Hello! This is my second monthly book review as Lost in Classics and part of my Classics Club Book Challenge where I have committed to reading 50 novels over the next five years.
This month, February 2019, I have read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. How do I feel after reading Wuthering Heights? Picture yourself running across the moors all day through all weathers and seasons. Your faced is stroked by the breeze, kissed by the sun, burnt by the wind and slapped by the cold and snow. It is now night and you have stopped running and are standing panting, bewildered and exhausted in the darkness when the ghostly laughter of two children breaks the silence. Booo!
What is Wuthering Heights all about? It's all in the title 'Wuthering Heights' 'wuthering' meaning strongly windy and 'heights' the peak, the uppermost point: it's a whirlwind of emotion. When Lockwoood goes to stay at Thrushcross Grange it's like he is entering some sort of alternate reality. Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, along with their inhabitants seem to live isolated from the rest of the world, their lives strangely intertwined. I get the impression that both houses are under a spell cast by Heathcliff's appeal to Catherine to haunt him that somehow puts a curse on all the Earnshaws and Lintons. Even when Heathcliff dies, he and Catherine continue to haunt the moors and Catherine Linton and Hareton Earnshaw's relationship at the end of the novel hints that history will repeat itself perpetually. Many people focus on the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine but the book is not called after them it's called Wuthering Heights so I think the story should be seen as more the history of the place, the house and all its inhabitants than just of those two. It's not just about them, it's about social status, the supernatural, revenge and forgiveness, violence and frustration. For me the most interesting of these are social status and revenge. Heathcliff is treated as socially inferior and consequently is not free to openly have a relationship with Catherine, at least in this life. When Heathcliff does achieve social status through wealth ( the fact that no one knows where he gets his wealth from and that ultimately it doesn't really matter how he got it shows how superficial that status is ) he returns to Wuthering Heights to seek revenge but in doing so binds himself further to the house and families putting a curse on himself.
A key aspect of Gothic literature is the way in which family curses are passed down through the generations. Listen to Lockwood's final words.
'I lingered round them (the graves of Linton, Heathcliff and Catherine) under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.'
Is that a challenge? I can't imagine Linton is thrilled at being buried with his wife and her lover! This must be one of the reasons why Wuthering Heights has inspired many prequels, sequels and reimaginings.
When reading Wuthering Heights you must keep in mind that Emily Bronte was first and foremost a poet so her writing is lyrical. I think that understanding Wuthering Heights is enhanced by listening to it as an audiobook like listening to an epic poem. So for further reading I recommend exploring her poetry. Imagination is one of the greatest gifts I have been blessed or cursed wiith so I particularly like this poem
When weary with the long day's care,
And earthly change from pain to pain,
And lost, and ready to despair,
Thy kind voice calls me back again:
Oh, my true friend! I am not lone,
While then canst speak with such a tone!
So hopeless is the world without;
The world within I doubly prize;
Thy world, where guile, and hate, and doubt,
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou, and I, and Liberty,
Have undisputed sovereignty.
What matters it, that all around
Danger, and guilt, and darkness lie,
If but within our bosom's bound
We hold a bright, untroubled sky,
Warm with ten thousand mingled rays
Of suns that know no winter days?
Reason, indeed, may oft complain
For Nature's sad reality,
And tell the suffering heart how vain
Its cherished dreams must always be;
And Truth may rudely trample down
The flowers of Fancy, newly-blown:
But thou art ever there, to bring
The hovering vision back, and breathe
New glories o'er the blighted spring,
And call a lovelier Life from Death.
And whisper, with a voice divine,
Of real worlds, as bright as thine.
I trust not to thy phantom bliss,
Yet, still, in evening's quiet hour,
With never-failing thankfulness,
I welcome thee, Benignant Power;
Sure solacer of human cares,
And sweeter hope, when hope despairs!
Let me know in the comments if you discover any other beautiful poems by Emily Bronte.
Next month's novel will be Jane Eyre by Emily's sister Charlotte. You will find the book in different versions in the BOOKS! section of this website.
How are you getting on with Wuthering Heights? When I read the novel as a teenager I loved the angst and the depth of emotion but I must admit that today I am getting a bit fed up with some of the characters being so melodramatic, particularly Linton Heathcliff, the feeble son of Heathcliff and Isabella. He's so whiney at times I feel like giving him a good slap around the chops!
'I can't speak to you,' he murmured; 'you've hurt me so that I shall lie awake all night choking with this cough. If you had it you'd know what it was; but YOU'LL be comfortably asleep while I'm in agony, and nobody near me. I wonder how you would like to pass those fearful nights!' And he began to wail aloud, for very pity of himself.'
