Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: emily brontë, victorian literature, wuthering heights
“Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they woud those who resort to them worse than their enemies.”
I first read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights my junior year in high school. While I recall enjoying the book, it was not the thing to do (especially after watching a film adaptation in class) and I joined my classmates in vocalizing “our” distress at the selection. As I have been reading a great deal of modern literature and have wanted to continue reading from my own shelves, I looked forward to returning to Wuthering Heights and after reading it a second time and some years later I have to say the novel is brilliant.
Wuthering Heights is a generational story told in a gossipy fashion through the eyes of a new tenant Mr. Lockwood but mostly through the servant Mrs. Dean. Mrs. Dean is designed perfectly for the role of storyteller: she has spent her entire life with the involved families and thus has a particularly intimate relationship (such as confessor) with the characters, her role as a servant though also allows her to exist as an unassuming and “invisible” eavesdropper, and Mrs. Dean’s character is lively with a good deal of moralizing that helps to set the course of the novel.
So this generational tale follows most particularly the life of Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by a well to do family, and Catherine, the love of his life and the daughter of this family. This is a psychologically riveting and tense novel and because of a peculiar partiality of the father towards Heathcliff and a strict class-structure and hierarchy things fall apart. The parents die, the son abuses Heathcliff, Catherine opts to marry for security, her status level, and a fleeting love and Wuthering Heights quickly becomes a novel of strife, passion, and discord. It is a novel about sadistically inflicting pain and mental torture but for reasons that are often plausible and understandable.
While I was disappointed to learn that Emily Brontë only wrote the one novel I am interested in perusing her poetry and curious about reading the other Brontës.