Original date of publication: 1847
My edition: 1981 (Bantam Classics)
Why I decided to read: Re-read; first read summer 2002
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, summer 2002
I first read this in 2002, when I did an internship in Chicago and went on a classics reading kick that summer, and this book was one of them (Vanity Fair and Bleak House were two of the “loose baggy monsters” I read that summer). Although I’d read Charlotte’s Jane Eyre several times in school, Wuthering Heights was, for some reason, never on any of the syllabi for any of the classes I took (and English was my major!).
Wuthering Heights is a complicated novel, and it probably says a lot about Emily Bronte herself. The novel is melodramatic at times, and it contains two narrators: an old former family servant and a near neighbor, neither of whom is an observant or reliable narrator (at the beginning of the book, Mr. Lockwood thinks that a pile of dead rabbits is a cat). Emily Bronte had a wildly vivid imagination, as evidenced by the metaphysical and supernatural elements in this novel. Emily Bronte lived in a world of fantasy most of the time, and I think that this novel is an extension of that. Although I prefer Emily’s sister Charlotte’s Jane Eyre to Wuthering Heights, I can identify much more with Emily as a person, and I can see where she comes from. But to someone else, Emily’s writing is startling in its intensity.
The novel is hard to follow at times—there are narrators inside of narrators, and narrators inside of those, so sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between them. One of the most striking elements of the book is how obsessive the characters are, particularly Heathcliff. As a result, the love that he and Cathy have is startling in its intensity, especially after Cathy dies. I can see how many people might not like this book; there’s not a lot to like about the main characters. But the tale that Emily Bronte tells, about love, obsession, jealousy, and happiness, is pretty powerful.