“1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society.”
A cruel and romantic tale of societal class and redemption.
Wuthering Heights was Emily Brontë’s first and last novel. It was released in 1847 under the penname ‘Ellis Bell’ and immediately received strong reviews. Although some believed it a powerful and imaginative book, most labelled it as vulgar and disagreeable.
There is some speculation about the true authorship of this novel, as some critics claim Brontë’s brother, Branwell wrote it instead. Want to find out more? Click here to read the paper that finally debunked this myth!
The novel follows the tragic tale of Heathcliff and Catherine and their doomed romance. Set in 1801, the current servants of the house recount their tale. The story begins thirty years previous when Mr Earnshaw returns from a business trip with a young orphan he named Heathcliff. Treated as a member of the family, he grows closer to Mr Earnshaw’s daughter. Through a series of misfortune, death, and misunderstandings, they’re separated and brought back together again in the worst of circumstances, destined for misery. This is a gothic tale in mysterious moorlands and one of the most controversial books ever written.
Wuthering Heights has been adapted into operas, ballets, movies, and even a famous song and has challenged societal views all over the world. It’s an incredibly emotional book. The entire story revolves around raw, untethered feelings, and the pages practically explode with it. From Heathcliff and Cathy’s twisted version of love to Hindley’s rotting hatred, it is a powerful novel throughout.
The setting of the novel is one of the most beautiful landscapes in twentieth-century literature. The rough moorlands, wild hills, and stormy nights all contribute to a sense of isolation. It’s a beautiful scene that’s fantastically well-written.
The characters are a contradiction. They’re repulsive, insane, and incorrigible – however, you can’t help but like them. Heathcliff is full of anger and angst but still remains the novel’s unconventional hero. Hindley is irritating for exactly the opposite reason; he’s a by-the-book goody-two-shoes. Yet at the same time, he’s one of the few sources of sanity in this novel and doesn’t deserve the ending he got. If you haven’t already guessed it by now, the characters don’t truly care about one another. They’re rude, abrasive, and narcissistic, and everything they do is out of spite. From marriages to children to houses, their sole aim is to hurt each other to the fullest extent possible.
It’s difficult to understand the perspectives of Wuthering Heights. It’s told briefly from Lockwood’s point of view, but primarily from Nelly’s, who acts as our omnipotent narrator. At the same time, however, she was also present in the past where the story takes place. She offers a multiperspective story despite not actually being a part of the story itself. To make matters worse, the novel takes place in the past but she speaks in the present tense. Confused yet?
There is no happy ending. The novel doesn’t so much as finish as it does just stop. The characters are cursed throughout and receive a similar end. There are no declarations of love or eloping couples and there are definitely no happy wedding bells in sight. It’s a tragic finish to a tragic novel, full of misery and bitterness and grief.
Overall, I’d give Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights a three out of five. It’s an unconventional, dark, and twisted love story about one of the most famous couples in history. I’d recommend this novel to teenagers and up; especially for lovers of tragic romance. It’s complex and overwhelming, however, it’s still definitely worth the read!
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