Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

348914My brother’s fiancé wants to start a book club, and our first pick was Wuthering Heights–mostly because I hadn’t read it before and I wanted to see what the other Brontë was like. (I’m a big fan of Jane Eyre.) The other reason is that I wanted to better understand the jokes about the book in The Well of Lost Plots, by Jasper Fforde. In WOLP, Fforde reveals that all the main characters are required to attend anger management sessions between chapters.

I’m still not sure if I like this book or not. It has a lot of plots and character elements that drive me up the wall. At certain times while I read it, I really wanted to climb into the book and start smacking some sense into people, especially Catherine Earnshaw. Until the last third of the book, I don’t know if there were any admirable characters in it apart from Nelly Dean, the housekeeper and narrator of most of the story. I’d never met such a large number of bullheaded and selfish characters crammed into one book. Plus, they kept dropping dead. By two thirds of the way into the book, we’d lost most of the characters we’d started with.

While I can’t say that I liked the book, it did give me a lot to think about. (One of those thoughts was, ‘Man, I miss studying literature.’) So, I think I’ll go character by character, given that this book is completely character driven. I’d like to start with the character that pissed me off the most: Catherine Earnshaw.

I never understood the love she had for Heathcliff, first of all. Though Cathy and Heathcliff grew up together, the abusive and competitive nature of their environment would have, I’d have thought, made them hate each other–not become soul mates. Maybe it’s because I don’t understand (still) what made Heathcliff so special. But the part where I really started to dislike her is when she told Nelly Dean her reasons for marrying Edgar Linton. I lost any sympathy I might have had for Cathy when she said she was marrying Linton so that she could use Edgar’s wealth and position to elevate Heathcliff. A lot of Heights‘ plot is her fault, I think. If she had been less selfish, this would have been a very different book. But I don’t think there was much goodness in her. I shudder to think how the younger Catherine would have turned out if her mother had lived.

Also, the way that Catherine died bothers me. The way I read it, it really seemed like she drove herself crazy. I think a certain element of her death was suicide. I’ve noticed that it’s hard to pin down actual causes of death in nineteenth-century novels because 1) germ theory was new at the time, and 2) it’s fiction and the author can do whatever the hell they want. 😉 On top of the mystery of her death, I had lost all sympathy for her by the time she died and it was hard to muster any feeling for her.

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