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What is it about Wuthering Heights?

14 years ago

Wuthering Heights evokes such strong feelings: the readers who love it really love it; the readers who dislike it are equally opinionated. Those who can't get into it say such things as "it seems so hysterical" (nod to Vee and others in the 'If you were to read a classic...' thread).

I don't think I've ever run across anyone who has read WH who feels indifferent about it. I have known people who are completely put off reading it because of its reputation or, particularly, the excessive melodrama of the film adaptations of it. I would like to know more from RPers -- who always articulate things so well -- why you think (feel) the way you do about Wuthering Heights.

Comments (43)

  • 14 years ago

    Doesn't it divide up along the lines of women who love bad boys and women who don't?

  • 14 years ago

    I love a bad boy (on paper) as much as the next girl, but Heathcliff wasn't just bad, he was cruel and nasty and eventually insane, which I do not find attractive qualities. I think many women who declare their love for him are actually thinking about one or more of the actors who have portrayed him in more or less romantic movies, many of which glossed over or entirely left out his vindictiveness and cruelty.

    I am not one of WH's fans, but I don't hate it either. I enjoyed reading it, but detested most of the characters and would not read it again.

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  • 14 years ago

    I doubt if many of us 'love' it - there's nothing to love about it. But it is awesome! A writer friend describes it as 'blotting out the sun', it's so huge. I am fascinated by it; overwhelmed; besotted. It's elemental - almost pure passion. Cathy says 'I am Heathcliffe' and they were, indeed, two of a kind. After Cathy's death, Heathcliffe says something like, if he were dead and in his separate grave, his corpse would scrabble through the earth until it found hers. Ugh! But it's about enormous, unconsummated passion (Emily was a virgin and a solitary woman but obviously with a lot of frustrations) and the two of them just wanted to be one - and one with the moorland and the heather. In many ways, it's more like a poem than a novel and, as with a great poem, you can never get to the bottom of it but it stays with you forever. There's nothing so beautiful in English Literature as the last paragraph: Mr Lockwood, wandering through the graveyard one evening, says,

    'I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells; listened to the soft wind breathing throughthe grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.'

    Oh, the pure, poetic balance of those last 9 words!

    Yes, they were pretty horrible people (the boy, Hareton (or Hindley) hanging the puppies from their necks from the backs of chairs!) - either horrible or totally ineffectual, like the Lintons and Mr Lockwood. But they weren't real characters - they were elementals. Emily herself could be a pretty violent woman, as when she beat her dog most cruelly because it defied her after she told it repeatedly not to sleep on the beds. Charlotte, of course, couldn't come to terms with all. She didn't approve and she would have smothered it before it was published, if she could have.

    As to Heathcliffe, I doubt if he counts as simply a 'bad boy', though he was a 'hero' (or main protagonist) after the Byronic kind and many women fell for Byron, of course. I couldn't cope with Heathcliffe and I think most of us would think that Cathy was welcome to him. But it doesn't stop us from being utterly fascinated by the whole thing.

    Cathy says, ''I dreamt that I died and went to heaven. And I was so unhappy that the angels were angry and they threw me out and I landed on top of Wuthering Heights, where I awoke, sobbing for joy.' (some might be slightly paraphrased)

    Oh, the scene where Lockwood sleeps the night at W.H. and he hears the tapping at the window and the little voice saying 'Heathcliffe, it's me I'm Cathy I've come home..... I've been away for 20 years.....' I won't tell you what Lockwood does, in case you're off to read the book, but it's quite startling and typically violent.

    Incidentally, it's a really badly constructed books, for one which is counted as one of the world's greatest. The second generation bit never quite gels with the...

  • 14 years ago

    "they weren't real characters - they were elementals" Provoking an epiphany here, Dido. You make me want to reread. I always enjoy what you have to say, but this wows me.

  • 14 years ago

    Netla, you come closest to neutrality of all the WH readers I've known; yet you aren't completely neutral. Yeah, I think you can always tell which WH admirers have only watched the films: they misinterpret Heathcliff and Cathy, particularly -- or rather, they interpret the screenwriters' misinterpretations instead of the characters and their motivations as presented in the book.

    Chris, I think there's some truth to the women who love bad boys and women who don't observation; yet I can't say my attraction to WH applies in that sense. I don't like bad boys, yet I do find them fascinating (from afar or as Netla says, 'on paper'). I'm fascinated with murderers but I damned sure don't want to know any intimately. Dido has already stated it more eloquently than I ever could.

    Dido, I think the toughest part of explaining my 'love' for WH -- and I do love it -- is not having a character to like and identify with. I do like Nelly Dean, although she's not altogether admirable -- witness how she pinched young Heathcliff and called him "it" -- but I have never really identified with her. However, to those readers who lament that there's no one to like in WH, I really don't have an answer. Personally, I don't think it's necessary, but apparently some readers do require it.
    In many ways, it's more like a poem than a novel and, as with a great poem, you can never get to the bottom of it but it stays with you forever.Just as Chris had something of an epiphany with the 'elementalness' of the characters, I think this likening of WH to a poem is my breakthrough moment. Thank you for your passionate description, Dido.