On the other hand, all of the characters talk verbosely as if narrator Nelly Dean were trying to impress Lockwood with her vocabulary, not wanting to show herself up as a servant.
'I uttered an ejaculation of discontent' = 'I sighed'
We must not forget that that Emily wrote over 200 poems. She was a poet more than a prose writer and it shows in her writing style. I am listening to an audiobook version and I think this style definitely benefits from hearing it read aloud. It's the sound that is beautiful as the words are chosen very carefully. Then Joseph, the servant's speech is virtually incomprehensible just by reading, even for native speakers! There are also words that we don't use today or that are considered formal today. I am a real word nerd so I enjoy looking up the difficult words and especially looking up their etymology but I recognise it's not for everybody.
Are you finding the style a bit heavy? It's ok to admit it and a good way to get over your fears is to stare your enemy in the face! Comparing the original book with graded readers can sometimes help but as those are simplified versions they often leave out entire passages. So I thought it could be fun to try transforming some phrases from Chapter 34 into their more modern equivalent!
Match the words from the novel 1 - 5 with their equivalents a - e.
1. … an every-day spectacle a. … if it was a good time to tell him off
2. …. framed an excuse b. … see if what she said was true
3. … ascertain the truth of her statement c. … something you see every day
4. … divine the occasion of his good humour d. … made an excuse
5. ...whether it were a proper opportunity to e. … guess why he was in such a good mood
offer a bit of admonition
What differences can you notice between the original quote and my modern interpretation?
To speak 18th/19th century Gothic style
- use lots of nouns and noun phrases (particularly nouns of Latin origin)
- use more formal language
- use specific words
To sound more modern
- use short, common verbs (max. 4 or 5 letters) and verb phrases (subject + verb), including phrasal verbs
- use short and imprecise words and phrases
- eliminate all unnecessary words
- basically be informal
Now you try!
Write these phrases, also from Chapter 34, in modern English.
…was going to commence eating when the inclination appeared to become suddenly extinct.
… I deemed it proper, though unsummoned
… Dawn restored me to common sense
… I vainly reminded him of his protracted absense from food
… he solicited the society of no one more
Have a go and write your answers in the comments!
Fancy having a little fun?
Why not try to write some comments in Wuthering Heights style?
Would'st thou permit me to partake in thy observations?
Italo Calvino said 'A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.' Reading a classic more than once, perhaps at different times of your life, you will get something different from it each time. Thinking of the last time I read Wuthering Heights a few years ago, I chose Wuthering Heights for Februaury as a great romance to coincide with Valentine's day. Instead this time round I have found a gothic curse and cannot see the story in any other way. In fact what has hit me this time has been the violence. I have been shocked by the language of Heathcliff and some of the other characters, for example ('Your land, insolent slut!'). I live in the twenty-first century so I can't imagine how shocking it was for the Victorians!
It's always difficult to understand how rude a bad word is in a foreign language, like the difference between 'poo' and 'shit'. So I thought it could be interesting to look at some of the other bad names and insults in the book, their origins and exactly how strong they might be.
1. Go to the deuce - Chapter 1 - 'The 'walk in' was uttered with closed teeth, and expressed the sentiment, 'Go to the Deuce'.'
Here 'deuce' replaces 'devil' so is a substitution, a way of avoiding saying the word 'devil' and therefore less strong. In the fifteenth century 'dews' ( coming from the Latin 'duo' ) meant the nunber two in dice or cards. It came to be a mild swear word in the eighteenth century as two was the lowest score.
2. Heathen - 'Chapter 9 - You’re worse than a heathen — treating your own flesh and blood in that manner!’
A 'heathen' is a derogatory term for someone who lives in the country (think of heath - an area of uncultivated land). It's meaning extended to indicate a person lacking culture, and a person not belonging to a mainstream religion (not Christian or Jewish), a pagan. Is this the reason behind Heathcliff's name? Oh I think I have just discovered something - I love that!
3. Blackguard - Chapter 1 1 - 'what notion of propriety must you have to remain here, after the language which has been held to you by that blackguard?'
Apparently, this one was really offensive. It originally referred to the lowest kitechen servants in charge of coal, pots and kettles. 'Black' could refer to the black of the coal and dirty pots or mockingly to the contrast with the elaborate uniforms of the armed guards. The term became synonymous with menial jobs, guard of attendants, dark in person, clothes or character and then a following of 'black' villains.
4. 'Scoundrel - Chapter 10 - 'Scoundrel! He is not altogether guiltless in this illness of mine; and that I had a great mind to tell him.'
