Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë: A-

From the back cover:
Cathy—Her love is so great it trascends even death.

Heathcliff—His burning passion destroys two generations.

These are two of the most unforgettable lovers of all time, driven to a tragic fate by wild, intense emotion and strange imagination.

Wuthering Heights has been called “the most haunting love story in the English language.”

Here is an example of how a book containing a vast amount of unlikable characters can still be enjoyable. In short, it’s the story of a foundling named Heathcliff who vows revenge on those who mistreated him when he had neither education nor riches. He goes away to improve himself and returns to wreak havoc on their lives, scheming and plotting to eventually come into possession of their land using whatever means necessary. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course.

Nearly every character is exceedingly annoying: cruelty, selfishness, moronitude, and petulance abound. Catherine and Hinley Earnshaw are particularly loathsome, and though Heathcliff is indeed a wretched person and not the stern-but-kind romantic hero he might initially seem, he was at least rational most of the time and therefore tolerable. The worst, however, is Linton—Heathcliff’s sickly son who is fond of sniveling and playing the “poor me” card. About the only characters I liked or at least had sympathy with were the housekeeper and Hareton Earnshaw, the rightful heir to Wuthering Heights who has been denied the education a man of his class should have had.

The story is quite melodramatic, but it’s still fun. I particularly liked the way in which it was structured: irksome tenant Mr. Lockwood encounters the occupants of Wuthering Heights, gets damp in the process, then spends several weeks convalescing, during which time his housekeeper tells him the entire story of their past. After her narrative finally concludes, another visit is payed to the Heights in present day, and now the characters seem quite different, as their whole story is known. A final visit, half a year or so later, brings the tale to a very satisfying conclusion.

This brings up one amusing/irritating thing about the book: damp = sick. Several times throughout the book someone gets rained on, or does not immediately dry their wet feet, which subsequently leads to an illness of several weeks.

I’m glad to’ve finally read Wuthering Heights. I can see myself doing so again someday.

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  1. damp=sick is a pretty common theme in literature of the time. I don’t know how realistic it was or not. Austen uses it pretty frequently.

    It persists pretty much today (don’t go out with a wet head, if you get chilled you get a cold, etc) so it must have some basis in real events… I know one time I got quite sick when we had been in Washington DC and going in and out of 100 degree weather and quite chilly AC for several days.

  2. Michelle says

    Illness due to changing temperatures definitely seems more plausible than the wet head thing. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve left the house with wet hair and not gotten sick. 🙂

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