Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
I reread Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë because it is one of those iconic books that I keep thinking I should like. My first time reading it was as an adolescent, when I went through a gothic novel period in all of my reading. It was possibly my first time preferring a movie to the book. (Sir Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff . . . sigh.) I read it again in my mid or late twenties to see if I had matured into appreciation. I also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë and walked away preferring the latter. As it turns out, third time’s a charm. I now know why I do not appreciate this novel as I feel I ought. I don’t like Heathcliff. Or Catherine. Or Edgar. Or anyone in the entire damn novel. I mean, not even Lockwood, the literary frame through whom we learn the generational story of love and revenge. What is there to like? Catherine is selfish and brutal. Heathcliff’s passion for Catherine is a testimony to love being blind. Edgar is either masochistic or codependent in his love of Catherine. And those are just the main characters for the first part of the novel. The second half doesn’t offer any redemptive characters although one might come to like Hareton if given an opportunity. I suppose the novel ends with some hope but I can’t hold any optimism for any of the characters. I was relieved to finish it. But more, I was relieved to have finally determined what it is I disliked about the novel. I can appreciate its position in the literary cannon. Appreciation does not suggest genuine liking. Next time I have the urge to revisit the moors, I’ll watch Oberon and Olivier in the abbreviated version of Wuthering Heights and be fully content.