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