So having studied Nineteenth Century Literature at University, the world of classics has been recently opened to me. Wuthering Heights is a title I did not study, but chosen because it is considered a classic.
My initial reaction was of pleasant surprise. Although I had no preconceptions of the book, I was not expecting what I was offered in the first few chapters. A striking feature is how easy a read it is. The prose is particularly flowing even when describing the moors- which I had very little interest in, and I sometimes wished the narrator Mrs Dean/ Mr Lockwood would move on from the scenery of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
I do not doubt a scenery such as the moors works brilliantly, any less dramatic a choice and the novel may not have reached the longevity that it has acquired. However I doubt that, in my reading the setting of the two homes in the moors was well wrapped in the novel; but more could have been done to maximise the potential those moors held. As it is the moors remained a stagnant thing if beauty, depicted, described, drawn out for effect- but never quite utilised.
Unfortunately I fell quickly into the category of readers who had a strong dislike for poor Cathy. As a leading lady Cathy’s entire allure is held in her ability to attract all varieties and variations of tragedy, abuse and ill temper. Beyond this, I found her every word irritating, her actions showing more of her character than her conversation. Her flights of self-supposed fancy were too flighty for my liking.
In contradiction both Heathcliffe and Hareton were filled with all the character depths, misconceptions and opportunities to redeem themselves to the reader- all things I found distinctly lacking in any of the novel’s Catherines. Mrs Dean I found to be a pleasant choice in narrator, and it was pleasant to see Ms Bronte return to both her narrators periodically as befitting.
The ending of the novel remains something of mystery to me. It was conclusive, yet left me feeling empty. I suppose it was meant to be happy- Catherine Linton finally able to be happy and regain what was taken from her. But it was a cold, soulless ending. Almost as if Emily Bronte disliked her own characters.
In summary, Wuthering Heights will always be a classic, and is well written beyond doubt- to an extent. However it is no Pride and Prejudice or Mansfield Park- then again it was never going to be.
© Gemma Feltham January 9 2013