Those who read like myself no doubt all have that one book. This book is the one that changed reading forever. We will never forget the story or author who wrote it. This book is one forever cherished and keeps a special place in our hearts.
When I went back to high school as a young adult to finally get my diploma . The entire experience was very intimidating; however, I was taking an English class which naturally involved a lot of reading. This was more than okay with me. I have always been a reader and very passionate about it. The joy a person can find from reading is beyond what words can describe. It was with this mindset that I looked forward to reading whatever was assigned. This no doubt would be the easiest part of it all. Unfortunately, that was a short-lived moment of confidence. I soon realized this when my teacher handed me a list of books to choose for the course. No doubt this was going to be a hurdle. Two selections were mandatory to read for the class. The list was frightening and suddenly all the good feelings I had about going back for my education evaporated from my brain. This was going to be the most daunting thing I had ever done. As I looked through the list of books available for the class, I felt sheer terror.
How was I going to manage? These books were boring, old, and had language not easily comprehended. My horrible past struggles with the writings of Jane Austen ran through my mind. I did not want to relive my involvement with those books. To this very day I am not fond of the over-hyped Austen. I despise her illegible and complicated writing style; in fact, I will go as far as to say Jane Austen put me off classical literature for years. It stunted the broadening of my horizons. Luckily because of this class that world was once again reopened and given a second chance. I discovered that classics are loved for a reason. I had a great time being immersed in the world painted by Emily Bronte and this lead to other authors such as Victor Hugo.
Now please realize that there was no way I was about to give up because I was being forced to read classical literature. My hatred for Jane Austen and the trauma I suffered from her books in my earlier reading days was not going to stop me. She was not going to win this one. I did make a choice and stuck with it. I tried to cheer myself up by thinking that a challenge was a good thing. By the end of it growth would be the prize. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right? … right!?
The book I chose was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The reason I went with this one is rather simple. It was actually a book I had always fancied reading but had been too scared to approach on my own free will. We can thank Jane Austen for that! Looking back I remember telling my teacher I picked it because it was one I had always wanted to read. My first reaction to the book was relief. I could actually understand the writing and language being used. There were no phrases, words, or long elaborate sentences to confuse me. It was fairly simple reading. I was happy that the sentences were not overly complicated and long winded. The second I realized this all bets were off. I knew the task was manageable. This was doable. I had a defining moment where I realized for the first time I had judged all classical literature based on one author I personally couldn’t stomach. All classical literature had been deemed guilty by association. This clearly was a mistake.
My love for Wuthering Heights didn’t develop straight away. I was mildly put off by the story because the narration is told secondhand. The main character is being told about the life of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw through his housekeeper. This instantly put a bad taste in my mouth. I am not highly fond of books told through this form of narration. I much prefer firsthand accounts. It is hard to develop love for the characters when their story is being told in the middle of a story. It can also be confusing when your jumping through time. An example of this would be that sometimes in Wuthering Heights your with the main character and the housekeeper; whereas, other times your in the past with Heathcliff and Catherine. Usually this drives me crazy and ruins the flow for me as a reader. That has always been my feelings on such narration until this book. Emily Bronte smoothly transitions between the housekeepers tale and present time. There was not a moment where I did not know where I was and what was going on. I have never seen it so beautifully done; however, it is so much more than that. Bronte makes you love every single thing about everything. I walked away truly believing in my core there was no other way this book could have been told except in this style.
The book would not be the same without the housekeeper named Nelly Dean and the main narrator Mr. Lockwood. These two people are the ones that narrates the book. As a reader I felt every emotion they experienced throughout; furthermore, I was just as captivated as the two were by Heathcliff and Catherine. I openly will say that this book needed secondhand narration. The only reason you have any devotion for Heathcliff and Catherine is because of Nelly Dean. Readers love the pair because she does. At least that is how I felt. I loved Nelly Dean and became deeply engrossed in how she felt about the two very messed up individuals. Mr. Lockwood is equally vital to the story and I really cannot express why. He is just an onlooker that is late to the game. Lockwood is not even around until everything has already been said and done; however, there is just something about him that completes this book. As a reader I think his dying curiosity gave way to mine. Me and Mr. Lockwood are one in the same. Two people eager to know about the very dysfunctional yet irrevocable love between Heathcliff and Catherine. Mr. Lockwood is everything that we readers are. There is a Camaraderie with him that just completes Bronte’s tale. He feels like a long time friend that you trust and just expect to be there. He is the steadfast rock keeping the book forever balanced and down to earth.
Wuthering Heights is centered around the love and friendship of two very different children put together in a very unfair world. Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are the meat of the book while the narrators are the bone. They both are equally valued. Emily Bronte pierced and shredded every emotion I have in my being when it comes to this couple. At times while reading I wanted to scream with anger and slap Heathcliff for his actions all while wanting to give him a hug for all he endures in this very haunting book. Catherine on the other hand probably frustrated me the most. You really want to like her because of her fondness for Heathcliff. Everyone around the boy treats him like he is absolutely nothing especially after Mr. Earnshaw passes away. Catherine and Nelly Dean are the only two people in the book to show him an ounce of kindness once his benefactor perishes. This is probably the only thing I truly liked about Catherine at the beginning of the story.
Catherine’s selfishness definitely gets to me. How could she love someone so much and yet turn on them the way she does. Playing with the emotions of both Heathcliff and Edgar Linton is beyond the pale. She twist everything to make it work for her without regard to the feelings of the people who supposedly matter to her. It was difficult to not hate such a character; although, I have to admit Heathcliff really never helps the situation or does anything to improve his own happiness. He eventually because a person that is dark, cruel, and evil. I am reminded of a discussion that takes place in the twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. The conversation between Edgar and Bella about Wuthering Heights really sums it all up for me.
Edward says to Bella, “The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others lives… It isn’t a love story, it’s a hate story”. Bella, however, feels attracted to the inevitability of Cathy and Heathcliff’s love and believes that the whole point of the story is that their love is their only redeeming characteristic. “How nothing can keep them apart – not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end…” (1.257).
I shall leave it at this. Catherine and Heathcliff’s only redeeming quality is the devotion and love they have for each other. It is the only turning point and difference between the tale being a love story versus a hate story.
Wuthering Heights not only opened my mind to other classical literature and great stories written but also really made me think about how our environment and the people around us contribute to our characteristics. We are very much a product of our environments. It also taught me that despite the things out of our control, people do not have to succumb to their nature. We all get a choice. The harsh reality of that truth is a hard pill to swallow. Each of us as individuals directly make decisions towards our own misery or happiness. That is a tough responsibility but one every person has.