Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wuthering Heights

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”.


  1. I've heard and have had a few experiences on about a saying that, "Women who dig into love stories are tend to expect more from their lovers then women who doesn't indulge much into fictional love stories even if they're based on true stories."

    But i'd say most books are meant to be exciting and seems to me like you've found an interesting one i'm happy for you. Cheers

  2. I looove Wuthering Heights. Its melodramatic, I know, and I dont really want a lover like Heathcliff. But the passion and the intensity, hoooo! The wish to be haunted by her, the final assuaging of his rage because the remaining descendants had her eyes, and his impassioned speeches- "If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a whole lifetime, he couldn't love you as much as I do in a single day". And the whole "whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same" thingys :D Yeah, lame, but I know a lot of the dialogues by heart. But he's so very Devilish too, huihams, Ok, I'll stop.

    I think Im going to have to reread it a 7th time :)

  3. It's always interesting to me when someone who hasn't formally studied Lit. comes up with a take on a classic. I'm kinda surprised though when you say Heights isn't about love at all. Sure it is, just not your average, conventional romantic love. Just as Heathcliff isn't some TDH M&B type hero but actually has a harelip, yucky that huh? I was 12 when I first read Heights and Heathcliff's harelip sounded revolting to me but after I grew up and reread the book, it all made sense. About the cruelty in the book, you need to take in the setting - the wild, untamed, desolate moors. That remind you of anyone in the book? Aha.
    And is there anything in all literature as gorgeously passionate as Catherine's "If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being..." Ah, pass the tissues, please!

  4. Wow.. Wuthering Heights, you remind me of the day I attended my MA (English) class four years ago. In fact, I was indifferent to my studies, I was more interested in my Students' Union Activities. Nevertheless, "Wuthering Heights" is one of the few stories that I still remember, it is very touching. Hmmnn... I miss those days now.

    James Ramdinmawia

  5. Miss Nula Pi Aduh, ka hman deuh hunah uluk mangkhengin ka lo chhiar ang aw.. Dictionary nena inchhawp rup a ngai dawn sia! :-D

  6. HV - I guess you're right, because in most love stories the people are perfect, well they do have flaws which are easily overlooked because of their overwhelming passion for their partners hahaha

    kuku & J - True, the love is intensely intense and passionately passionate. And those lines you quoted, I remember reading them and being blown away, esp "If he loved you with all the power of his soul for a whole lifetime, he couldn't love you as much as I do in a single day". I was like, this was written by a woman who (as far as we know) never experienced such a thing as a passionate love affair?

    I am going to assault you with more opinions in the coming months, so brace yourselves, hold on to your britches, and in the meantime I suggest you read terrible books so that my future posts will look quite tame in comparison.

  7. James - Thanks for dropping in. I think Wuthering Heights is one such story which you don't forget in a hurry. How about you give us a review?

    Mister Tlangval TS - Tunah khan chhiar nghal rawh, dictionary chu i mamawh chuan hawh tur ka nei e.

  8. I loved WT, though it's not one of those books that I'm a hurry to read again. I tried to force my brother to read it, who hated it so much he couldn't get past the first few pages. I remember how the narrator dismissed the rumours of the ghostly rendezvouses of the lovers, because he couldn't "imagine unquiet slumber for the sleepers in that quiet earth" (can never forget these lines - the drama of it all!) - what do you think? Do you think they really haunted those morbid moors? lol

  9. Just a minute, ill be back within a minute, i didn't bring JF Dailova Diksonaree

  10. Jerusha - I read that WT is often considered as a gothic love story and of course that includes ghosts etc. But I don't really believe their ghosts haunted the moors. And in the case of Heathcliff I guess his love was so strong and so deep that he simply refused to accept her death and saw her face, her body in everything and everywhere. If he was a modern songwriter he would have penned something like "I see you in every tree, every rock, you are the air that I breathe" etc etc...

    Hmelthatea - Thanks for visiting, and please come back soon with your Diksonaree.

  11. I have seen the film version, and the only impression it left in my mind was that it was a depressing film! I don't care if I never watch it again.

  12. keimah - if you can, always try to read the book first before watching the movie. The book is also kind of depressing, hardly a happy moment anywhere. But I would still recommend it.

    daniel - Shall I lend you my copy?

  13. I read this during graduation and i cried, THRICE, while doing so.

    My favourite lines
    "the murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always - take any form -drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find you! Oh God!it is unutterable. I cannot live without my life, I cannot live without my soul"

    One of my favorite novels to date! Haunting, gloomy, depressing,intense and passionate. In real life?? I don't know. That's the beauty of fiction right?! I don't think I'd ever fall for Heathcliff in real life either. He doesn't sound human at all. Yet, I loved the novel. To the extent that my Prof. told me in Final year "Zuali, that thing you have for 'Wuthering Heights'? That's called passion."!!!! Eeeeeks!

  14. hey aduh, lend me your copy. back in 1997 a friend suggested me, i ended up not finishing, 'cause when i started i found it boring, not even finish one chapter :-(

  15. Senmami - Thanks for visiting. I bet you typed those lines you qouted from memory, you seem like such a huge fan, no not fan, devotee would suit you much better. I guess I'll just might have to reread the book, after hearing such praises from you and the literary giants who left their comments earlier.

    Varte - Hehe sure thing. But first let me underline all the interesting parts for you ..

  16. I love Wurthering Heights - i first stumbled to it as a teenager before i even knew it was quite a talked about book - and fell in love at first read. {It's time for another read, by the way). But i don't think i quite understand it till now!
    It's just so wild, so dark, so filled with strange passion and sooo poetic! The setting itself is sheer poetry, to begin with.

  17. I just finished the book, and it made me think a lot. I agree that it is not so much about love, or at least not about romantic love or infatuation. Heathcliff's and Cathy's love is forged of much stronger stuff, good and bad: refuge from lack of parental love, neglect and abuse, love of nature and freedom, young imagination - they filled each other's world for no one else cared or took notice. And when this happens to children, the bonds are created for life -- no wonder Cathy says "I am Heathcliff."