Friday, November 30, 2007

Book Review: Wuthering Heights

So, I have just finished reading Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and I have just one question:


Seriously, why was I made to read Jane Eyre in high school when that author’s sister had written this masterpiece? Why do Darcy and Elizabeth of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice get so much credit for being one of the great romantic couples in literature? ”You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you”? What is that? Is that contained, polite admission of love supposed to move me? Darcy and Elizabeth’s love had nothing on Heathcliff and Catherine’s wild, consuming, and uncontrollable passion!

Catherine on Heathcliff:
“What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and heremained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it. 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.”

Heathcliff on Catherine:
“Two words would comprehend my future—death and hell; existence, after losing her, would be hell. Yet I was a fool to fancy for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton’s attachment more than mine. If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have; the sea could be as readily contained in the horse trough, as her whole affection be monopolized by him.”

Heathcliff and Catherine together:
“You teach me how cruel you’ve been—cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry, and wring out my kisses and tears; they’ll blight you—they’ll damn you. You loved me—then what right had you to leave me? What right—answer me—for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?”
“Let me alone. Let me alone,” sobbed Catherine. “If I’ve done wrong, I’m dying for it. It is enough! You left me too—but I won’t upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive me!”
“It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted hands,” he answered. “Kiss me again, and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love
my murderer—but yours! How can I?”

Swoon! How can you top that? Has any author ever topped that?

This book is nothing short of a masterpiece—it’s pure literary perfection. A part of me laments that I never read it before now, but then another part of me is glad that I didn’t. I’m not sure I would have appreciated it the way it deserves to be appreciated before now. I am in the middle of an obsession with reading right now, and this book deserves to be read in such a mood. There are so many things that I love about this book that I don’t even know where to begin.

First, the story is completely engrossing, and Brontë holds nothing back from the reader. We see all the violence and wretchedness that occurs in startling fashion, but are also treated to the most passionate love I’ve ever read about.

Second, the characterizations are fantastic. Every person in this story has their own personality, their own demons, their own motivations, and they all play vital roles in the story.

Third, the way that the story is told is excellent. There is less than a year between the events on the first page and the events on the last page, but decades are told in between. I think that starting the novel the way Brontë did was pure genius. I was totally enraptured the entire time I was reading.

Finally, this book is alive. I don’t know how to explain it any other way. The words leap off the page.

There is a fantastic introduction by Alice Hoffman in the version I have, and I agree with everything she says. We should hate Heathcliff, but we can’t. As Hoffman says, “He has become antisocial, selfish, jealous—a man willing to destroy himself in order to destroy others. And yet we understand the humanity of this ‘fierce, pitiless, wolfish man’ precisely because we know his emotional history.”

I don’t know what else to say about this book, other than it is quite possibly the best book I have ever read.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bring this book and any other good ones with you to my house for Christmas! Shannon