[Spoilers! If it’s possible to spoil a book first published in 1847, that is.]
If you were to ask me what my favourite book was, I’d say this one. There are others that come close, but something about Wuthering Heights puts it just a little above the rest for me. I’m not sure what it is, but I should probably be more concerned about it than I am given the content.
Wuthering Heights has a reputation for being a romance novel, full of passion and brooding. This has bothered me ever since I first read it, because Emily Brontë didn’t write a romance. Wuthering Heights is dark and depressing, with an under layer of hope. Heathcliff- the romantic hero so many women like to gush over- is obsessive and violent. And Cathy? The object of his affections? She isn’t really any better.
It is immensely passionate, because Cathy and Heathcliff (Cathcliff?) are very much made for each-other. But if we condense the plot down (and I mean really condense), we get something like this:
Cathy Earnshaw fancies the pants off of Heathcliff, but marries Edgar Linton because he’s hot and rich, and Heathcliff is sadly hot but poor. Heathcliff overhears Cathy telling Nelly that he’s too poor for her, and is all like I’ll show you! and runs away to earn a fortune. He comes back a while later, rich as all heck, to find he’s too late and Cathy is already married to Edgar.
Oh dear, what a tragedy! There are several options here. Heathcliff decides the best option is to seduce Cathy’s sister-in-law, Isabella, and elope with her. To make Cathy jealous. Does he love Isabella? Not at all. In fact, as soon as they’re married, he treats her horribly. She runs away, pregnant with his child, and dies a single mother having been disowned by her brother for marrying a man he disapproves of.
Cathy dies having recently given birth to a baby girl who Edgar imaginatively names Catherine. Isabella’s son is sent to live with his father after her death. And Heathcliff thinks aha, the ultimate vengeance, I will make Cathy’s daughter marry my son!!
And to his credit, Catherine does marry his son (called Linton- Isabella’s idea), but quickly discovers that she doesn’t actually love him. Edgar and Linton both die, which puts Heathcliff in a position to inherit Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Business plan if ever I saw one, but a romantic business plan? Hmm. No.
Especially as Cathy’s brother actually has a living son! So he should have inherited Wuthering Heights, right? Yes! But Heathcliff uses Hareton Earnshaw as a servant, because Cathy’s brother treated him as such when he was a child. Sweet, sweet vengeance. If you can’t take your revenge out on the person who is the cause of your misery, use their children as a scapegoat!!
It’s alright, though, because in the end Hareton and Catherine end up falling in love and marrying, and they live at Wuthering Heights together. Yes, they are cousins. But the more deserving Heathcliff-like-character and Cathy-like-character get a happily ever after. So that’s nice?
Like I said at the start, it probably speaks volumes that this is my favourite book.
So why do you like it, Daisy? Well. I do love the passion.
But Daisy, you said it wasn’t passionate! I said it wasn’t passionately romantic, dear. It is passionate in all the ways. It’s emotional. It’s violent. Cathy tears apart her pillow; Heathcliff punches a tree; it’s all very explosive and emotional. The reader can feel it, and I love that.
I also relate to Heathcliff in some way, because a good part of my day-to-day drive comes from pure spite. That need to show everyone that they were wrong and I can be something. This is a huge part of Heathcliff’s story arc. Granted, I probably wouldn’t marry my true love’s sister-in-law out of that spite, but it’s the same sort of principal. He’s just more extreme about it. More passionate.
I also love Hareton, blessed angel child. He deserves nothing but happiness. I like to think that he and Catherine are really happy together and live to be really old, and then die around the same time and their ghosts walk around the moors holding hands. Let me dream.
If I’ve inspired you to join me in my passionate pit of misery, you can buy Wuthering Heights on Amazon.