Classic of the Month: Wuthering Heights

Classic of the Month: Wuthering Heights

Alright so I know many of you were forced to read this in high school, and truly it is an excellent one to appeal to angsty teens. I however, somehow managed to hit the ripe old age of 27 never having read this pillar of Gothic literature. And you guys know I love me some classics, I was just put off by it's reputation for being a moody romance. And that right there, I think, is where people go wrong with this book: they assume it's a romance. In reality, this book is Romantic with a capital "R". If you go into this book expecting a love story you will be SORELY disappointed my friend.

Oh sure, certainly there is a love story, but this is not your garden variety sweet, melodramatic romance. This book is twisted and very, very dark. It was actually a little shocking how dark it was considering it's author, Emily Brontë, grew up fairly isolated, way out in the country with her siblings and their clergyman father. How does someone with a life like that dream up the image of a ghost sawing someone's arm against a broken window pane until they are dripping blood? How do they imagine wicked, passionate Heathcliff and fiesty, petulant Catherine? It's really quite amazing this work exists the way it does. It made people a bit uncomfortable when it was published, and it continues to ignite intense feelings in modern readers, which I'm sure is the reason it has become such an enduring classic.

The experience of reading the first half of this novel was so incredibly intense. The kind of intense you need a break from, but can't switch to something lighthearted because your head and heart are irrevocably tangled up in Brontë's fictional world. There are some really beautifully done scenes and the whole experience was just so vivid, so violent and so painfully vibrant it's hard to tear yourself away. The scene where Catherine and Healthcliff are having tea in her home upon Heathcliff's long awaited return is just so utterly human and powerful, as is Isabella describing the feeling of giving NO FUCKS to Nelly after she escapes Wuthering Heights. Have I intrigued you yet? This book is such a powerful work in the first half. The beautiful, flawed characters, the elements of the supernatural, and the deeply human connection coalesce into something remarkable.

However, the second half, ehhhh not so much. I was so much less interested in Cathy and Linton, they seemed so tame and flat compared to their parents, and served little purpose aside from further proving Heathcliff's cruelty and his consuming devotion to Catherine. With Catherine and Heathcliff, it was so obvious why they had the connection they did, and their love/hate toward each other was just so very, very alive. Cathy and Linton seemed to have no valid reason for their "attraction" and Cathy's decisions just seemed erratic and silly, so the book kind of lost me emotionally in the second half. I ended the book feelingly only partly mollified, it really lost a lot of steam in that second half, though it remained a potent work of fiction and was still definitely worth reading. The ending tried to be redeeming, to bring it all back full circle, but I was still left wanting more of the first half's raw emotions and less of the second half's silly life choices to really make this book the kind of heart wrenching, hand-on-your-chest through the last few pages kind of satisfying.  

Overall, this book is for you if you love powerful imagery, flawed characters, twisted romance, and Gothic style literature. Oh, and it's a great fall read to accompany all the moody seasonal weather! Have you read Wuthering Heights? Let me know what you thought!