Author: Emily Bronte
Read: June, 2016
Genre: Romance, Gothic
“Wuthering Heights tells the story of a romance between two youngsters: Catherine Earnshaw and an orphan boy, Heathcliff. After she rejects him for a suitor from a better background, he develops a lost for revenge that takes over his life. Attempting to win her back, and then to destroy all whom he considers responsible for his loss, Heathcliff creates a living hell for those who inhabit his intimidating residence, Wuthering Heights. This tale of hauntings, passion and greed remains unsurpassed in its depiction of the dark side of love.” (Summary from Goodreads)
I loved this book – it’s quickly earned its place on my favourites shelf. Wuthering Heights is a haunting tale about darker aspects of love, not once shying away from its depictions of cruelty and obsession.
The novel unfolds as a narrative tale told by the servant Ellen Dean. Ellen has been employed by the families concerned in the novel throughout Heathcliff’s life and, after the tenant Mr Lockwood has an unpleasant encounter at Wuthering Heights with Heathcliff, she recounts the tale to him. This interesting narrative grants added perspective to the story whilst still managing to pull in the reader – like Mr Lockwood, we grow strangely involved in the story of Heathcliff and Catherine, and the misery their doomed love inflicts upon those in their circle. By starting the story near its end, with Heathcliff alone and Catherine dead, their respective spouses gone also, Bronte creates the scene of a car crash and invites readers to replay the events which caused it. It’s horrible, and we know it is fated to end tragically, yet we can’t look away as we become sucked into the story.
Besides the narrative, Bronte also expertly manipulates the setting; Wuthering Heights is cold and gothic, stranded in the bitter climate of rural moorland. The weather is generally bleak, the winters cold and uncompromising. The isolation the location imposes adds a sense of claustrophobia to the novel, further emphasising the idea that the characters are trapped in their poisonous relationships and that the dark nature of love is inescapable for them.
And it is the novels dedication to this theme, the dark qualities of love, that renders the story so haunting. Every ghastly deed Heathcliff does, he does out of a twisted sense of love for Catherine. It’s a warning about letting love corrupt you, or, less dramatic sounding, impede your judgement. For though none of the other character relationships quite reach the intensity of that of Heathcliff and Catherine, there are also many examples of characters making less than sensible decisions out of feelings of love – take for instance when Cathy (Catherine’s daughter) sneaks out of the Grange to visit her ailing cousin Linton at Wuthering Heights, despite her father expressly forbidding and Ellen also warning against it. She has been told to avoid that place in order to avoid Heathcliff, who is as wicked as she has been told, and yet Cathy goes anyway out of love and worry for her cousin.
Wuthering Heights is a warning about love, illustrating its unnerving and potentially corruptible power over people, the story haunting its readers long after its close. I thoroughly recommend it for everyone.
“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
If you like this try:
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
The Night is darkening round me by Emily Bronte.