Monday, August 5, 2013

Classics: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Initially, I didn't have much desire to read Wuthering Heights, simply because I'd heard some conflicting things about it that made me believe it wasn't for me. But when I fell in love with Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, I decided I must try to read everything by her and her sisters in hopes of finding more beloved favorites. Now, having finished the book, I'm recalling all those things about Wuthering Heights I kept hearing (mainly discussions of the character Heathcliff) before finally reading it. I don't know if I can agree with anything I've heard, except for the strangeness of Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship, how it created such mass chaos, and how both characters seemed so flawed.

In the beginning of the novel, I liked Heathcliff; I felt sorry for him, a gypsy orphan whose adopted family would never really love or care about him, except Catherine. That was where my internal conflict with this novel began - Cathy. I didn't like her. I found her spoiled and ridiculous, and I didn't understand fully why Heathcliff could love her. Cathy's general personality aside, it must be because she loved him even though her whole family seemed to truly loathe him. Of course, if the two were to marry, Cathy's family would never approve, causing her to break her own heart. Did she ever realize that by betraying herself, a miserable domino effect would take place upon those around her?

It was at that point that I had to take a break from reading this book. I couldn't pity Cathy for her self-destruction, and I couldn't pity Heathcliff for loving someone so irritating. I needed time to figure out how to empathize with these characters, for that was my only chance at seeing the tragedy at hand as a tragedy. While I still can't say I'm a fan of Catherine, I've come to accept her, to feel sorry for what happened to her and those around her. Her choices were a form of self-destruction, but her self-destruction was tragic. It was easier for me to see this as I continued to read about how wretched Heathcliff had become as well as how her daughter of the same name was affected later on.

I must say, I liked Catherine's daughter better than her even though I could certainly see how they were related. I can say the same about Heathcliff and his son. Still, I felt sorry for both sets of people all the same. This love story is a mess; it seems as if no one wins. The abused can become abusers, a refuge can become a prison, the dead can haunt someone's heart until the end. Only Catherine's daughter can find happiness in the end, when those who have shaped her life so profoundly are gone.

One element I ended up really enjoying in this novel include Mr. Lockwood's perspective, especially at the very end of the book. Having an outsider look at this story made it all the more haunting for me; I kept rereading the last two pages. But, another element, the paranormal additives, also helped enforce this. Emily Brontë really knew how to craft a gothic tale filled with drama and dread; it was inevitable that I'd come around.

But it's strange; I don't exactly know where Wuthering Heights stands with me. When I rated it on Goodreads, I wasn't sure to give it four stars or five, especially when at some point while I was reading, I thought I'd give it three. In the end, I gave it four, but the more I think about it, the more I want to give it five. I don't know if it's because I had issues with Cathy so much at some point, or if it's just simply because while I can't necessarily say it's a favorite of mine, I can't really say that it isn't either. But it is without a doubt a very special piece of fiction, and it has put an odd feeling in my heart... I'm not really sure what it is, but somehow, I think it's what Lockwood must've been feeling when he saw the gravestones.

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