Wuthering Heights was written by Emily Brontë and published under the pseudonym, Ellis Bell, in 1847. It was Emily’s only novel. She along with her sisters Charlotte and Anne wrote poetry but it was her story of thwarted obsession that has become an English language classic.
“Wuthering” is a Yorkshire word referring to “turbulent weather” and it is appropriate when applied to the violent passions & deeply troubled emotions taking place under the roof of the manor on the moors, Wuthering Heights – the primary setting for this gothic novel.
As anyone who has read Wuthering Heights might imagine, this novel met with very mixed reviews when it was published. Its depths of despair & depictions of human cruelty, both mental and physical, were stark and disturbing. While the critics praised the obvious talent it took to execute this complicated work, they questioned the theme, the character development and the tragic moral choices exhibited therein.
Born July 30, 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire, the heart of Emily’s world was the small grey stone house on the lonely moors with its front door opening almost directly onto a cemetery. Studies of Emily – the 5th of the Brontë children - have distilled the portrait of a person who was herself reclusive, reserved, iron-willed and painfully tied by emotion to her home and its environs … How did this young clergyman’s daughter produce this dark masterpiece? What violent dreams brought Heathcliff to life and set his steps to written page to intertwine with those of the equally misguided Catherine Earnshaw?
The inescapable strength of the novel is the intricately told storyline and enduring fascination that readers have held for Cathy and her romantic hero / brutal alter ego, Heathcliff. Why are we also attracted to him and yet innately detest his blackly drawn nature? Do our hearts turn more steadily against him with each reading? Was there a time in our lives as young readers that we found sympathy for the little foundling thrust into a family that received him with such mixed emotions?
This next read may enlighten us… ever so slightly into a better understanding…. or… it may not.
So – the next read for The Jane Austen Tea Society in our current reading plan of British Victorian authors is Wuthering Heights. You might want to start reading in time to meet and discuss over High Tea in October.