  • 14 years ago

    I can't add much to the excellent postings here, but thought this link from August 2007 might be interesting - although it does not really assist in the "What is it about Wuthering Heights?" debate. (My first time posting a link - hope it works!_ I might just try reading the book again with the posting in this topic in mind.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Emily Brontë hits the heights in poll to find greatest love story

  • 14 years ago

    stoneangel, it's a most interesting link -- thank you. But ach! to this:recounting the doomed affair between sweet Cathy Earnshaw and the brutal outsider Heathcliff...[my emphasis]Sweet! Cathy, sweet? I wonder if Mr. Wainwright has read the book or is relying on some filmwatcher's misinformation.

    I don't think Wuthering Heights is on my list of greatest love stories. I don't consider it a true love story -- it's a story of obsession.

  • 14 years ago

    I first read WH when I was 14 and after I had fallen in love with Jane Eyre. I liked it a lot and credit it with my future love of gothic romances. My best friend and fellow book lover, however, didn't like it at all. (But, then, she turned out to be a sci fi fan.) At that time, I found Heathcliff very romantic; but at that age, what did I know?

    I've seen movies of it, but it has been a long time since I've read the book. I, too, think I need to reread it. I did enjoy H: The Story of Heathcliff's Years away from the Moor or something like that. It's a spoof of both WH and JE.

  • 14 years ago

    stoneangel, it would be interesting to know what question was asked for the 'greatest love story' list. As it was set-up by a TV company I suppose it is not surprising that nearly all the works chosen would have first been seen on TV/film. I'm sure very few people would have heard of let alone read Daniel Deronda and some, such as 'My Fair Lady' are not books.
    Despite Dido's impassioned plea I don't think I'll be able to finish WH . . . unless it was the only book left in the house.
    I wonder did Emily write it after Charlotte's work became well-known and if it was some story that she had mulled around in her poor tubercular mind and needed to put onto paper? Frieda do you know the 'background' to this book?

  • 14 years ago

    Vee, it's been a while since I read Juliet Barker's bio The Brontes and Lucasta Miller's The Bronte Myth (among others about the sisters), but as I recall Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were knocking their heads together after the publishing failure of their collection of poems and they decided to each write a novel. Charlotte's first attempt was The Professor, but it was considered a dud and was rejected by all the publishers to whom she sent it. Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey were accepted by a rather unscrupulous publisher, and while they were being readied for publication, Charlotte had to tend her father after his cataract operation. To pass her time, she scrapped trying to rewrite The Professor and sudden inspiration hit her, the result being Jane Eyre. So the answer is no, WH came before JE.

    As for Emily mulling over WH: it probably grew out of her Gondal fantasies (the imaginary kingdom she and Anne dreamed up and embroidered together). Only the poetry from Gondal has survived, but it can be inferred that the goings-on there were rather wild. Emily was still 'playing at Gondal' even into her late twenties, long after Anne only half-heartedly participated -- just to appease Emily, apparently. The sisters, as well as Branwell, had had 'scribblemania' (as they called their writing) since childhood. They all were steeped in the Romantics -- e.g. Walter Scott and Byron -- and Emily, particularly, took an interest in the Gothic movement (Hoffmann, etc.); she took German at the Pensionnat Heger so she could read the Gothics untranslated.

    What little is known about Emily's personality and habits is filtered through Charlotte's perceptions, and frankly Charlotte wasn't always forthcoming -- perhaps she was overprotective, perhaps she was jealous. Whichever, it seems she really didn't understand Emily so she managed to mess up Emily's writing by 'editing' it. Luckily for us, some of the damage Charlotte did has since been undone by scholars, but there's no telling what else she destroyed.

  • 14 years ago

    If Emily, as you write, was caught up in the work of E.T.A. Hoffmann, that says a lot to me about her subsequent style....

  • 14 years ago

    Oh, I was so sorry to see this thread. For the very selfish reason that I was going to start it myself in a few weeks.

    I just read Wuthering Heights for the first time since girlhood, as preparation for an upcoming and much anticipated trip to Yorkshire. I have several thoughts on this topic but no time to write now. I will be looking forward to checking in when I return. Will miss your good discussion in the meantime.

  • 14 years ago

    Like Carolyn, I read this as a young teen, when every hour was a lifetime and every day an eternity. I saw only the lifetime devotion. All else was inconsequential.

    Other than establishing a lifetime obsession, I sometimes wonder if my early reading was a total waste of time. I was enough advanced in my reading skills to take on "important" books, but too inexperienced to understand beyond the first layer. Now I feel they must be re-read to claim them. My pride of wide and deep reading is washing away.

  • 14 years ago

    Woodnymph, heh! Perhaps it's the Hoffmann connection that gives me an affinity for Emily's style. My grandmother read out loud The Tales of E.T.A. Hoffmann, in German, to me and other grandkids. The Deutsch didn't take with me, but the atmosphere sure did although I only half understood the tales. Actually, as I analyze my reactions to Wuthering Heights more closely, I think its the atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere that appeals most to me. I've always been quite taken with the topography of that part of Yorkshire -- in fact, the fellow in stoneangel's link, who said it was "the grimmest part of England with the worst weather" couldn't put me off, in the least.

