Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Published December 1847 by Thomas Cautley Newby
Format: Paperback; 308 pages
Also From This Author: Poems By Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
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My Rating: 3/5
Before I finally post my last, lingering thoughts on Wuthering Heights, I feel like I need to say something about my month-long absence from blogging. January was a rather tough month for us in many ways, and I think the stress finally took its toll on me both physically and emotionally, so I basically “checked out” in February. My life revolved around working, watching the Olympics (Go Team U.S.A.! Yes, I am a huge Olympics fanatic), reading, and focusing on my responsibilities here in Grenoble. Also, I have been sick three times this month (guess that’s a side-effect of working with children). BUT, I am back and even though I am forcing myself to write and publish this last Wuthering Heights post, I am ready to dive back into the blogosphere with some exciting posts (such as my thoughts on Northanger Abbey, which I currently have my nose in, as well as a fun challenge I am giving myself for my birthday next week!).
[Spoilers ahead, beware!]
This section starts off with one of the most suspenseful sections in the novel. Cathy, in her naivety and gentleness, is lured by Linton to Wuthering Heights, where Heathcliff essentially takes her prisoner. His intentions are obvious to the reader: he wants Cathy and Linton to become married. The worst part about this section is not the forced marriage, but the fact that Edgar Linton is on his deathbed and Cathy is afraid she will be unable to see him before he dies since Heathcliff refuses to let her leave.
“Mr. Heathcliff, you are a cruel man, but you’re not a fiend; and you won’t, from mere malice, destroy, irrevocably, all my happiness.”
Oh he would, but fortunately that doesn’t happen. Catherine is reunited with her father just before he dies, and finally Heathcliff becomes the master of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Shortly afterwards, Linton dies as well, which is a sad passage considering that Heathcliff’s neglect is mostly responsible. At this point Nelly’s narration ends as we have arrived at Mr. Lockwood’s arrival, and we dare to ask ourselves, “What’s next?” in Heathcliff’s schemes.
Mr. Lockwood now decides to leave Thrushcross Grange, and I honestly can’t blame him, but before he leaves he visits Wuthering Heights one last time and we can now reconcile the Heathcliff, Hareton, and Cathy that we met at the novel’s beginning with those of Nelly’s narration. We see how cruel Cathy has become towards her cousin Hareton, and even though I never stopped desiring a happy ending for Cathy, I did sympathize with Hareton a great deal. I felt that he and Linton were the two extremes of the same spectrum: both were abused and neglected by Heathcliff, both were unloved by their fathers, and both sought the attentions of young Cathy Linton, yet we find that Hareton had a much stronger spirit than Linton. I understand and sympathize with the fact that Linton was already a frail child before falling into Heathcliff’s clutches, where he was further abused and terrified, but the way he responds is not the same way that Hareton responds to his own sufferings. Linton, out of fear, does whatever his father asks of him, regardless of the consequences it has on others. Yet Hareton, who does obey Heathcliff for the most part, still has his own desires that ultimately control his destiny.
Now, for the long-awaited happy ending! After several months, Mr. Lockwood returns to Wuthering Heights where we find that Heathcliff has died (and is unsurprisingly mourned by no one). Yet, before he died, his behavior changed a great deal, and he let go of his desires to continue his revenge on Cathy and Hareton. We have Catherine Earnshaw Linton to thank for this: that morbid grave exhumation scene in Chapter 29 now seems to have a greater purpose than to further elaborate Heathcliff’s twistedness. The final chapters of the novel show a much pleasanter scene at Wuthering Heights: Cathy and Hareton, once at odds, are able to forgive and forget and move on (finally someone is able to!), and Nelly confesses to Mr. Lockwood that the two will soon be married (this even elicited a silent “aww” from me).
My second time reading this novel produced some interesting reactions. My hatred for Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw grew deeper, yet I was finally able to see an actual happy ending for two characters I ended up “rooting for” this time around. Honestly, I don’t think I will attempt to read this novel again for another 10 years, but I was glad to see that some people who were reading along with me actually enjoyed it! That is refreshing.
For those who have read Wuthering Heights, what were your final thoughts on the novel? Do you think it deserves to be canonized? What was the biggest take-away for you? (For me it was to forgive and forget! Honestly, all of that bitterness and thirst for revenge seemed so exhausting)