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nataliya

nataliya

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.” 
― Stephen King, On Writing.

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"If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals."— J.K. Rowling

'Wuthering Heights' and my conflicting views about this classic

Wuthering Heights - Lucasta Miller, Pauline Nestor, Emily Brontë

Not often do I decide to edit the review - and change the opinion of the book I initially detested - mere days after writing a 'why I hated it' opus. Emily Bronte, you mastermind!

 

In addition to learning truly horrifying things through the comments from my fellow lovely Goodreaders (people have told me that not only Heathcliff and Catherine's horrible story served as an inspiration for 'Twilight - a story that's paraded as a love story; and - brrrr - that "in almost all polls on most romantic literary figure, Heathcliff takes the lead") I read this comment from Teresa:

 

"I think I read somewhere -- maybe in this book: Emily Bronte: The Artist As a Free Woman -- that she was creating her own world (and the book does seem claustrophobic with its two framing narrators), her own mythos. If one sees that interpretation, I think Heathcliff could be viewed almost as a Zeus-figure, another petty and vengeful 'entity.'

 

... a comment that, combined with her observation in another comment that "the names Hindley/Heathcliff/Hareton all started with the same letter, not to mention having two Catherines -- an enclosed world that repeated itself" led me to realize that yes, in a mind-blowing turn of events this book is a genius take on the completely secluded, isolated world that lives only by its own rules, ruled by its own godlike creatures, and bears little resemblance to and has little influence from the larger universe outside of it.

 

Two Catherines in this book - and both of them take a journey between the stops of 'Catherine Earnshaw', 'Catherine Heathcliff' and 'Catherine Linton' - because what other options do they have? Even young Cathy, so seemingly close to possibly leaving this enclosed corner of the universe thanks to sudden fascination Lockwood (a man of the outside world) takes to her, ultimately remains tightly tethered to the place she knows, remaining with an Earnshaw - her first cousin (because who else is there?)

 

Heathcliff, who could have had the world, comes back to rule the little universe into which he was adopted, unable to leave the country of grey moors.

 

And everyone else is a Linton - another link in the chain that connects everyone else. And the little world of this novel takes no one else in who is not a Linton, a Cathy or an incarnation of Heathcliff/Hareton/Hindley. Everyone stays together, their fates tied only to one another, with disregard to the world outside. Only Isabella (who never seems to have fit into this world anyway) manages to escape - but remains tethered to this world by her child, Linton Heathcliff, who - thanks to his names - is powerless to escape being sucked into this little corner of the universe and become a pathetic little villain.

 

And this world, free from the influence outside, just continues to go in its own little circle, being its own little - and terrifying - universe.Ok, mindblowing. Enough to up my star rating by a full star. Emily Bronte, your mind was darker than I gave it credit for. Touché.

 

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ORIGINAL REVIEW FROM LONG AGO (a.k.a. a few days - an eternity in the eyes of a fruitfly, however)

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Ok, I'll be honest - I decided to read this one really because the word 'Wuthering' had for a while been fascinating my non-native speaker brain. (Basically, brain insists it should be 'wIthering.' Computer spellcheck agrees. And both of them are wrong.)

 

Plus, I have also been introduced to it by - of course! - pop culture, courtesy of Phoebe Buffay:

 

 

(In the remainder of this episode, Rachel ends up comparing 'Jane Eyre' to 'Robocop', to Phoebe's utmost delight.)

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Ok, back to serious now.This book had one of the most promising beginnings in all the literature. No joke. The narrator's stumbling into Heathcliff's household leads to the opening chapter as surreal and creepy as a nightmare you really want to wake up from but cannot. Seriously, let's look back to the beginning of the tale - with Heathcliff, and the dogs, and the creepiest servant since Igor, and strange perplexing characters of Hareton and Cathy, all in the most gothic setting a 19th century mind could have conjured. Lovely, just lovely.

 

But then a meddling self-righteous servant sat down to tell the story of Cathy and Heathcliff and everyone else caught in the destructive hurricane those two left in their selfish wake - and something changed, the magic dissolved. I was promised passion and wilderness. Instead I got a cold wearisome shower of egotistical, self-absorbed, shallow, destructive, prejudiced, reckless petty disregard for anyone else from everyone else, combined with clear cases of sociopathic, narcissistic, and spoiled to the core people damaging everything they come in contact with. It's not wild passion; it's self-absorbed selfishness and nothing more. It's a spoiled brat in a grocery store flinging himself on the floor and throwing a raging, embarrassing tantrum because he just has to have that unnecessary piece of candy. No, I'm not a fan of anger, revenge and possessiveness trying to masquerade as wild love and passion. Neither Catherine nor Heathcliff love one another; instead of love they might as well just selfishly scream, "WAAAAAANT!!!"

 

 

Heathcliff is not wild - he is a cruel sociopath. Catherine is not wild and passionate - she is a haughty and spoiled thoughtless creature.

 

And I cannot help asking, dear reader - What is the point?

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Yes, I understand the balls ovaries needed for making such repulsive personalities be the center of your story (actually, that's not just Cathy and Heathcliff being repugnant; think of Hindley, and Hareton, and - brrrr! - Joseph, and young Linton, and even young Cathy, and to a point the ever-meddling self-righteous unsure-where-her-allegiance-lies-but-probably-with-whoever-the-current-master-happens-to-be Nelly Dean), and to systematically beat out any possible feel-good moment in this book. It probably was not an easy book to write, and definitely is not an easy book to read.

 

But because of all that I could not bring myself to care in the least. What's worse, the little cringeworthy details peppered throughout the story became even more obvious in the light of me disliking the book:

 

- Like the constant neverending out-of-character moments that all the action here seems to hinge upon (Heathcliff's sudden madness/death; Catherine's reaction to the argument between Heathcliff and Edgar; Cathy and Hareton's sudden feelings for each other; to name a few).

 

- Contrived happy-ish ending: a thought that young Cathy will end up with a man who has physically assaulted her in the past and be happy with him in a Stockholm Syndrome-like fashion - and for it (a) to seem like a good choice and (b) the violence presented as something she had coming for daring to have a 'saucy' tongue.

 

- Actually, constant violence, threats, marital rape - the stuff that would make even George R.R. Martin seem like a tender-hearted softie.

 

- Constant reminders of darkness of Heathcliff's character being tied to the darkness of his skin - while white paleness of the Lintons provides a contrast of civilization to the brute. Dark skin = evil, right? Ah, Miss Bronte, really?

 

- Constant nervous outbreaks and the destructive passion of feelings that after a while became much too repetitive.

 

- The predictable cycle of Heathcliff or Catherine wanting something --> rudeness --> physical violence to those they perceive to be their inferiors --> some contrived disease brought on by nervous exhaustion or something of the sort --> someone probably dies for no reason than the effects of wild passions --> rinse, repeat.

 

-Joseph's dialect. Need I say more?

 

And, all throughout, I realized that I just could no longer care about the story that brought two English families living on the wild moors to the state that the narrator observes in such a promising beginning of this book. I think I was too exhausted with this story to care. It tried too hard to unapologetically be dark and brooding and bleak - and succeeded in just wearing me out. 2 stars and valiant attempts to dodge the shower of rotten eggs and rotten tomatoes heading my way.