    Ginny, I'm sorry I jumped the gun on you! Do enjoy Yorkshire and return to let us know if you find a part of Wuthering Heights's atmosphere there. If this thread is no longer around, please start another -- WH is evergreen, in a sense, and can always be discussed from an entirely different direction of emphasis.
    I was enough advanced in my reading skills to take on "important" books, but too inexperienced to understand beyond the first layer. Now I feel they must be re-read to claim them.Chris, that's profound. I imagine that experience has smacked quite a number of us upside the head.

    Vee, out of curiosity, do you happen to recall which part in WH you reached when you decided enough already? I don't want to dredge up a painful experience, but I wonder if it's a place that I've heard others complain about.

    And OH! this drives me bananas: It's so hard not to give the wrong impression of WH while trying to discuss it. We readers tear it to pieces, we praise it to the rafters, we mock it, we get thoroughly maudlin...what else? Oh, Emily Bronte, you had no idea.

  • 14 years ago

    I was joking, Friedag, about the thread being started "ahead of time". This thread will certainly be around for more than a few weeks. I wonder if actually being on the moors will affect my reaction to the book....

    As one point was raised, I would like to chime in now. I think we have all had the experience of re-reading a classic and being startled about how different it seems at 40, 50, 60 than age 15. But I don't think that's a bad thing or that we wasted our time as teenagers or 20-somethings.

    We evolve, we grow. It is a gift to be able to bring our ever-growing selves to a work of art--literature or otherwise--as the years move on. And it is good to experience a work of art from those different points of view.

    The first time I had this experience was with Madame Bovary. I had read it in college and enjoyed it but really didn't get it. I read it again when I was 30, and what a different reaction--the book stunned me with its power and I always remember thinking that it was remarkable that a man could capture a woman's inner life so well.

  • 14 years ago

    Friedag, I think you're absolutely right about "filmwatcher's misinformation", it's been years since I've read it but I certainly don't recall a "sweet Cathy". As Veer brought up about my link, perhaps it is the film/tv adaptations that people are recalling.

    One thing that was mentioned in the link is the enjoyment of stories with "near-fatal misunderstandings". Could that be a key with this book? Is it the unfortunate reactions to actions and/or statements improperly or only half overheard that gets the reader so involved in this story? Perhaps in this book it would be "fatal" rather than "near-fatal misunderstandings".

    Or, and I may be restating what has already been said, and with Dido's wonderful "they weren't real characters - they were elementals" in mind, perhaps it's the fascination (or, in my case, repulsion) with the main characters' selfishness, pettiness and pride which are over the top and without adequate reason/motivation. All that unrestrained emotion!

    Two interesting quotes from the Afterword of my library's copy of Wuthering Heights (I am going to try the book again): "[The] emotions of Healthcliff and Catherine...function differently to other emotions in fiction. Instead of inhabiting the characters, they surround them like thunderclouds, and generate the explosions that fill the novel." (E.M. Forster) and "It is as if she [Emily Bronte] could tear up all that we know human beings by, and fill these unrecognizable transparences with such a gust of life that they transcend reality...She could free life from its dependence on facts..." (Virginia Woolfe)

  • 14 years ago

    Very good, stoneangel! We (or more probably Dido with her excellent summation) have roped you into taking another look. Of course I'm looking forward to reading what you think and post about it -- positive or negative.

    Well, the "near-fatal misunderstanding" thing often exasperates me. There is that instance in WH when Heathcliff overhears Cathy telling Nelly about her and Edgar, but he lights out in a pique -- to disappear for three years! -- before Cathy says why she's doing it. Even if that hadn't happened something else would have, because Cathy had designs. It does further the story, I suppose, but whether it was the key...I don't know.

    Thinking about "they weren't real characters - they were elementals": I am not sure I agree (except in the sense of Heathcliff and Cathy being elements of the ground they walked and were eventually buried in). While I was doing a bit of rereading, it struck me how good the dialogue is, though it's illogical that Nelly would recall it word for word. I'm reading but it's almost as if I'm actually hearing the exchanges: these characters seem too real to me, in spite of their overreactions.
    the main characters' selfishness, pettiness and pride which are over the top and without adequate reason/motivation.Sounds like real people again, to me -- lots of real people have equally inscrutable reasons and motives. I'm not really arguing with you, stoneangel, I'm just pondering the ideas you've presented.

    Interesting quotes from Forster and Woolf: they indicate those writers' attitudes toward WH, but again I don't think they hit my spot. All readers must have their own peculiar spots. ;-)

  • 14 years ago

    I spent a few days in Yorkshire myself on a trip to England about a month ago. I didn't think about going to the Brontë Museum in West Yorkshire until we ran out of time. (I did visit the town in East Yorkshire where my father's family came from many generations ago.) If I'd thought of it, I could have allowed an extra day. I do most heartily recommend York and Yorkshire to anyone planning a trip to England. We enjoyed our visit immensely.

