With this reading of Wuthering Heights, so many, many years after my first, and with numerous film productions clouding my memory from the true events written long ago by Emily Brontë, I have found myself mentally chewing on the question – what made this book into a classic that has won untold hearts for almost 163 years.
It is undoubtedly well crafted and the characters are memorable… however I find that there are few of them to like. And Heathcliff – often painted by films & devoted readers, as some Romantic sort of tragic, Byronic figure - is the worst – the absolute worst.
… still I couldn’t dote on Heathcliff, and I wondered often what my master saw to admire so much in the sullen boy who never, to my recollection, repaid his indulgence by any sign of gratitude. He was not insolent to his benefactor; he was simply insensible, though knowing perfectly the hold he had on his heart, and conscious he had only to speak and all the house would be obliged to bend to his wishes.
By Ellen Dean
“Nelly, help me to convince her of her madness. Tell her what Heathcliff is – an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone. I’d as soon put that little canary into the park on a winter’s day as recommend you to bestow your heart on him! It is deplorable ignorance of his character, child, and nothing else, which makes that dream enter your head. Pray don’t imagine that he conceals depths of benevolence and affection beneath a stern exterior! He’s not a rough diamond – a pearl-containing oyster of a rustic; he’s a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man…
By Catherine Earnshaw Linton
“I have been so far forbearing with you, sir,” he said, quietly; “not that I was ignorant of your miserable, degraded character, but I felt you were only partly responsible for that; and Catherine wishing to keep up your acquaintance, I acquiesced – foolishly. Your presence is a moral poison that would contaminate the most virtuous…”
By Edgar Linton
Is Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil? I shan’t tell my reasons for making this inquiry; but I beseech you to explain, if you can, what I have married –
Isabella Linton Heathcliff in a letter to Ellen
And is there any way that the strange fixation that Heathcliff held for Cathy or the blind, mindless attraction that ignited so many selfish acts, brutal speeches or plans of revenge in any way be described as actual, heartfelt love?
I challenge our Jane Austen Tea Society members to ponder this question along with my earlier one regarding this novel’s “staying power”.
Can you prove – by persuasive argument – that Cathy was truly loved by Heathcliff?
Can you sum up – in a sentence – why this novel is such a lasting and proven classic?
Jot down thoughts and bring them with you to our High Tea discussion on October 9th!