Here’s my fifth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge! It’s not too late to join me (and 180+ other people) in reading one classic per month.
“May you not rest, as long as I am living. You said I killed you – haunt me, then”.
Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: of the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and her betrayal of him. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.
Spoiler alert: I found it impossible to talk about Wuthering Heights without saying too much, so don’t read ahead if you would prefer to know nothing about the book!
WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I have no idea! Wuthering Heights would have been one of the first classics I ever heard about, surely? Or perhaps I first heard Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush as a young child. But it was one that kept cropping up as a book I had to read.
WHY I Chose to Read It
It’s a popular classic and the only one in the Goodreads top ten that I hadn’t read. I received a lovely Penguin English Library edition through Caboodle. What I love about older classics is that I can switch between reading a physical copy and the eBook on my Kindle/iPad. I started the eBook on my way back to London from Bath and enjoyed sharing quotes on Goodreads:
“Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.”
WHAT Makes It A Classic
I expected Wuthering Heights to be a classic romance story about a young couple, Cathy and Heathcliff. I expected them to roam the Yorkshire moors, proclaiming their love for each other. But it’s much more than that – and I’m not completely certain that it is a love story. Wuthering Heights has elements of a Gothic horror story. An intense story about revenge, betrayal, anger and jealousy, it’s written in beautiful the prose that the Brontë sisters are known for.
I found Wuthering Heights confusing at first because we’re introduced to a myriad of characters – I suggest viewing a family tree, although it will give you spoilers. We then become familiar with the Earnshaws and the Lintons, two families caught up Cathy and Heathcliff’s drama as well as their own conflicts. It’s narrated mainly by Mr. Lockwood (a tenant of Heathcliff’s) and Nelly (a housekeeper who was close to both families). Even so, it was Cathy and Heathcliff that kept me reading and I understand why they’re the most memorable part of the novel.
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
Before you ask, if I had to pick, I’d choose Jane Eyre, one of my favourite classics so far (and I probably should have rated it 5* rather than 4*!). I also need to read Samantha Ellis’ How to Be a Herione, which particularly focuses on Catherine Earnshaw and Jane Eyre.
I expected a lot from Wuthering Heights and was pleasantly surprised – it’s full of awful characters that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from and conflicts that were both terrible and exciting. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of mental and physical cruelty! I didn’t know that the book began with Mr. Lockwood and that we wouldn’t get to hear directly from Catherine and Heathcliff. I didn’t know that the book was split into two parts – Nelly’s flashbacks to the story of Catherine and Heathcliff and then the present day, about 18 years later. I am baffled as to why people envy Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, but it was certainly an enjoyable one to read about – I adored the drama and Catherine’s fiery personality.
Even though the second part of the novel wasn’t as enjoyable for me, I liked discovering that Wuthering Heights was more complicated than expected and that this troublesome story and cast of vivid characters finally came full circle. As it is titled Wuthering Heights, it doesn’t surprise me now to realise it’s really a story of Heathcliff’s life and transformation – from the damaged young boy in his childhood to his eventual death in his late thirties, as master of Wuthering Heights.
“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am.”
WILL It Stay A Classic
I expect so because the story of Cathy and Heathcliff continues to draw people in, although they’re only part of the story.
WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who enjoyed Jane Eyre and want to read another classic Brontë story. People who are curious about Cathy and Heathcliff – but are prepared to experience much more. People who enjoy intense drama!
“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”