2013 Challenges, Books, The Classics Club

Book 242: Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

Brontë, Emily - Wuthering HeightsI planned to talk about how I wish I could say it is the romance that draws me obsessively to this novel, and in a way it is, but ultimately I know it is something much darker than that. For me this novel’s draw is its darkness, it’s the depth and light absorbing pit of Heathcliff’s devotion to his plans, no matter who they harm or what they require, throughout the years to achieve his ends. I can only imagine what this reveals about my personality and my own decisions in life.

As much as I am drawn to Pride and Prejudice (and Jane Austen in general) for its whimsy and lightness, I can’t help but appreciate and truly resonate with the depths of despair and the tortuousness all three Brontë sisters write about. And I don’t know why, it’s not like I’ve had a tragic love story. I mean sure I’ve had my fair share of unrequited love stories (more often than not), but I know that I’ll get over them and eventually find someone who loves me for me and I love them for them and we just click, but for some reason these darker novels resound with me on a deeper level. It’s as if they touch a part of me that I know is there but am too afraid to even consider bringing to the surface out of fear or terror of what I might actually feel if I let myself.

I’m not sure what number re-read this is, but I must be nearing 10 and this time I read one of the two copies I picked up over the last few years as part of my Back to the Classics and the Classics Club challenge. Each time I’ve read Wuthering Heights, the book touches me in a way that I have to take a bit of time off to fully appreciate what it is that I’ve read. (Sorry about going MIA for a bit, needed the mental space) I remember reading the book in high school and despising it for the same reasons I now am obsessed with it. This is one of those examples where I’m glad I read it in high school because I now know how little I knew back then and how little I know now compared to what I may potentially know in the future.

What is perhaps the most interesting thing to me in this novel is the similarities between Darcy and Heathcliff and how much I identify with both of them for their inabilities to experience and or to open up to emotion/connection:

“Possibly, some people might suspect him of a degree of underbred pride; I have a sympathetic chord within that tells me it is nothing of the sort: I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling—to manifestations of mutual kindliness. He’ll love and hate equally under cover, and esteem it a species of impertinence to be loved or hated again.” (4)

I know that the older I get the more comfortable I am in interacting with people physically (hugging, touching, being in close proximity) and emotionally (letting my guard down, getting attached). However, like I believe Austen and Brontë wrote Darcy and Heathcliff’s characters, I both crave and reject these same things. How can you not want these things?

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.” (95)

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight but necessary. 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.” (97-98)

You can’t. There is something eternal about the yearning for an experience that is so far beyond and bigger than you. And yes, I completely understand, that these are fictionalized stories, but the way they were written and created is so insistent and so constant that they creep into your very essence and consume you from the smallest level until you cannot even begin to fathom not wanting the same things these two standoffish, silent, yet resilient, men want and will do just to be happy.

As for the book itself I always forget that it is narrated by Nelly Dean and Mr. Lockwood. I somehow gloss this over in my mind for the story they witness and tell. This is both a good thing and a bad thing because I get so sucked into the story that I don’t even try to remember many of the facts of the novel, just the plot and the emotions/feelings constantly wrenched out of me, because they are not teased out, they are painstakingly pulled out of me by a writer who wrote the book at the same age I am now and who died a few short years later.

Recommendation: As much as I think everyone should read this novel, I know it is not for everyone. It took me 3-4 reads to even begin to appreciate it and even now attempting to explain my feelings of and relationship to the book is impossible. Everyone has a book similar to this that resounds so deep within their being that as much as they want to explain it to the world they can’t.

Opening Line: “I have just returned from a visit to my landlord–the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with.”

Closing Line: “I lingered round them, under the benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers of the sleepers in that quiet earth.” (Whited out.)

But seriously if you don’t know my inexplicable obsession with Wuthering Heights you should:

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23 thoughts on “Book 242: Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë”

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