Book Review: Wuthering Heights

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Okay, so before I get into this review, those who are familiar with my blog posts are probably wondering to themselves: “What the Hell is this guy doing now?” And you’d be right to ask yourself that.

I don’t consider myself to be a voracious reader; in fact, I’m more likely to be a bookworm wannabe. Wuthering Heights is also a story from the 19th century, and has been written about by many people from then to the present, including everyone from Victorian era enthusiasts to disgruntled high school students who are forced to read it for English class. Why would a guy with anime on the brain review this?

Well, hopefully all of this will make sense in the future; but right now, I’ll attempt to dive into my thoughts about this English romance classic.

I won’t bore you with the details about this book, because let’s face it, nothing I could say is going to be new. What I will say is that this novel perplexed me in a lot of ways. It is told in two narrators’ voices: Ellen “Nelly” Dean, a servant of the greater Wuthering Heights estate, and Lockwood, another servant who observes all of the events that go on as an outsider. Theirs is a dialogue between each other, describing what happens at Wuthering Heights, a mansion set in late 18th century, early 19th century Yorkshire, England.

This alone confused me at first, because I was never quite sure who was speaking when. For what it’s worth, the principal narrator is Mrs. Dean; however, there are moments when Mr. Lockwood adds his own commentary to the story, and there is no indication as to when he says it. You just have to know, I guess.

Of course, my biggest frustration about reading Emily Brontë’s novel is the English. Sure, I speak it, but I am accustomed to reading 20th/21st century American English. “Pointers,” for example, are a type of hunting dog, and not a tool used to guide one’s vision at something. “Ejaculate” is a synonym for yell, not a male orgasm. I can just imagine the number of folks already snickering at some of these words; but I digress.

But enough about structural and language barriers! Let’s talk Wuthering Heights.

I suppose one of the other things that frustrated me while reading this is how I’m supposed to feel about our story’s main character: Heathcliff. At the beginning, he’s a boy who is adopted into the Earnshaw family who owns Wuthering Heights, and otherwise seems like a tragic figure, being treated more like one of the servants than being one of the family. After a time skip, Heathcliff returns home from military service (or something like that), to which I swear, Brontë makes him sound beautiful! (I’m going to paraphrase here) Heathcliff is described, at this point, to be tall, athletically toned, and otherwise better built than his cousin Edgar ever was. When I read that, I thought “Damn! I need a physique like this one!” And it seems as though our heroine of the story, Catherine, may have taken a liking to him, too.

But that won’t be the case for long, as Catherine has some kind of love-hate feelings for Heathcliff. It’s as though his very existence just makes her go crazy! I suppose you can say she is “madly in love” with him. But Catherine is a realist, and sees love as a trivial matter, and decides to marry Edgar, her cousin, because his social status is much more stable. Heathcliff of course, doesn’t like this at all, and thus begins his own path of revenge.

Over time, Heathcliff is no longer the guy I’m supposed to feel sorry for, but actually the guy I’m supposed to hate. This is evident in his violent behavior toward his own wife, Isabella, as well as with Edgar. There is no excuse for his level of domestic abuse! It’s interesting to note that the feelings people have for Heathcliff while reading this is quite similar to the feelings Catherine has for him. If the intent was to put ourselves in Catherine’s proverbial shoes, I believe Brontë has delivered that well.

Looking at the story from an outsider’s point of view, this is just a huge family affair that drove an entire house of wealthy folks in 19th century England mad; and personally, I feel the same frustrations as observers like Mr. Lockwood. Maybe that’s just me. Again, I have no excuse for this; I don’t read this kind of stuff religiously anyway.

However, once I finished the story, all of the complex and outlandish elements of a drama with time skips and narration confusions, it became clear to me: this is a romance and revenge narrative after all. But perhaps it’s not the type of tale one would expect. Love in this novel is clearly not idealistic at all; and those who uphold to passionate love turn out to be people like Heathcliff. On the other hand, those who take customs like marriage more realistically and lack love end up having maddening relationships like Catherine. So who wins at the end of the day?

Perhaps that’s the beauty of being an outsider to a lovers’ quarrel, as Nelly and Lockwood appear to be. I realize everything I’m saying right now is probably bullshit, but I believe our narrators are the ones who had the last laugh. Even after all of the drama, the vengeful plots, and our very consciences getting as frustrated as the characters themselves over each other, it is our narrators who are looking back, casually referring back to a drama that supposedly happened at Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights was perplexing, frustrating, and otherwise a headache to get through. However, I suppose now that the truth is somewhat clearer by the end, it was relieving to me that justice, even in our human interpretations of it, isn’t always going to turn out as we originally planned. It wasn’t funny at the time, but we ourselves get way too caught up with emotions more often than not. But if we have the advantage of looking back at these events, we might be able to sigh to ourselves, thinking, “Wow. That was something, wasn’t it?” Perhaps I should take my life to be much lighter too; because I really don’t have time for [other people’s] drama!

So yeah, I’m sure everyone who actually liked this book probably thinks I’m an idiot; Hell, anyone who finished reading this review probably thinks I’m an idiot. So what has possessed me to review this classic? I will tell you…

In my next anime review!

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Wuthering Heights

  1. writingmom2013

    Not a stupid review. Wuthering Heights is a complex book. It is difficult to understand, but I would argue that people are often difficult to understand, as well.

    One nitpicky point – Lockwood isn’t a servant. He’s a gentleman, renting a room on Heathcliff’s estate.

    I am one of those who adore this novel, and would argue that the writing is gorgeous, and that the characters are flawed and realistic and these characteristics make them wonderful, but you are certainly not the first to disagree with my assessment. I feel like WH is one of those books that tend to elicit a strong reaction one way or the other – readers tend to love it or hate it. Perhaps there is a smaller, third contingency, comprised of those who are simply confused by it.

    Regardless, it was interesting to read your opinion of the novel. Is there a graphic novel adaptation of the novel? Simply a guess, based on your teasing, foreshadowing blog ending!

    • I realize my words are probably not “stupid” as such. I just want to reiterate anyone trying to use my blog as a reference that I didn’t write it in an academic sense whatsoever (nice try, kids!)

      Yeah, I didn’t understand specifically what Lockwood’s role in the story was. When I first read through it, I was under the impression he was actually the narrator. I quickly realized he wasn’t the only one; nor was he the principal one.

      I don’t see any problem with disagreement; I respect that my opinions are pretty much mine; and by no means am I an authority.

      And as for the anime… I’ll go ahead and spoil the enthusiasts of Wuthering Heights and say I will be reviewing Sweet Blue Flowers (Aoi Hana), the animation, which is based on Takako Shimura’s manga of the same title. That series is not directly related to Wuthering Heights, but there are, shall I say, obvious parallels.

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