Book Review: Wuthering Heights

wutheringIt’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a classic piece of Victorian literature.  Believe me, I’ve missed reading them.

I picked up Wuthering Heights a couple days ago, an old favorite, and Dan remarked, “You reading that again? (I don’t think he gets it).  What got me interested in re-reading it was that in the second Twilight book (which I recently read), Edward and Bella mention Emily Bronte’s masterpiece several times.  They’re another couple of miserable, star crossed lovers.

Of course, in reading these two books in sequence, Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, there’s no comparison in the quality of the writing and the depth of the characterization. Heathcliff and Catherine will forever haunt the moors, seeking their lost loves, but Edward and Bella will have a much shorter shelf life.

In each reading, I come away with some new insight about the characters.  Part of the reason for reading books multiple times is that when you read them at different times in your life, different parts will speak to you.  I also like to re-read the same copy if possible to see what I’ve underlined in past readings.

This time, I felt much more sympathy for Heathcliff, the man whose brutality formerly shocked me and caused me to loathe his character. Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently read several books about characters who have risen from the ashes of painful childhoods, but this time, I was more attuned to his suffering.  I saw his sinful response to the injustices done to him, and they were horrific, of course.  But I was more capable of putting myself in his place, wondering if I didn’t have Jesus, if I were mistreated, deprived of the love of my life, called worthless, if I’d seek revenge on those who hurt me?

When you notice Heathcliff, and you sympathize with him, you can’t help but notice Cathy’s grace toward him and his sickly son.  She willingly submits to a hard life, for the sake of redeeming Heathcliff and his son.  She sees good in Heathcliff, where everyone else only sees evil.  Even when he locks her up and mistreats her, she still sees his humanity and sympathizes.

In previous readings, before I myself sympathized with Heathcliff to such an extent, Cathy was a weak character for me.  But now that I have this new perspective, I realize Cathy’s strength, the strength to look the monster in the face and bravely offer him grace and mercy, instead of curses and hate, as everyone else gives him.  She models Jesus to him in this way.

I’ll continue to pull this book off the shelves and expect to experience new readings of it.  Part of good literature’s charm is its ability to recreate itself with each reading.

I’m expecting that many of my readers have read this book before. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on it.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve read Wuthering Heights several times but have never been able to “get it”. I agree with you that true classics bear re-reading because there are always new insights. Although I’m okay with not liking WH, I still would like to better understand what gives it classic status. Thanks for your helpful thoughts.

    AL: It’s a dark book, and the characters aren’t as loveable as in other victorian novels. As far as the Brontes go, I prefer Jane Eyre more. But Wuthering Heights grows on me each time I read it. I’ll say one thing for it, it’s characters are as complex as they come.

  2. I think you are mistaken: it is in Eclipse (the third book in the Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer) that Wuthering Heights is mentioned. I read Wuthering Heights before I picked up that series, and I do agree with you about mostly everything. Especially with sympathizing with Heathcliff more, and realizing Cathy is very strong, yet has a fatal weakness.

    AL: I’m glad to hear that the literary references might keep up in the series, because I have yet to read Eclipse, but have it planned for my next plane ride. Amazing characters, aren’t they? It’s rare to find such complex characters in literature these days.

  3. the borest stupidest worst story i have ever read .iam 12yrs old.what all characters!!!!!!dark lusty mad elemnts

    AL: Good job trying the story out, but maybe you should wait a few more years before tackling it again. I didn’t fully appreciate it until I was over 20.

  4. I think that this is a masterpiece that will be timeless. The characters are all all very complex and have their own uniqueness. Once you have understood what Heathcliff went through, you can give a little room for sympathy towards him. And Catherine deserves props for her crucial role. An all-around compelling story.

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