So, what did I think of Wuthering Heights? Well, to me, it was like reading a really long episode of Desperate Housewives without the heartwarming friendship hovering in the background to help any of the characters through this turmoil. All of the characters are so intentionally horrible to each other, except for Nelly of course, who is the grounded character everyone follows through the years. (By the way, can I just take a moment to talk about what a phenomenal narrator this maid is? For someone of her station, and who doesn’t necessarily speak one hundred percent properly during conversation, she is just beautifully literate when telling a story.) I didn’t feel quite as strongly about it as either my brother-in-law or my grandfather (see my precious entry). I didn’t have this viscerally hateful reaction, nor does the book make me smile in any way, I just didn’t really care for it.
A lot of my issues with the book stem from character motivations and truthfully most of the events that take place. It’s a such an extremely negative book and the romance between Catherine and Heathcliff, while kind of believable… is absolutely horrendous. What two people who love each other would treat each other in such horrible ways? I took to google for my question, asking why Wuthering Heights was considered such a great love story. I found the internet replying with a lot of “love conquers all” and “what makes it great is that these two rather horrible people can love and be loved.” While I don’t doubt that this is a love story, and don’t find myself backing the claim that it is a great love story. To me, the message came down to hanging on and holding out that happiness is just on the horizon or something corny like that. As miserable as they began, Hareton and Cathy found happiness in the end.
“Love Conquers All”
Well, not really. Love got no character through any bit of misery in this book and I would probably say that the more accurate statement is that “death conquers all.” No problem is solved for anyone until someone dies, and boy, do some people die.
“To Love and Be Loved”
The relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff is nothing if not destructive as hell, and I’m not just using that as a figure of speech. Their love is surrounded by misery, illness, and death, and those are only the physical symptoms. There is greed, revenge, and obsession all manifesting themselves within the two lovers (mostly Heathcliff). Their relationship is much more about the passion than the love. The meeting in secret, seeing each other only once in a blue moon. While I can honestly say that I do think Heathcliff loves Catherine to the point of obsession, I got the impression that Catherine’s side of the relationship has more to do with the excitement of doing something she’s been told not to.
Maybe I’m off. Maybe I just didn’t like the characters and can’t imagine loving them myself. Maybe I’m missing the part where they take long walks together, talking about things and getting to know each other, even under the supervision of Linton’s sister, and perhaps even the part where they have all kinds of childhood history together of playing and laughing and being each others’ companions and that if that’s not the foundation of love, then what is?
I suppose I have troubles with the characters morally. I enjoyed the writing itself, especially Heathcliff’s dialogue due to how delightfully evil he can be, but I just didn’t really enjoy what was written. It was probably too long and too much summary of events for the story it was trying to tell. I suppose I can applaud Bronte for not manipulating the reader into loving the two characters. She told them as they were and didn’t pull any punches and that’s certainly respectable. There are so many writers nowadays who have this evil character who only needs to be loved and who try to make them sympathetic even though there is nothing sympathetic about them (I have no examples, but maybe one of you has one you could contribute). Bronte doesn’t ever even attempt that. I suppose that is why the ending has me so baffled.
For all the tragedy that takes place throughout the book, we end on a decidedly very happy note. Cathy and Hareton have become their own little thing, Nelly has been reunited with her mistress, Heathcliff is dead and buried with a coffin joined with Catherine’s as per his dying request… wait. Wait. It’s been well established that Heathcliff is this hated character who brings nothing but hate and discontent wherever he may travel and that he has abused the other characters physically and emotionally and brewed such animosity toward himself that the characters all rejoice when he is dead. All fear and negativity is just miraculously lifted from the Wuthering Heights and the tone of the story takes a very sudden shift for the better. It just baffles me that such a character would be granted any more than what is required by obligation in his burial. Sure, bury the man, maybe even attend a funeral, but allowing him to spend eternity with his one love seems rather gracious. And perhaps that speaks to the character of Nelly, the one Heathcliff told of this request. I don’t really know what that says about her, but I guess that makes her a better person than I.