At the dawn of 2019, I set myself a challenge, to read as many classics as possible this year. I came to the conclusion that, although I consider myself extremely widely read, I have logged too few hours reading for pleasure. Plus, I was tired of people making references to classic literature that I failed to understand! I began with an ultimate classic, Wuthering Heights.
I had a rather petty reason for starting here – someone once referred to themselves as feeling like ‘Heathcliffe’ when they told an anecdote and I had no idea whether this was a good thing or a bad thing. On reflection, I hoped I had not laughed inappropriately.
By Emily Brontë
Set in late 18th/early 19th century Yorkshire, the novel follows the tumultuous history of 2 generations of the occupants of Wuthering Heights. The novel centres around two neighbouring families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons and how their fates are intertwined through love, marriage and jealousy. The history is recounted, for the most part, through the character of Ellen Dean, or ‘Nelly’ as she is affectionately known, a housekeeper.
The story begins when an abandoned orphan child is brought to Wuthering Heights, a boy named Heathcliffe. His arrival to the quaint, isolated family home changes the fortunes of the occupying family, the Earnshaws. Heathcliffe is a terribly complex character. He is an anti-hero, who plays upon the emotions of the reader.
Emily Brontë possessed a refined literary gift – to be able to paint a picture in the readers’ mind. The landscape she describes and the principal setting for the novel, Wuthering Heights is vividly drawn and embedded into the readers’ mind. A recent past to her, a far removed world for us now. Yet despite the distance of time, we find ourselves relating to the characters and their toils and troubles as Bronte explores concepts of love, anger, passion and loyalty.
Wuthering Heights is simply one of those books you will find hard to put down. Yet it is also the sort of book that can be read either pages at a time, or chapters. The portraits created by Brontë remain fixed in the mind and so the book is easy to pick up and take a quick read. The book is not complex, the characters are easy to follow. Unlike some novels with dozens of characters, Bronte confines her narrative to involve but a few principle characters. This makes for much simpler reading and allows for a deeper connection to the characters themselves.
The book is beautifully written and a sense of realism is brought to this gothic romance through the relatable characters. Yorkshire dialect is sometimes used which gives this book an extra touch of 19th-century style.
I feel rather sad to have finished the book, but all the better for reading it!
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