    I don't think anyone could top what Dido said. What a compelling summary of this novel's power! I would add that for me personally there is a fascination in considering the woman who created this novel. Somehow it doesn't seem possible that a person who lived such a narrow life could have had such a vision of the world. I can see Anne and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I can see Charlotte and Jane Eyre. But when I look at Emily and her book, my imagination just fails me.


  • 14 years ago

    'I wonder if the moors will affect my reaction to the book'

    Ginny, I lived in Haworth for 17 years and I would say that those moors are more Emily than they are Charlotte or Anne. They are bleak and wild - just like W.H. itself. Haworth is fascinating, with its cobbled Main street leading up to the Parsonage (museum) and the church where Charlotte and Emily are buried (Anne lies in Scarborough where she died) - not to mention The Black Bull pub where Branwell used to drink (now changed completely inside!). I lived at the bottom of Main Street, near the Old Hall pub - a beautiful, stone building which would have been there in their time.

    I loved Haworth. Many's the early morning I'd walk up and sit outside the Parsonage, looking at the moors. The graveyard edges onto fields bordering the moors and I used to imagine Cathy's grave just inside the wall, in hallowed ground, and Heathcliffe's just the other side, in the wild. In a way, those two were more 'real' to me than were the sisters themselves. The Bronte Society had a house up Main Street and once, when I was working (to a deadline) on a commissioned script, and couldn't work at home for the noise of building-work going on outside, they lent me a room in the attic of the house where I spent 3 blissful weeks, overlooking the church on the other side of the road. When I finished and said goodbye to the kind people who ran the place, they said they'd miss me. 'Why?' I said, 'You never saw me.' Something to do with a perceive link between the spirits of dead writers and living ones, they said. I was moved.

    Yes, the moors are Emily. You've got to go to the ruined Top Withins which is supposed to have been the inspiration for W.H. Ponden Hall was apparently the Lintons' place (can't remember the name); and if you go across the moors to Lancashire, you'll find a village called Wycoller where the Big House was apparently Charlotte's inspiration for Thornfield Hall - or one of the houses in Jane Eyre. Oh but the weather in Haworth is also W.H.ish. Many's the time I can remember the snow coming down in the winter, so fast and furious that buses halfway up the bypass would get stuck on the hill (all hills in Haworth), sometime slewing sideways, blocking the road.

    Another literary link, though more modern, is with the original film of The Railway Children which was shot all around, particularly along the Worth Valley Railway. The cast used to gather at The Fleece pub, halfway down Main Street, after shooting and there used to be a whole lot of photographs of them at work - until someone stole the lot! Bernard Cribbins, in the film, actually has an ad lib - 'See you in the Fleece'.

    Give my love to the place when you go there. If you park in the main, Quarry car park, go right to the top part and walk across the lane behind the Black Bull and into the churchyard, looking down on Haworth and beyond as you go. Have a wonderful time.


  • 14 years ago

    This thread is as interesting to read as any we've ever enjoyed here, IMHO. I had not realized one of my favorites, "Railway Children" had a Yorkshire setting. As for novels set in the "bleakest part" of England, it is surprising to think of "The Secret Garden" having the same landscape, which to me was so enchanting, when I read it as a child. (When I think of Yorkshire, I think of wildflowers and animals on the moors). But, on the other hand, Ted Hughes, poet husband of Sylvia Plath, came from Yorkshire , and when she visited his family, Plath, coming from an American background, found his family to have a rather dark point of view....

  • 14 years ago

    I don't think the book of The Railway Children was set in Yorkshire, the film co. just used the Worth Valley Railway as a good example of what a Victorian/Edwardian line would have been like.
    Yorkshire is the biggest county in England and its people are very proud of it (rather as I imagine Texans are about their state) so there are wide varieties of scenery. I have enjoyed the Dales and the coast has some ancient and interesting towns and fishing villages.
    Probably the bleakest landscapes today are those areas of the ex heavy industry and mining in the south.

  • 14 years ago

    Dido, you make me want to go to Haworth again. I've been there several times, even a few times in winter which I like because of the different feel from the summer tourist season. Many Americans though don't get to (or want to) travel when the weather might not be agreeable enough.

    It's quite a myth that Emily's life was narrow. Blame Charlotte and Mrs Gaskell for starting that ball rolling. Charlotte did it to mitigate criticism of Emily and Mrs Gaskell was rather typical in thinking that Yorkshire, and Haworth particularly, was in back of beyond and a poor clergyman's daughters had little opportunity for culture and sophisticated intellects. Baloney. However, the myth continues to be propagated, perhaps because it's so appealing: Reserved, reclusive girl writes shocking novel. Such a puzzler! How could she?

    Actually, Emily left Haworth for a few bouts of schooling, but even her home tutoring (along with her siblings) was added to by art and music masters hired by Patrick. She taught at Law Hill School. She and Anne took a railway jaunt to the seashore ('playing at Gondal' as much as possible). She and Charlotte took in London before they crossed over to Belgium where Emily spent about ten months in Brussels at the Pensionnat Heger. She and Charlotte returned to Haworth because their Aunt Branwell died. Thereafter, Emily stayed home at the parsonage because she wanted to.