Speakers of Latin based languages can do some investigating with this word! How do you say 'hide' in Italian? 'Nascondere. If you are hiding you must have something to hide, right? There may also be an association with a Scottish word 'skunner', coming from Middle English, meaning 'to shrink back', 'cause to feel disgust at'. 'Scunner' still exists as a derogatory term in North Yorkshire for a young criminal. Not nice but just derogatory.
5. Cipher - Chapter 20 - 'I guess you’ll report what you hear and see to the cipher at the Grange; and this thing won’t be settled while you linger about it.’
If you want to insult someone, you don't have to imply they are a criminal, just put them down, make feel worthless - call them a 'cipher'. 'Sifra' is Arabic for zero. Latin based language spaekers, sound familiar? 'Chiffre' in French meansd number of figure as does 'cifra' in Italian. All our numbers come from Arabic, right? So the meaning spread from 'zero' to mean any number.
I have enjoyed exploring these bad names so much that I have decided to do an infographic on other insults? Let m wknow if you find nay other examples that you would like to explore further. Would you like to receive my infographic? Send me your email address and I will be happy to send it to you.
Are you sure you don’t have time for reading? Think again! I’m talking about audiobooks - the advantages of using them to improve your English vocabulary, grammar, understanding and pronunciation.
1.Pronunciation and authenticity
Trying to just read a book without audio can be difficult when there are words or terms that you don’t know and just hearing the words being read can help you to erase the doubt that you may be pronouncing the word incorrectly and increase your confidence in using the language properly.
Listening to audiobooks while reading along can increase your vocabulary and comprehension and what is more it gives you great examples of and exposure to patterns, intonation, expressions, different accents & dialects; you understand the “music” of English . It provides examples of fluent reading to copy, perhaps using the technique of shadowing where you try to read the text together with the recorded reader.
With audiobooks you can listen to as much of the story as you want to, whenever you feel like it. Audiobooks are an ideal solution for people who like literature but are too busy to find time for reading. They are great for multitasking. You can listen while you’re cleaning the house or anything else that doesn’t require much focus or during down times, for example when commuting. You can learn a lot of things while stuck in traffic. Audiobooks are really convenient. You can have them on your phone, computer and in the car. This makes the content accessible and you can easily continue where you left off from last time. Whenever I’m reading an actual physical book, I need to find myself a quiet place and almost force myself to be fully present. With audiobooks I find it much easier to pick it up and start consuming – regardless of location, noise level or time of day. It’s just so convenient. You can practice your English on the go.
3. Grammar and vocabulary
When learning a language of course it is useful to study the grammar and the vocabulary then you need to experience how it all fits together in natural contexts. Reading and listening to novels is an excellent way to internalize grammar.
4. Reading and listening together
Text and audio together provide a multisensory approach to reading. A person reading can transmit meaning with the very tone of their voice. If you have read a book before and then listen to the audiobook version, you’ll retain and reinforce much more information. It makes it easier to read. You will be able to read the same text better when you look at it again. On the other hand, you might want to try listening first before reading. It offers the opportunity to practise and develop listening skills.Your understanding will increase by degrees: you will gradually discover different layers of understanding from more general, overall understanding to deeper knowledge starting first with listening and then passing to reading.
Where can you find audiobooks?
I am currently listening to a dramatised version of Wuthering Heights on Youtube and I like the fact that each character is represented by a different reader. There are some wonderfully enthusiastic people who really put their heart and soul into reading . I am thinking of the wonderful reading of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on Youtube. Then there are those that volunteer to read a book in the public domain, for example for Libravox. I admire their commitment and recognize from personal experience that reading a long text without making mistakes is very difficult but some read without feeling and you wonder why they are doing it at all. I would love to take part in this project and try recording a book or at least a chapter, from my experience of reading out loud I know it isn’t easy but I think it would be a lovely thing to do, so watch this space! If any of you are interested we could do a group project! That would be really cool! However to be honest the best versions are read obviously by professional actors as on audible for example. I listened to Wuthering Heights on audible last year and the reading was very inspiring in terms of understanding the importance of listening to aid understanding. Well I am subscribed to audible as well as scribd but honestly I am considering if it is really worth spending the money: there is so much on youtube anyway.
When I am looking for different versions of books for the book section of this site, I usually use vk, twirpx or Project Gutenberg. The latter is a wonderful site full of material in the public domain different formats, the oldest site of its kind. For graded readers I find the Russian file sharing site vk very useful but you do have to search through a bit to find what you want. Twirpx is a member site that allows you to download a certain number of texts and audios for free after which you can purchase credit for a very small fee, well worth it. But why give yourself the trouble of searching? You can find a number of titles in the BOOKS! section of this website. Click on the picture and see!
No excuses! Get listening today! Make the most of every moment of your day!
Every month, I publish a review of the book I ahve read that month.