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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