    And something else, equally important I think: Emily and her sisters and brother were inveterate readers and they apparently liked 'to cuss and discuss' what they read. Emily had plenty of opportunity to develop her imagination and so she did. That she preferred home and solitude seems to be what gets the goat of some, and because she remains shadowy in personality, it's easier to project on to her whatever fantasy suits the individual reader, age, and culture -- some of which are absolute howlers and others are darned entertaining, in my opinion, but they aren't really Emily. Instead Emily has become the myth. Much like, in some minds, Wuthering Heights is such-and-such film version, not the book.

  • 14 years ago


    - Like some people wonder how Shakespeare can have written the plays and known all that with him not even having gone to university........I met Juliet Barker once - she used to come for extended stays when she was working on Emily's biography. Splendid book that, but you remember it better than I do.

    I think that maybe Haworth suits the Winter more than the Summer season because it's quite a dour little place. It's certainly become very touristy now, with most of the shops selling the same old useless rubbish - one of the several reasons we moved away. When I first went to live there, in 1983, near the museum there was a real butcher's shop, a newsagent, a Post Office a book shop, a greengrocer but most of those have gone Towards the last, it was only in January or February, walking up Main Street at 11.00am, that I felt the village had been given back to us residents; then, at Easter, it was taken over again by visitors from all over the world.

  • 14 years ago

    Ah yes, tourism is both boon and bane. It's understandable that visitors (tourist that I am) want to see and 'connect', if they can, with places they've long heard about. It's equally understandable (resident as I am of an area that gets throngs of tourists) that locals want to make some money off the hordes and perhaps stick 'em in the eyes for disrupting the traditional equilibrium. I don't know if there's an answer, perhaps there's only forbearance.

    The Shakespeare 'trade' has kept me away from Stratford because I don't seem to ever be in the vicinity during the off- or off-off season which I would prefer. I almost made it there once but got caught in traffic, so as soon as I could I detoured. I did get lucky visiting Kenilworth, arriving just before the gates closed. The setting sun was reflected in the lake (former moat?) along with the mirror image of the ruined castle. My companion and I pretty much had the place to ourselves. I loved it until a graffito intruded on my vision, but as I inspected it closer I noticed the defacer had included a date: 1718. For some reason, I recall that more clearly than anything else about John of Gaunt's house.

    Since no one has mentioned a particular bit that put her off WH (a book-slamming-shut moment) -- though I had hoped Vee would -- I will relate that I've heard many people say "the dream" of Mr Lockwood was what did them in. Actually I can't remember my first impression of that passage -- and rereading it will never give the same feeling -- so I don't quite know why it should be so visceral for some. Is it really that bad? And if it is, why do you think so?

  • 14 years ago

    I read WH twice, just to make sure that I disliked the book and found/find it very overrated. It seems to appeal especially to those with a taste for the lurid and excessive.

    Of course, Heathcliff is a "bad boy", but Cathy Earnshaw is hardly a pleasant character either. When I read the book, I came to the distasteful conclusion that both are abnormal people. A friend of mine takes it one step further, arguing that though both are unpleasant characters separately, when brought together, both become sociopaths. They feel justified in doing anything to anyone whenever they're together. Luckily Cathy dies before they turn into Brady and Hindley.

    They're are some poetic moments in the book, especially at the end when blessedly both of the main characters are dead.

    Juliet Barker's group biography of the Bronte family is the best I've ever read, though it is hardly flattering to Charlotte. No doubt she was a great artist, but was nonetheless a rather drab and bigoted person in life. Her attitude to her siblings suggest a neurotic and vindictive control freak. Her suppression of work from her two sisters really does seem fueled by jealousy. On a lighter note, it's no surprise that Charlotte was not an admirer of Jane Austen's writing, since Bronte seems to have had absolutely no sense of humour.

  • 14 years ago

    I was another who did not enjoy Wuthering Heights. Nothing was lucid. It was like a feverish dream. Not quite a nightmare, but unpleasant enough to make one not wish to repeat it.

    Emily magnified natural human emotions so much that they became quite unrealistic. She forgot that humans have reasoning and a sense of right and wrong to balance out those human passions. The characters of Wuthering Heights became too animalistic to be reasonable; they were raw, unfettered emotions in human bodies.

    I suppose the lack of realism is what I do not care for in the Bronte sisters work overall. I do love Jane Eyre, and thought The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was fairly good.
    I do think it is interesting how the sisters were influenced by their surroundings, which made their writing 'elemental'. I never really thought about it until long after I read WH. I read a short story that talked about how climate/location influencs ones behavior, which I found very interesting.

  • 14 years ago

    Freidag, thanks for starting such an interesting thread; I am really enjoying reading everyone's posts!

    As I hope to attempt re-reading this book over the next little while, I shall let you know if there are any book-slamming-shut moments...

  • 14 years ago

    It seems to appeal especially to those with a taste for the lurid and excessive.My, oh my, timallan, I guess then I have a taste for the 'lurid and excessive'. Perhaps so because I instantly recognized that other infamous Yorkshire pair of Ian & Myra, having read more about them than I need have. Funny that the name Hindley figures for both sets.

