Reviewing Emily Brontë's 'Wuthering Heights'
Exploring themes of love, betrayal, abuse and gender, Brontë's Wuthering Heights offers an account of the love between two people destined to remain apart, and how this tension corrupts the lives of those surrounding them.
Published in 1847, the novel draws upon elements of the Gothic and Romantic genres in its consideration of the sublime and the beauty of nature against the evil of mankind. It is extremely dark throughout, disturbing at times, and conveys the brutality of the inner turmoil of the human experience. We follow the story of Catherine and Heathcliff as they battle their love for one another and come to terms with the fact that they cannot be together, which thus opens a world of family conflict and cycles of revenge.
I had a hot and cold experience with this novel. I'd heard great things about it, so I was expecting to find it fascinating and highly enjoyable. However, I have to admit I wasn't enthralled and didn't particularly enjoy reading it. I found the complexity of the Linton and Earnshaw families, coupled with the incestuous marriages, very hard to follow, which meant I was constantly flicking back to the family tree at the front of the book and subsequently my reading experience was often disrupted. I also felt there were times when I was reading lots of dense description that, in my opnion, didn't add very much to the story. Overall, I just didn't have a particularly enjoyable time with this novel, and felt I was constantly waiting for something exciting or mesmerising to happen that would justify why this book is considered such a masterpiece; I'm afraid this didn't happen for me. I almost feel guilty having to speak this truth about Brontë's novel, as I really expected to love it. I simply felt the novel didn't take as many twists and turns as was promised, and the story didn't unfold in such a dramatic way as I had anticipated. Despite the beautiful cover art that suggests a mesmerising tale that unfolds within a Gothic setting, I was deeply disappointed.
That being said, from a literature student's perspective, I can appreciate why it is such a monumental text. I liked the tension between the main characters, Heathcliff and Catherine, and how the latter's daughter plays a key role in keeping this tension alive. From a psychoanalytic perspective, I was interested in how Brontë displays the decline of the character's minds, and, narratively speaking, I thought the internal narrative given by Nelly that focuses our attention on the past was very clever. I think I'd enjoy studying this novel in an academic space, as there were lots of concepts and motifs that I feel would make for good analysis.
However, I do not think a novel should be justified by its analytical prowess - if a novel is saved by its cleverness and attention to literary detail, this should be used as an excuse for it being a good novel. In my opinion, Wuthering Heights was not as enjoyable as I imagined it would be.
I never regret reading a book, as you can always gain something from even the most unenjoyable reads. I don't regret reading Wuthering Heights, although I can't say I would recommend reading it.
Having now read both Charlotte and Emily Brontë, I am intrigued as to how I will find Anne's novels - does anyone have any recommendations? Let me know in the comments!