Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An engaging, captivating read, one of wildness and the dark, destructive side of love. 5 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

In 1801, Lockwood, a wealthy man from the South of England who is seeking peace and recuperation, rents Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire. He visits his landlord, Heathcliff, who lives in a remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights. There Lockwood finds an odd assemblage: Heathcliff seems to be a gentleman, but his manners are uncouth; the reserved mistress of the house is in her mid-teens; and a young man seems to be a member of the family, yet dresses and speaks as if he is a servant.

Snowed in, Lockwood is grudgingly allowed to stay and is shown to a bedchamber where he notices books and graffiti left by a former inhabitant named Catherine. He falls asleep and has a nightmare in which he sees the ghostly Catherine trying to enter through the window. He cries out in fear, rousing Heathcliff, who rushes into the room. Lockwood is convinced that what he saw was real. Heathcliff, believing Lockwood to be right, examines the window and opens it, hoping to allow Catherine’s spirit to enter. When nothing happens, Heathcliff shows Lockwood to his own bedroom and returns to keep watch at the window.

At sunrise Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange. Lockwood asks the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, about the family at Wuthering Heights, and she tells him the tale.

Favourite Quote

I narrowed it down to my two favourites:

“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

*

“Alas, for the effects of bad tea and bad temper.”

Review

I read this as part of The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte being April’s selection. And, just a quick word of warning: my review contains the word “wildness” so many times I lost count 😉

Where to begin? Wuthering Heights is an epic of a book. It is a book of wildness. Wildness seeps into everything. Untamed personalities, who love wildly, who behave wildly, unsocially, acting like a force of nature, whenever the mood takes them. It is a book on the wildness of nature, and the wildness of human nature.

The landscape plays a big part in the telling of this story, in a similar way that Bodmin Moor plays a significant role in Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. We see the changes in the landscape through the changing seasons, we are told what birds are where and when, what is in bloom, what grows up on the moor, told of the power of the wind and of the barren, stark landscape.

But this untameable wildness seeps into everything, creeping across the empty landscape, a space of isolation and limited civilisation. Houses are like islands, cut off from other houses and villages and towns by this harsh but beautiful expanse of moor. It, this wildness, creeps under doorways, and over thresholds, and takes hold of those who dwell within.

For me, Wuthering Heights is a story of the destructive, dark side of love. Of course, it’s melodramatic, and the majority of the characters are not nice, nor do they necessarily behave in a socially-accepted way. And, the wildness found within the characters varies by degrees. Isabella Linton suffers greatly for a rather short moment of wildness, in which she succumbs to her foolish feelings for Heathcliff, and the latter uses them to his best advantage. Heathcliff, on the other hand, has his wildness nurtured and encouraged by Cathy and her own wildness as a child, and this seems to take on a life of its own, growing as he grows until it almost encompasses his entire life and governs every choice, every decision he makes.

It also depicts the cyclitic form of nature, of life. Consequences follow actions. How a thing is nurtured will be reflected in how it grows. And yet, these cycles are not closed and doomed to repeat themselves in an endless round of repetition. Cycles can be broken. Good can come from the bad. Natures once wild can be tamed, as we see in the closing pages of the book.

For me, Wuthering Heights is a story of wildness, perhaps even the story of wildness. It is raw, it is savagely, intensely romantic, it is dark. It is a story of love, a story of a lack of love, a story of one soul inhabiting two beings. It is the story of the wind howling on the moor, rattling at the windows, whispering of the wildness of the human spirit, of the untameable power of love.

Rating

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