    Yes, Heathcliff seems to have been abnormal in a sociopathic way; but Cathy, besides being selfish and manipulative, seems rather "normal" -- though unlikeable -- until she becomes entirely unhinged. I wonder if it was her pregnancy that triggered the nastiness. Of course Victorian writers were coy about pregnancy until out of the blue, plop! a kid's born. I realize now there are some hints, but I recall on my first reading of being shocked by young Catherine's birth. But the pregnancy thing is quite eerie, knowing what happened later to Charlotte in real life, though her problem wasn't mental. But then it's quite absurd really to speculate about the "real" cause of a fictional character's madness. Ah! Why not? See, I said the characters were a bit too real to me.

    Timallan, am I guessing correctly that you are no fan of Charlotte? :-) Well, Charlotte's modern biographers are not as enamored with her as Mrs Gaskell was. Even the most sympathetic, such as Lyndall Gordon's Charlotte Bronte: A Passionate Life, acknowledge that she spent an awful lot of time whingeing. My reading of the various bios has had an accumulative effect, I'm afraid: Charlotte has lost a lot of my favor and Emily is confounding. For the past few years my admiration for Anne has grown to the point that I am thoroughly irked about her frequent diminution.
    The characters of Wuthering Heights became too animalistic to be reasonable; they were raw, unfettered emotions in human bodies.CMK, do you think that might have been Emily's point all along?

    It occurs to me that Emily's 'feverish' characters and episodes have their counterparts in Jane Eyre -- e.g. the Red Room episode; Jane saving Rochester in his burning bed...well, all the Bertha scenes, actually; and the 'celestial telegram'.

    CMK, not only do surroundings influence writers and climates/locales affect behaviors, I'm firmly convinced there are natural -- perhaps genetic -- proclivities. Geographic Determinism is out of vogue presently, or rather it's being modified to include all sorts of other features besides the classical effect of agriculture on societal and individual behavior. Fascinating stuff.

  • 14 years ago

    " you think that might have been Emily's point all along?"

    Quite possibly. But I tend to think she was a repressed young woman who 'vented' her frustrations by writing this work. She was able to let her fantasies run unchecked in fiction where she could not in reality.

    Although Jane Eyre felt rather theatrical at times, it did seem more grounded to me. It was lucid. Unlike WH, the characters and ideas presented in Jane Eyre were better outlined so as to make them tangible. I don't know how to explain it...I have such a hard time in putting things the right way.

    Oh, I find it interesting too! I have been thinking a lot about those subjects lately. I read two books that introduced me to the idea of behaviors and tendencies often being hereditary. Having given it some thought, I tend to agree, at least to some degree.

  • 14 years ago

    Frieda, I, too, have an interest in Geographic Determinism. I am going to jump in and remind everyone that Yorkshire is the part of England that was most heavily settled by Vikings early on. In fact, York, was anciently known as Jorvik, and there are a good number of Viking remnants there to be seen. Would you want to speculate whether this had any influence on the "wild" character of the personas? Or am I going out on a limb....

  • 14 years ago

    Friedag, my reply was a bit "tongue-in-cheek" though I am no admirer of Wuthering Heights. The book does exert a strange fascination for some readers. I'd never thought of the "Hindley" reference. What a strange coincidence. Is it a common name in Yorkshire?

    I didn't have much of a response to Heathcliff one way or the other. I was much more intrigued by Catherine. I remembered that thinking that her mockery of Isabella Linton was not only an expression of her own jealousy, but also an attempt to shake some sense into a rather silly person who was about to make a terrible mistake.

    Your comments about Catherine's pregnancy were interesting too. My own reaction to her death in childbirth was surprisingly uncharitable. She seems like such a robust, powerful character, so her death giving birth to her first (and only) child seems anticlimactic.

    Charlotte Bronte was a great artist, my favourite of her works being Villette. In life, however, she was not a particularly nice nor good person. Oh well, who said artists had to be perfect?

  • 14 years ago

    Frieda, you asked how far I had got with WH before I gave up on it. Probably less than 100 pages of very small print ( a cheap and nasty paperback) I know it really makes me look shallow to give up so quickly and it is still sitting, dust-covered, by the bed.
    I have never heard of 'Geographic Determinism' (what a lot I learn here) but would think any bad influences the Vikings may have brought to Yorkshire had worn off in the ensuing thousand years.
    What CMK says about WH being like a feverish dream is very interesting. Am I right in understanding ALL the Brontes were consumptive? I don't know much about TB except what I read in 'The Plague and I' by that well-known Pacific Coast writer. Fever and over-active sexual 'urges' seem to be characteristics of this disease. Perhaps this story comes straight from Emily's over-active and uninhibited subconscious.

  • 14 years ago

    Unlike WH, the characters and ideas presented in Jane Eyre were better outlined so as to make them tangible. I don't know how to explain it...I have such a hard time in putting things the right way.On the contrary, CMK, I think you explain it very well. I think the difference between WH and JE for me is Charlotte gave readers a rational, sensible anchor in the character of her protagonist Jane. Emily didn't supply such an anchor -- not in a main character anyway -- and this loss of a literary convention makes us feel uneasy.

