My real life friends will support me when I say that I have a very low tolerance for unhealthy relationships.
So Wuthering Heights was doomed from the beginning.
For your sake, I will provide a brief synopsis and some attempt at an explanation, but I will not go into any great detail. I finished the book. That’s all I got.
Catherine is a spoiled rich gal whose father picks up an evil brat of a boy on one of his journeys and brings the kid home to raise him. Heathcliff (the boy) and Catherine grow up together, the best of friends.
At some point, right around puberty, Catherine starts getting proposals from various men. It’s totally obvious that she and Heathcliff love each other, but the gal spends some time bitching and moaning about how she could never consider Heathcliff. For HIS sake.
Evil guy overhears and disappears. Gal mopes around for a couple of years, marrying some nice guy.
Heathcliff reappears. He’s pissed at the gal, but won’t admit it. He spends the rest of his life “getting back” at everyone who has “ruined” his life (except Catherine), including but not limited to Catherine’s brother, her husband, and assorted townspeople.
They remain friends. Near the end they don’t even disguise the fact that they love each other. Catherine has zero respect for her husband nor does she have any serious concern for her impressionable sister-in-law, who gets caught in Heathcliff’s clutches and has to escape him, barefoof and pregnant in the winter.
Girl dies, starts to haunt guy. He remains crusty and angry and evil (kidnapping and keeping Catherine’s daughter under house arrest) until he also dies.
The real problem with this book (aside from the despicable “heroes”)? No change.
A really good book starts out like this one, but at some point something changes. Either the characters change or the situation changes. It’s a skillful, gutsy author who purposefully refuses to include change in their story. Maybe Emily Brontë was that good.
But I think not.
Here’s why: a purposeful lack of change in a story is used to flag a serious message, some moral conviction. It’s one of those situations where we, as readers, seeing what is so obviously NOT there, should be able to extrapolate what should be there. Thus, we learn.
No dice for Wuthering Heights, unfortunately.
That whole “learn by negative space” thing might have been successful in this book, but for the fact that the author spends a lot of time emphasizing how these two people are naturally destructive. They just can’t help themselves. If that’s the case, what’s the lesson for us? That, if we’re ugly people, we were always that way? That if we’re born nasty we’re doomed to a life of misery for ourselves and suffering for those around us?
Somehow I don’t feel like this is what Ms. Brontë was getting at. Why spend all that time writing an interesting book if your final message is “life sucks, you’re doomed, and nothing changes?”
Maybe another couple of books (and some varied themes) would have cleared up the mystery. Literary theory is interesting, and I can’t help but be intrigued with attempting to figure out what the heck Brontë was trying to do or say, here.
Without any other works to provide some kind of context, though, Catherine and Heathcliff will continue to remain a mystery to me. The early death of Emily Brontë means that Wuthering Heights is simply a disturbing story about love between two broken people. And you know what I say to that?
No thank you.