Wuthering Heights

‘My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff – he’s always, always in my mind…’

I have absolutely no idea why I waited so long to read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I’ve been an admirer of the Brontes for years (though I do rate Tenant of Wildfell Hall much more favourably than the more renowned Jane Eyre). Wuthering Heights certainly did not disappoint: Bronte’s coupling of Dickensian lyricism with Gothic intrigue makes for an illuminating read. I think its success lies in its combination of the great Victorian preoccupations with inheritance, marriage and property, and the thoroughly unconventional character of Heathcliff. This brutally passionate and unrepentant man remains shocking to modern sensibilities.

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Heathcliff is a fascinating character, no doubt because it’s difficult to fully appreciate all the multi-faceted angles of his character at once. He exerts such a terrific pull over Catherine that their love is figured as an almost elemental force. But is this great capacity to love enough to redeem Heathcliff in the eyes of the reader? Their passion seems of another world; its unearthliness is never more pronounced than when Heathcliff orders the side of Catherine’s coffin broken open so that when he is laid to rest beside her, their bodies will dissolve together. He also has an endless capacity for cruelty; with his ‘sharp cannibal teeth’, he often seems more devil than man. The resonance of the novel rests on the enigma of Heathcliff’s character; his nature is a mystery it’ll take me another read to fully appreciate.

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2 thoughts on “Wuthering Heights

  1. I lean more toward the Austen sense of love – pragmatic. I appreciate the passion within the Bronte novels, but it goes against my own inclinations. Don’t get me wrong, Wuthering Heights isn’t bad at all, but Heathcliff’s destruction becomes so all-consuming that I cannot pardon him. The writing is prime – no doubt. The way Bronte works in imagery and illustrates her concepts of passion is hauntingly gorgeous. I suppose it’s the ultimate compliment to a writer to dislike a character for who that character is (proof of a 3-D creation) not for the writing itself.

  2. Lovely post 🙂 Wuthering Heights is my favourite book, and I’m a huge Bronte fan, too. I also prefer ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ to ‘Jane Eyre’! A brilliant and underrated novel.

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