    A light bulb moment: It just occurred to me that the structure and some of the character obsessions of The Great Gatsby greatly resemble that of Wuthering Heights. I'm sure this is not original to me, though -- possibly I heard or read it somewhere I've forgotten. However, having read both several times, I should have noticed long ago.

    Timallan, Isabella certainly was silly in her early infatuation but at least she had the gumption to flee from Heathcliff once she realized what he was doing. There's another oddity about Catherine/Cathy, senior: Edgar undeniably loved her; Isabella seems to have liked her until they got in conflict over Heathcliff and she was sad when Cathy died; and even Hindley in his alcoholic fog had some sense of affection for his sister. But I don't think we are ever told why this was so; were we?

    Vee, the two eldest daughters, Maria and Elizabeth, died of consumption, as well as Emily and Anne. It's less certain that Branwell was consumptive since his main problem was drink. As for Charlotte: whether she had TB is debatable. Mrs Bronte, the mother, died of cancer (uterine probably). Patrick was a hypochondriac who lived well into his eighties. Consumption was a very common disease in nineteenth-century Yorkshire, as well as in other parts of England. That its manifestations of fever and over-active sexual 'urges' could have caused Emily to write without inhibitions -- well, it's unknowable really about Emily, but if the disease did excite such unrestraint, I wonder why there wasn't a veritable torrent of creativity from other consumptives. Come to think of it: many writers have had TB. Hmm.

    I saved the toughie, Geographic Determinism, for last because it can be a minefield. Some of the worst racists of the last couple of centuries were proponents of certain aspects. Yet some of the ideas and theories are worthy and should be rethought...and renamed.

    The Viking/Scandinavian history of Yorkshire: Woodnymph, it is fascinating. The genetic component is still very much present. Since I can't recall the details off the top of my head, I will make a couple of recommendations: Blood of the Isles (aka Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland) by Bryan Sykes and Origins of the British by Stephen Oppenheimer. The former is a breezy overview of the science from the fellow who did the DNA extraction from the molar of 'Cheddar Man'. The...

  • 14 years ago

    Hi, I dropped in from another forum to see if there were any discussions here about Wuthering Heights. I was pleased to find this one right on the first page and WOW, it is very enlightening.

    I read W.H. as a teen. I did. I swear I did. But I read it again recently and found I remembered it all wrong. I must be one of those who remembers the movies best. It is aggravating when a movie replaces my mental pictures of a book but that seems to be the way my mind works.:(

    I thought I loved W.H. but I have to say that re-reading it after so many years the bubble burst. I still find the story facsinating but I do not see anything romantic about it.

    Anyway, judging by just this one thread I think this forum is one I definitely want to peruse. Thanks to all of you.

  • 14 years ago

    Hello, Lydia, and welcome. Glad you've found Reader's Paradise and to know that you enjoyed this thread. RPers are true blue readers so I think you will find lots of interesting discussions -- if it's readable, an RPer has either already read it or will be onto it pronto.It is aggravating when a movie replaces my mental pictures of a book but that seems to be the way my mind works.I have the same problem if I see the film before I've read the book, but not so much the other way round. I could see forty-three versions of Jane Eyre and not be bothered -- my mental visuals are still from the book though I have enjoyed nearly all the films. I think I've seen three (or four) versions of Wuthering Heights and none of them made much of an impression because they just never seemed to fit what I remembered. On the other hand, I saw the film of Doctor Zhivago first and it forever ruined the book for me.

    I'm sorry that rereading WH was disappointing to you, or was it? Maybe you aren't disappointed -- I may be misinterpreting. Fascinating, yes, but 'romantic' could be variously interpreted, I think. Which reminds me:

    I've never forgotten how a professor once illustrated the difference between a romanticist and a classicist. The former is epitomized by:

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door Â
    Only this, and nothing more." (Poe of course)

    The same tale from a classicist would go something like this:

    I stayed up the other night doing some reading until I dozed off. I woke when this tapping commenced at the door. I got up and opened the door, but nobody or nothing was there. I thought I must have dreamed it, but as soon as I sat back down the tapping started up at the window. I opened the window to have this damned blackbird fly into the room. It lighted on this statue above the doorsill. I tried to shoo it off and out the still-open window, but it wouldn't budge and kept up a racket of squawking -- sounded like 'Nevermore, nevermore'. Infernal bird. I took up a shotgun from my case and blasted it to smithereens. Made a helluva mess.

  • 14 years ago

    Freidag-thank you for the welcome.

    I was not disapointed. I did have my eyes opened.

    LOL! May I retract my statement about "nothing romantic"? I was thinking of the mushy kind of romance in sentimental love stories or chick-lit. Your professor's illustration is terrific. It clears up my fuzzy thinking. I wish I had heard it described that way when I was in school. I am definitely a "romanticist"-my hub is definitely a classicist.

    Also I find your idea about parallels in Great Gatsby/Wuthering Heights thought-provoking. I never thought of it before either,but it does seem obvious now that I know to look.

