Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Four stars, read in January 2017. [There are going to be spoilers in here, because I think the statute of limitations runs out at 150 years.]

I consider the fourth star as belonging to the audio production, which is absolutely outstanding. Anna Bentinck is the narrator, and I was continually impressed by how well she managed the entire cast of characters, each with a distinctive accent and engaging frequently in very long speeches. I finished the last few chapters in print, as I often do when I no longer want to wait until I have somewhere to drive, but also partly because I have this amazing Gramercy classic hardcover that makes me feel like Elizabeth Bennet reading it.

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I first read this book probably fifteen years ago in high school, and I loved it then. My thoughts are a lot more conflicted this time; not that I ever found the story romantic, but I just don’t remember being aware of how truly vile Heathcliff, in particular, is. The final scene is so deceptively peaceful and poetic that I was impressed almost against my will. I’d been a little annoyed with the book this time around—I had never noticed before how much I dislike every single character, even the ones who are supposed to be sympathetic.

Mrs. Dean is so judgmental in the way that I think only nineteenth-century Christians could be, and she does so little to help all the people she saw being mistreated, mostly just shaming them for having feelings outside what their parents wish them to do. Mr. Lockwood, the narrator, is completely self-absorbed, finding out that a teenage girl is literally being held prisoner by his cruel, violent landlord and all he can think—as he rides away having done nothing to help her—is what a shame it is for her that she didn’t fall instantly in love with him. Linton is absolutely gross, so desperate he’s willing to sacrifice Cathy to save himself, and at the same time Cathy and Mrs. Dean are heartless in judging him as though he’s not being tortured daily by his own father. Joseph is the worst—second only to Heathcliff—though his repulsive self-righteousness is also what gives us one of the best insults I’ve ever read in literature:

He was, and is yet, most likely, the wearisomest, self-righteous pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself and fling the curses on his neighbours.

Also, this time around I had the feeling that some sections went on much longer than necessary. The development of Cathy and Linton’s relationship seemed an interminable repetition of scenes that introduced no new information, and I kept waiting for the story to get on with it. Then all of a sudden Mr. Lockwood leaves, a year passes, Heathcliff is gone, and the story ends disconcertingly happily.

I still really enjoyed the book, and I still prefer it to Jane Eyre, though I can’t decide whether I would still consider it one of my favorites. I’d been apprehensive about listening to an audio version, because audiobooks are so hit or miss and I wasn’t sure how it would work with such a particular book, but it turned out to be instantly enthralling. I’m glad to have reread it, and there’s a good chance I’ll read it again in another few years.

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9 thoughts on “Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

  1. Hey, this is Svetlana from Svetlana’s reads and views:) i read the book as well awhile ago, and I honestly feel pity for Heathcliff. Early on he was a lovable child and few people had good things to say about him, but then he became spiteful and I think it’s due to racism and how others only saw him for his skin color.

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    1. Hey, Svetlana! ☺️ I mostly agree. Hindley is the worst one: he was cruel and abusive for no reason. Heathcliff is also cruel and abusive, but was tormented his entire life, and I did pity him at the same time I hated him.

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  2. Hindley was the responsible one for Heathcliff being the way he was. When I Re read it few years ago, I was shocked and saddened by how Nelly kept referring to him as a black devil and so forth. I have always wondered why Heathcliff never sought out to learn more about his heritage. In Russia I was closed off from learning about my own background, but in America I started to learn about it…

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    1. Nelly really bothered me. She started out cruel to Heathcliff too, and only stopped after they all got sick and Catherine and Hindley were awful to her and Heathcliff wasn’t. She comes off like some wholesome motherly figure but she’s practically religiously abusive (according to modern standards, which I can’t help applying retroactively).

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  3. When they were kids correct? I remember that very well. She was extremely judgmental and not likable for me. I am willing to bet that if she lived today, I can guess who she would have voted for…awhile ago I discovered a book titled a true novel which is supposed to be Japanese version of Wuthering heights, but I did not read it yet.

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    1. Really? How interesting! I love Japanese fiction. I’ll have to look that up. And yes, when they were kids. I think you’re probably right about her voting too. Ugh.

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