Wuthering Heights: A Review by Cassandra Castro
Notes about the Original Publishing:
During the era Wuthering Heights was published, it was not popular. In 1847, few people read it and even fewer actually took the time to critique it because of the Gothic elements throughout the romantic novel. They turned away from the novel because they had delicate sensibilities when it came to the horrors found in the book. Male authors were taken more seriously and the Bronte sisters had to deal with the fact their creative outlet would not be accepted as easily as it would have been if their father had written the same thing. The way they dealt with it was by using pseudonyms that sounded like male names. Written in the middle of the century, Wuthering Heights serves as a sort of last hurrah for Gothic literature before the gradual transition into the Realist era.
Background on the Author:
Emily Bronte was born on July 30th, 1818 in Yorkshire. She was the second youngest of six siblings. Her father worked at a church and her mother died when she was a child. The motherly figure in her life was her aunt who was incredibly religious and Emily did not share her aunt’s fervor for religion. She was an educated child who went to a new school in her area. The school she attended, Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, was a harsh place to grow up and the teachers were strict and cold to the students. Emily’s upbringing may have inspired the way she wrote about death and cruelty. Over the years of education Emily had, she learned to write poetry and express herself. She collaborated with her younger sister Anne on a series of poems while they were in school together. Her family was as creative as she was. She had two sisters, Charlotte and Anne, who also became authors. Emily did not live a long life and died of illness when she was only thirty years old. Charlotte took notes of her sister’s decline in health and later the details of Emily’s illness were made public. She had had trouble breathing and chest pains for a long while before she finally died in 1848.
Characters you should take note of:
Heathcliff is the main character of Wuthering Heights even though he never really narrates the story. He was brought to Wuthering Heights as an orphaned child and treated cruelly by Hindley at the estate. He never reacted to the blows he would receive and he was supposed to be a stiff character as opposed to Catherine. He was passionate whenever it came to Catherine. He was obsessive and really loved her in a way that may seem creepy to the reader. He does not show much emotion about anything but Catherine. Heathcliff is partially insane, quite violent, cruel, and devoted to Catherine.
Catherine Earnshaw is Heathcliff’s love interest but she does not like him in that way. She sees him as more of a very close brother. She is far from perfect but the way she defends Heathcliff no matter what horrible things he gets up to is comforting to the reader and makes her out to be a heroine. Catherine is a fierce woman for her time and she tends to be too stubborn throughout her life. She is passionate about love and dramatic when it comes to deciding which love to accept.
Ellen (Nelly) Dean is the narrator for most of the novel as she was the housekeeper for Catherine, Hindley, Heathcliff, Cathy, Thrushcross Grange and all of Wuthering Heights. She is a good narrator but sometimes she can be a bit biased because the children caused her troubles. She does let the reader know what the other characters are thinking and feeling with vague descriptions. She is realistic, loving, and blunt to the rest of the characters.
Catherine Linton is Hareton’s fiancee and Catherine and Edgar’s daughter. Cathy is relevant because she carries on the love story to the next generation and she is a pawn in Heathcliff's plot for revenge. She was especially important to Heathcliff because she represented the child that Heathcliff and Catherine should have had in his mind.
Some important quotes:
“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.” -Catherine Earnshaw (Bronte 59)
The reader learns that Catherine cares about social stance a little more than she does about Heathcliff even though she loves him with all of her heart. She really feels as though they are the same person in different bodies. She is disappointed that circumstance has to keep them apart. The connection she has with Heathcliff is tragic because it eventually leads him on a path of destruction and his morality takes a hit from her rejection. The status quo helped destroy his mind.
“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be, and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” -Catherine Earnshaw (Bronte 60)
Catherine further implies that if she died, she would live on in Heathcliff because they were so alike. A piece of her would die if he died. This passionate announcement of affection leaves both of them vulnerable to the world and each other because they do not know how to handle their love without falling apart.
“I wish you joy of the milk-blooded coward, Cathy!’ said her friend. ‘I compliment you on your taste: and that is the slavering, shivering thing you preferred to me! I would not strike him with my fist, but I’d kick him with my foot, and experience considerable satisfaction.” -Heathcliff (Bronte 85)
Heathcliff, a normally unemotional character, breaks out in anger at Catherine’s decision to be with Edgar over himself. His disgust for Edgar is displayed by the fact he would not lower himself to hit him with his bare hand. He could not be bothered. He would have rather kicked the fool instead of dirtying his hands on the man who had stolen Catherine from him.
“Where is she? Not there- not in heaven- not perished- where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer- I repeat it till my tongue stiffens- Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you- haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe- I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always- take any form- drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” -Heathcliff (Bronte 124)
Heathcliff’s obsession with Catherine after her death disturbs the reader as most Gothic literature does. He cannot imagine his life without her so he begs her spirit to haunt him until he dies because it is the only way he will see her face. The ghost becomes his painful reminder of a life he never lived. His happy ending would not happen. Heathcliff was incredibly vulnerable after Catherine’s death and his speech came straight from his heart.
“He said he wouldn’t suffer a word to be uttered to him, in his disparagement, if he were the devil, it didn’t signify: he would stand by him: and he’d rather she would abuse himself, as she used to, than begin on Mr. Heathcliff.” -Nelly (Bronte 236)
Nelly’s analysis of Hareton revealed how much Hareton truly cared for Heathcliff. While Heathcliff never treated Hareton well because of his want for revenge on Catherine’s line, Hareton came to see Heathcliff as a sort of tough father figure. His revenge was not fulfilled in Hareton because the man could not be broken by the older man’s actions.
“But poor Hareton, the most wronged, was the only one that really suffered much. He sat by the corpse all night, weeping in bitter earnest.” -Nelly (Bronte 246)
After Heathcliff’s demise, Hareton breaks down and all of his emotions are poured into the mourning of the man he came to see as father-like figure. Hareton had suffered the most during Heathcliff’s quest for revenge, yet he hurt the most when the man who had tormented him died. His breakdown is significant because it reveals he had the power to forgive Heathcliff for all the wrongs he had done against him and his family.
Love can be equally destructive as passionate.
The way Heathcliff and Catherine latched onto each other was disturbing as it crossed the line between passionate love and obsession. Catherine’s constant comparison between the two created the awkward tension between romantic love and just plain creepy obsession. The morbid surroundings of the Yorkshire moors intensified the feeling of unease throughout the novel and throughout their relationship. Passion should never be mixed with obsession because it leads to intense situations that can break people in half.
Death is constant, inescapable.
Frances dies, Catherine dies, Hindley dies. Heathcliff, Edgar, Isabella, and Linton die. The circumstances don’t really matter as much as the fact that they all died between the pages of the novel instead of in the readers mind. Bronte’s use of death throughout the novel brings forth the argument that the novel did not have a happy ending. It did not for most who died within it.
Are you an AP kid? Look at this!
2008 Form B. In some works of literature, childhood and adolescence are portrayed as times graced by innocence and a sense of wonder; in other works, they are depicted as times of tribulation and terror. Focusing on a single novel or play, explain how its representation of childhood or adolescence shapes the meaning of the work as a whole.
The way Heathcliff’s childhood is introduced to the reader reveals why he became such a hardened soul. His harsh, unfair upbringing at Wuthering Heights shaped the way he interacted with others and as such, shaped the morbid work as a whole.