Right, ok I admit it- until this afternoon I had never completed Wuthering Heights. Yes, yes blah blah, I’ve never read the notoriously brilliant, demonstrably depressing and heavy-going Brontë classic.
I have actually attempted to read it twice before when I was younger, but always lost interest after a point, and found it too difficult to power through.
However, this year has given me a new found lease of love and appreciation for classical literature. After reading Austen and Dickens- I thought it might be time to try again.
And oh my- what on earth was wrong with me before??
This story is so wonderfully written, so different to any of the other classics I’ve read- and really embodies the gothic literature that I love these days.
Yes- it’s still as depressingly dark, twisted and complex as I remember it being. But instead of feeling drained, I felt like I was racing through, determined to get to the end of it.
The plot (if you haven’t watched one of the 100 adaptations or read it yourself) follows the story of the new tenant Mr. Lockwood of Thrushcross Grange, meeting his new landlord Mr. Heathcliff. Finding him a rather discerning and odd character- he asks to hear of his past, from the old housekeeper Nelly.
Nelly shares the story of the adopted gypsy child Heathcliff, his love for Cathy (the girl of Wuthering Heights)- and the bittersweet turns and obsessive abuses of their relationship, as she marries and weds another man.
The plot itself is drenched in misery and tragedy. So many iconic scenes and moments will hang heavy in this story- and stick firmly in my mind as crucial turning points for characters and theme development.
Characters wise- Heathcliff is your classic Byronic hero. Dark, brooding, obsessive… and absolutely deservedly, one of the most complicated anti-heroes in literature. The tumulous and absolute hopelessness of his love for Cathy is almost pitiable and although you’re never truly sure of his thoughts or character- he actually brings about a firm dislike, as he acts in the most terrible way throughout most of the novel. He speaks not through words, but through actions.
Cathy in contrast- a spirited, devilish and passionate young woman, who although from the narrators perspective is incredibly flawed, is also highly enjoyable to read.
One thing that I did note is that Nelly herself is an unreliable primary narrator. She often stands back, not intervening in things she can clearly see are going to cause heartbreak throughout the plot. She has a severe distain for Cathy and Heathcliff- and you can’t help but wonder if a lot of the darkness could have been avoided if she had taken a slightly different turn or opened her mouth at the right time.
I love the way that Brontë structured his novel. Giving you just enough backstory but also the excitable torment that you know her characters feel as events out of their control unravel. She’s clearly a brilliant dramatist, and relishes in shocking her audience as much as she can.
Ultimately, this has ridden right to the top of my favourite novels. The themes, the passion, and the characters are all filled with so much torment and passion- that you can’t help but feel slightly sorry for them.
And if nothing else- it’s given me a reason to sing Kate Bush for most of this week.