I cannot say if I'll ever read it again, and at this moment I cannot understand how it could possibly be someone's favourite, it just has such cruelty in it. But it is not a story to be dismissed, and I am glad to have read it.


  1. I enjoyed reading your review and viewing the Kate Bush video--- I can see how that song would get stuck in your head. I just finished reading Jane Eyre for the first time and now I am all about the Brontes. I'm reading Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte, which I can hardly put down--I then plan read Agnes Grey, then on to Wuthering Heights to have something of each Bronte read--I think they are an interesting family.

  2. Thank you :) this has been my first Bronte read, I cannot wait to get to Jane Eyre, as I think because I enjoyed reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier that that kind of book will greatly appeal to me.

  3. It is nice to find someone that also is not in love with Wuthering Heights. I thought it was superbly written, but unbelievable at times. You've probably read Jane Eyre by now, and I'll be surprised if you do not find it far superior.
    My own review of WH: http://100greatestnovelsofalltimequest.blogspot.com/2014/11/wuthering-heights-by-emily-bronte-33.html


What did you think? I would love to read your comments.