It was with a lot of difficulty that I was able to finish this book last month. I had earlier deduced that I would need one hour every day to read a book in a month. Well, things never go as planned; so there were days when I stayed away from all printed material, and days when I woke up early and sat on the balcony and read. Anyway, I finished the book within the stipulated time, and I'm happy. All’s well that ends well, the ends justify the means, and all that rot.
I am not going to narrate the plot, I'm just assuming you have read it, and if you haven’t, well that’s just too bad. I wanted to put down in writing my views on the book, no I wouldn’t call it a review, let’s just say it’s an opinion.
I've heard a lot about this book, and most of them were about Heathcliff and Catherine and their great romance. I must admit I expected some grand romance of epic proportions, something in the lines of rich-girl-poor-boy-defy-their-parents, a tale about two people overcoming all odds and love being triumphant in the end. I had envisioned Heathcliff to be this tall dark handsome hero with a strong character with strong convictions and an even stronger love for his lady love, and Catherine to be a passionate but defiant daughter who chose to follow her heart.
Turns out the book isn’t about love at all. Sure there is love, but it is unrequited, it is forced, it is scheming, and it develops out of having no one else to love. Although the book ends on a somewhat happy note, it doesn’t leave you with that happy contented afterglow. You wonder if such a character as Heathcliff can ever exist in real life, whose only purpose in life is revenge and who doesn’t appear to have a kind bone in his body. But I don’t hate him at all. He has been wronged his whole life, right from his childhood, and the only person he ever loved chose to marry another man, supposedly for his (Heathcliff’s) benefit. I completely understand his wanting to exact revenge on Hindley Earnshaw. I mean who could endure such humiliation and abuse without thoughts of revenge forming in one’s mind? Add to that the loss of one love’s when the words of love and promise had barely left her lips. If you are the self pitying kind you might wallow in misery and sadness all your life, but Heathcliff decides to take matters in his hands. It was to his favour that Hindley turned out to be such a drunken bum who couldn’t control his estate and was in perpetual need of cash.
But why all the cruelty? I agree you cannot crush your enemies by being gentle and lenient, but where is the need to take out that anger on to your wife, your son, and to the world in general? I often wondered if Heathcliff isn’t insane. Digging up Catherine’s grave, seeing her ghost all the time, refusing to eat for four days, and the way he dies just gives me the chills. Insane or not, I think he is the kind of person who, whatever he feels, feels it very strongly, and does not restrain himself from showing it. At times I hate his cruelty and evilness, but at times I pity him. His life was full of sorrow and injustice and his only reason for living was taken away from him twice, first in marriage and then in death.
Catherine was no saint either. She loved Heathcliff, but still went and married Edgar Linton so that “Heathcliff can have a better life”. Maybe she just wanted to escape from Wuthering Heights and lead a normal life, or maybe she was afraid of being ostracized if she married an orphan like Heathcliff who had no money, no property, and most importantly no social standing. She was also quite the drama queen, once locking herself up in her room for three days without eating. I couldn’t sympathise with her at all. She fancied herself a puppet master who controlled the people around her, playing with their emotions to suit her needs.
Tragedy after tragedy follows, and I turned each page hoping for something happy to happen. It never did, except at the last few pages where we learn that Catherine Linton Heathcliff and Hareton Earnshaw had fallen into some kind of love and had regained their inheritance. I pitied all the characters who were the victims of Heathcliff’s revenge; poor misled Isabella, her sickly son Linton, nurse Nelly Dean who watches her loved ones die one after the other, and the unfortunate Hareton who through no fault of his own was raised an ignorant illiterate person.
Will I read the book again? Not in the near future. Mark Twain was absolutely right when he said “A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read”.