Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is a novel that I keep returning to over and over again. For a woman who led such a sheltered life, her imagination knows no bounds. Often the novel is regarded as a romance, but it’s much more than that. I’m not even sure if it is a typical romance novel however there certainly are romantic elements to her storytelling and characters. It’s a novel dealing with love but also obsession and possession and how destructive they can be. I love the gothic elements and the bold imagery. The prose is delicious and keeps me turning every page. I never tire of this novel. It never fails to deliver and evokes all manner of emotion.
The fact that Emily Bronte could create two characters who are ‘unlikeable’ and still make the reader care what actually happens to them is a testament to her literary genius. She is a true master. Heathcliff is cruel, vengeful and detestable and the spoilt Cathy meets him on every level, yet I actually find myself caring and curious about them. Her characters are incredibly involved and multi-layered proving to be a close study of the complexities of human nature. Both Heathcliff and Cathy are somewhat redeemed by their shared love. Is it love or just pure narcissism? Cathy says, “what ever our souls are made of; mine and his are the same.” Do they see themselves in each other and in doing so, reclaim a sense of identity? Perhaps the novel has endured over time because it never fails to raise questions.
These heightened elements of emotion, conveyed through Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship, when taken to the nth degree, prove disastrous results for all involved. At the heart of the book, lies their relationship which is smothered by such demanding, suffocating and selfish love, yet Bronte has created such a beautifully balanced novel, that we also see the softer side of human nature, portrayed through the slow and steady relationship between Catherine (Cathy’s daughter with Edgar) and Hareton.
The beauty is in the richness and detail of the story; the themes and subjects are handled with the dexterity and intellect of a gifted writer. The novel unfolds against the haunting, transporting backdrop of the moors, adding to the darkened mood that pervades the novel.
It is hard to believe she only wrote one novel in her lifetime. It’s almost as if a fever grips you while reading this book and lingers on days’ after the last page is turned.
The Australian Literature Review