Sunday, February 03, 2013

Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights is right up there on the list of my favorite books.  I have owned several copies of it, lost them in transit from one place to the other in my life, and bought again, lost again, till I lose count.  It popped up somewhere in the lists when I was browsing for books on  It arrived with another book that I ordered.  I tore the open the wrapping and started reading it three days ago.  I have barely put it down, in any free moment that I have to call my own.  It helped that my net crashed for a couple of days.

First Edition
I met my favorite characters once again, if you can call that rude bunch a favorite.  Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Nellie Dean, Lockwood, Edgar and Isabella, Frances and Hindley, Linton, Hareton and Catherine junior.  I was transported once again to the moors of Yorkshire and roamed over them with Cathy and Heathcliff.  It is not hard to see why such  a rough and cheerless place excites passion in the hearts of those living there.  Heathcliff is bound to Cathy by a common childhood, and a bond they cannot break.  The word love is useless to describe their feelings for each other.  It is just that they share a spirit.

As long as they are children, things are alright with them.  But creeping adulthood brings changes in them.  Heathcliff is a foundling and a ward of Catherine's father, a fact that her older brother Hindley resents.  As soon as he gains control of the house, he tortures Heathcliff and wedges barrier between him and Cathy.  On her own part, Cathy grows up and discovers the charms of being wooed by a rich, good looking and an accomplished neighbour Edgar Linton, whom she marries by and bye.

Heathcliff is devastated at losing Cathy and vows to wreck revenge, first on Hindley for his mistreatment of him and later on Edgar.  He succeeds, but finds the whole exercise futile in the end.  He does not repent, but dies possessed of the spirit of Cathy.

It is not an easy book to love.  It is full of heady passions and hatred.  Yet it is beautiful.  The passages that describe the love between Cathy and Heathcliff are unparallelled anywhere else in literature that I know of.  "I am Heathcliff" Cathy declares. "He is always, always in my mind", she says.  On his part, Heathcliff never desires to possess Cathy's body.  He is happy to be close to her, and be allowed to see her and walk with her.  'I could never hurt Linton', he says, 'because of her.'  If Cathy wants Linton around him, he would not dream of preventing her.  It is SHE that he adores, above his own feelings.  It is when he is prevented from being with Cathy, that he turns into a vengeful beast.

All the rough characters in the book, Heathcliff, Joseph, Hareton are closer to nature, they live more like farmers than gentlemen and are bestowed with rude health and manly beauty.  Edgar Linton, and Linton are pretty boys, full of bookish learnings, but are weak in health.  Emily probably saw a lot of such examples in her life.

Most readers that are fascinated with the strange novel, are also fascinated with Emily Bronte, its writer. What mind produced such a singular novel.  Hence Emily, along with her talented siblings, Charlotte, Anne and Branwell are subject of many books.  Their cloistered lives, enriched only by their readings, are as curious as the novels they wrote.

Anne Carson writes in her beautiful poem, The Glass Essay:

She lives on a moor in the north.
She lives alone.
Spring opens like a blade there.
I travel all day on trains and bring a lot of books—

some for my mother, some for me
including The Collected Works Of Emily Brontë.   
This is my favourite author. 
All of us that feel emotions other than we perceive as 'normal' can agree a lot with Emily. This is a bold novel that she wrote. It is full of forbidden feelings, but also very true. Sometimes it seems to be as if Heathcliff and Cathy are the normal people in the narrative, true to their inner selves. This is the way Emily wanted to be, true to her inner self, which is why she could not write in any other way.   
Her superb imagination awes me and makes the stark world of the moors and Wuthering Heights come alive even today.


Anonymous said...

I think I have never read Wuthering Heights. My sis had it on her English Literature course, and she described it as dark and dismal. maybe that is why I avoided it till now.
Here is a song from hindi film take on the classic.
Everybody though looking as if they were chachas and buas of the characters described in the novel.
They could have taken Dharmendra, Manoj Kumar, Prem Chopra, Sadhana and Mumtaz instead. Khair!

Anonymous said...

It is quite possible that I had one chapter from the novel in my English text book in school, but can't remember which.

Ava Suri said...

I can't imagine which one chapter they could have pulled out to put in your book Harvey.

I don't blame your sis, the novel is not easy to love. A lot of people don't like it.

But I do :)

Haan. Younger actors would have been a better option. But in our films the star-aura counts for more than being 'fit' for roles.

Giribala said...

I have read Wuthering Heights only once and your post brought back the memories :-)

Ava Suri said...

I hope those memories were good, Giribala :)


Anonymous said...

I am yet to read this book. Have heard so much about it, it is high time I picked it up :)

Carole said...

Ava, I must read this again! Hope life is treating you well. Cheers

Carole said...

Ava, I would like to link to this. Please drop me a line on if it is ok with you if I link to it on my blog, Carole's Chatter. Cheers

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