Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

GENRE: classical novel/Gothic romance

One of the most passionate and heartfelt novels even written, Wuthering Heights tells of the relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, the orphan boy her father adopted and brought to Wuthering Heights when they were children. While Catherine forms a deep attachment to Heathcliff, her brother Hindley despises him as a rival. Despite his love for Catherine, Heathcliff cannot stand the humiliation longer and he leaves the Heights for three years. When he returns, Heathcliff is not happy with the way things turned out during his absence and he is now prepared to exact his tyrannical revenge.

When I first read this novel as a kid, I knew nothing about the Bronte sisters, and I certainly did not know that Wuthering Heights is a great classical novel depicting one of the greatest fictional love stories. I am glad that I got to read this novel without any sort of pressure that this was a great and important book, and so on. I could really experience it without any prior knowledge about it, which is quite difficult with the classics nowadays, since there are so many adaptations available, and you hear or read about them everywhere, definitely in school. I have read the novel about four times in my life and I always experienced it the same way as I did the first time. Although I know now how important this novel is, and how many people love it and consider it to be their favourite novel, I still see it my way, with no extra baggage attached to it. The fact that I had a pure first reading experience makes this novel special to me.

It is not one of my favourite novels. I don’t think Catherine and Heathcliff’s love story is one of the greatest stories ever written. However, I truly like the novel and I like to return to it because of the general atmosphere that pervades it, and because it is so untypical. The emotions that the characters experience are raw and turbulent, just like the Yorkshire moors. Every description, every dialogue, every thought and every emotion are intense. Catherine and Heathcliff do not know compromises and they do and say everything in absolutes. They are extremes of humankind, with primal instincts, and that is what I love about the novel. It does not pretend, it does not even want to be liked; all you need to do is read it and experience it in your own way. The novel will want nothing in return. I rarely get this feeling with a novel, and I do with Wuthering Heights.

I do not like Heathcliff and Catherine. He is too cruel, brutal, vengeful and selfish, and she is spoiled and selfish. I do not like them, but I like their characters. I know my words probably make no sense at all, but this is the only way I can express my thoughts. I guess that what I want to say is that as people, Catherine and Heathcliff are obnoxious, especially in relation to other people, but together, they are great, as they truly are two compatible parts of the same soul. When they are together, especially before Heathcliff leaves the Heights, they show a sensitive human side in them. Even when Catherine is dead, Heathcliff is humane only when he is alone with her, in his thoughts or with her ghost. I would not want to meet either of them, but they are great to discuss. They are very complex and intriguing characters, definitely. I like to read about them because they make me experience things in a very primal, raw sort of way. Also, although I do not consider their story as one of the greatest love stories ever written, I consider it one of the most memorable and unique ones.

The Gothic atmosphere in the novel is incredible. If I really want to experience this novel, I read it in late autumn or in winter. Spring and summer seem too random for this novel, somehow. You need mists, and the silence of nature, and the mysterious, gloomy sights. Luckily for me, I live on the edge of a moor, so my reading experience feels really genuine. If I ever travel to Yorkshire, I am definitely taking this novel with me.

This novel is a must-read; not because of the romance (very dark romance at that), but because of the novel as a whole. It is a very special experience. It’s just the sort of novel you have to return to every few years, even if it’s not your favourite book.


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