Text Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily BronteI finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte just this morning. It is a core text for the elective Romanticism (Extension English 1).

I have strong mixed reactions to this text.

Initially, I liked the text, because of the narrative-within-a-narrative style, and the sinister story which intrigued me. However, as I read on, I came across 2 things which frustrated me greatly.

Characters

One, I hated all the characters – they were all utterly despicable and irredeemable – to the extent that I wondered how on earth, they could possibly even love each other! What does Heathcliff see in Catherine? She’s manipulative, whiny, impetuous and childish, vain, and snobby – I felt no sympathy for her at all. And it was the same with Cathy – except that Cathy was much more naive (stupid) and cruel (toward Hareton). Linton was similarly hateful in his weakness and I am at awe at what Cathy possibly saw in him and how she could have entrapped herself into marrying him.

To some extent, I cannot help but empathise with Heathcliff’s disgust at these characters.

Yet, Heathcliff is also unlikeable. He is cruel and completely selfish. In this respect, perhaps Catherine and Heathcliff deserved each other – and the Lintons were merely victims to their games.

Perhaps the only “likeable” characters are Hareton Earnshaw and Edgar Linton, who demonstrate some hope and wisdom in an otherwise dark novel filled with characters who act with amazing stupidity.

Disappointingly, the female characters all seem completely powerless and inept – they are victims of their passions and duty. Why does Catherine marry Edgar? Why does Isabella stay with Heathcliff for so long? Why does Cathy let herself by trapped into marrying Linton? Why doesn’t Nelly do anything to stop all that happens?

Length

Two, after Catherine’s death, the novel did seem to drag on. I kept waiting for Heathcliff to die – or at least someone to kill him.

Sadly, no one took that initiative.

Final comments:

I wonder whether a novel, such as Wuthering Heights, is better for that fact that it can rouse such emotions (primarily disgust) in the reader. Or is it worse?

To demonstrate my point, I confess that last night – as I was reading the final chapters where Cathy has married Linton – I had to toss the book onto the ground and fall asleep. Bronte’s characterisation of Linton completely repulsed me to the point of no longer wanting to finish the book.

I wonder: have other readers had similar reactions to Wuthering Heights?

4 comments for “Text Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

  1. Sam
    December 2, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    I do agree that the lenght of the novel is too long and you need to take breaks in reading it. But comparing the characters to those in Austen novels, they are far more realistic and interesting. I suggest you read Sense and Sensibility to warm up to Wuthering Heights!

  2. Basil
    January 31, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Yes! I have heard it said that you’re either a Jane Eyre or a Wuthering Heights person. When all my friends were raving about how Heathcliff and Cathy’s love redeemed them, I was screaming in frustration. Never liked them. Hated them, in fact. I’ve only gotten through the book once, and that was an audiobook. Every other time, I’ve been too disgusted to continue.

    • tutortales
      February 1, 2011 at 5:26 pm

      Lol, I have to say I’m probably neither a Jane Eyre or a Wuthering Heights person – didn’t take to either of them! TT

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