  • 14 years ago


    I've never actually read WH. (Though I have read Jane Eyre, and enjoyed it. Girl book, though...)

    I think I'm going to have to line it up next.

  • 14 years ago

    I just read in the 'what's coming on TV soon' column of the paper that ITV's new production of Wuthering Heights will be shown in the UK later in the year and that it has already been 'aired' in the US.
    Did anyone see it?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Wuthering Heights

  • 14 years ago

    -Friedag, love your example of romanticist vs. classicist. I am a total clasicist. ;-)

    -Veer, you are talking about the one with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff, right? I saw it several months ago. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It really helped me to understand some things I did not 'get' in the book; it put an outline to those ideas. And actually seeing the characters (actors I mean) facial expressions and movement helped to make the story realistic. The acting was good too. I think Tom Hardy was wonderful as Heathcliff. The one thing I have against it was the costume for Cathy. I know they were trying to make her look like a wild, windswept woman of the moors, but it didn't come across that way. Her 'moorish' costumes looked more like a modern 'organic chic' than anything else.

    OT, but am I the only one that thinks Tom Hardy would play a great Oscar Wilde?

  • 14 years ago

    Frieda and Vee,

    I worked with Charlotte Riley who plays Cathy, about 6 months ago: she played the lead in my last radio dramatisation. What a superb, innovative, intelligent actress she is - I think you heard that production, Vee. I wouldn't normally give tuppence for yet another 'visual' of W.H. because nobody can capture it to my liking, but I'll tune into this one to see what Charlotte makes of it.

    Pursuant to joining in this thread, I was enticed to look at W.H. again, and it wasn't long before I found myself re-reading the whole thing after many years. That was a couple of weeks ago - and it is still with me; it's haunting me. It's amazing, vivid, beautiful, awful, huge, takes your breath away and whether you 'like' it or not, you cannot deny its greatness and its place as one of the Great Books of the world. I haven't time to write a longer critique here - I wish I did. I hope you enjoy it, Martin, and I envy you coming to it for the first time. And, incidentally Martin, you say of Jane Eyre, 'girl book though....' - yes, I suppose the 'romantic' part is that - between Jane and Rochester. But the character of Jane herself is far more than 'girlie' - she's one of the hardest, most real, gutsy, brave protagonists in literature. What a childhood! Being locked in the Red Room; suffering that terrible school (a very real picture - and Charlotte went to the school it was based on); a victim at the hands of the most hypocritical being in English literature - Mr Brocklehurst - what a fiend! Of the whole of the novel, the picture of the school and of him in particular strike me as realistic and quite horrendous.


  • 14 years ago

    dido, sorry not to get back sooner but am just getting over a house full of visitors and trying to entertain them when it rains every day has been hard work . . . to say nothing of drying all the sheets & towels (to US RP'ers, we quaint UK'ers tend to dry stuff on a washing line)

    I'll look out for Charlotte Ripley. She did a good job in 'your' drama; not an easy or sympathetic part to play.

    Frieda and other Bronte lovers, I just heard the writer Jude Morgan talk about his latest novel The Taste of Sorrow dealing with the Brontes. I enjoyed his book on the romantic poets and this comes well recommended.

    Also Villette is being serialised on the BBC for two weeks for anyone who can pick up Radio 4.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Villette

  • 14 years ago

    Well, I will watch any production of WH: good, bad, or indifferent; I'm that much of a sucker sometimes. I'm not familiar with this new set of actors -- I'm afraid these younger ones all look and sound alike to me, which just shows how I'm not up to date or trying to keeping track.

    Vee, I'll give the Morgan book a try. I have read some good fiction with Brontes as characters, and some not so good -- Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother by Douglas A. Martin didn't do a thing for me.

    Well, I can't get Radio 4 to listen to the serial. Has there been a TV or movie production of Villette? I've never seen one. It seems peculiar that Jane Eyre and WH have been done to death but Villette is ignored.

  • 14 years ago

    I am very pleased to find this forum about Wuthering Heights, as I have just finished reading it for the first time, and find myself blown away by it. Not so much by the book itself, but more by my intense reaction to it. During the course of my reading, I continuously found myself wanting to express my thoughts with someone else because of how intense and shocking I found its contents. I canÂt say that I "love" the book or "hate" it. I canÂt really bring myself to say that I hate any book at all.
    I put off reading Wuthering Heights, because I had never had a desire to read it before. I think because of its reputation and film adaptations (which I have never seen, but whose trailers made me think twice about picking up the book) made me hesitant to read it at all. However, I finally buckled and am very pleased that I did. I really identify with the description of it as poetry because the atmosphere of the book for me makes it so. Heathcliff is not a character that I can come close to comprehending due to his never-ending hatred, cruelty, and penchant for revenge. Catherine may be just as evil in her own way, but I could see more human character in her. Her passion and obsession ruled her decisions completely, but in a more realistic fashion.
    The jury is still out for me on whether I will love the book or not. I will have to read it again to overcome the initial reaction to see what I will take from it again. Either way, it is a powerful and intense book that definitely left its mark on me. Bravo to its author.

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