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.
Every month, I publish a review of the book I ahve read that month.