Wuthering Heights tells the tragic love story between two broken individuals, Catherine and Heathcliff. Although, it would be wrong of me to sum it up as simply that, as it is a story that goes several steps further, talking about ghosts, madness and evil deeds that bring two families to their knees. It is the first gothic fiction I have read that fits that niche genre.
Here is my spoiler-free review of the classic novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
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A Short Summary
Mr Lockwood, a gentleman, has rented a place called Thrushcross Grange owned by a Mr Heathcliff. Upon arriving, he decides to see the owner, Heathcliff himself at Wuthering Heights and after an eventful couple of visits, he is curious to learn more about the owner.
Lockwood receives the whole tragic story from Ellen Dean, a servant at Thrushcross Grange, who is happy enough to tell him the story if it does not bore him. Thus, we learn the up-and-down-but-mostly-down story of the two families; the Earnshaws and the Lintons, who lived in Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange respectively.
The story starts with the Earnshaw family, which consisted of the owner, Mr Earnshaw, his children, Catherine and Hindley Earnshaw, Ellen Dean, who was the servant at the time and finally, the grumpy, bible-punching servant named Joseph. The story kicks off when Mr Earnshaw comes home after a trip to Liverpool and he brings a young boy he saved from the streets, who he names Heathcliff.
There is a range of characters to talk about, so I will do my best to sum them up briefly in name and character without much else because that would be giving the plot away.
Lockwood, as I said earlier, is an outsider that comes to learn the story of Heathcliff and his acts towards the Earnshaws and the Lintons, through Ellen Dean who serves at the home he has rented from Heathcliff in the present day.
Ellen Dean is the narrator for most of the story, being a servant that was present for most of the major events of the story and relates it to Mr Lockwood for his interest. It is from her first-person perspective most of the story is written. She can be summed up as the voice of reason throughout the book as well as the storyteller.
Next, we have Heathcliff. Heathcliff is not like anyone in the middle-class families in the story, preferring his heavy-handed approach to things. He is quick to anger and the events of the story give him plenty of reason to feel that way, especially events concerning his love, Catherine.
Speaking of which, we have Catherine herself, who is of a higher class than Heathcliff and comes to accept this as she grows up. Yet, that does not stop her from feeling something for Heathcliff, creating this pressure on the two’s relationship, not to mention many other events.
Next, Catherine’s brother Hindley, who has a profound dislike of Heathcliff and his mind focused on this much until other tragedies consume it.
Next, Edgar Linton, who becomes a major character in the story a little later on. Edgar is one of the middle-class from Thrushcross Grange. He is another figure of common sense, but this has its lapses throughout the events of the story.
There are even more characters I can talk about beyond these few, but quite simply, it gives too much away. I will say this though, for the sake of making the story less convoluted, that there are two characters named Catherine and one who is named Linton. This second Catherine will commonly be called Cathy to not be confused with Catherine Earnshaw who I have already talked about.
As for Linton, that is his first name, not his last name and he is referred to as Linton throughout. However, to avoid confusion, those who have the last name are referred to as Mr or Mrs Linton, or simply by their first names.
It’s a small obstacle in the book, so don’t worry too much about it.
If I was to speak plainly about the writing style, I would say to expect what should be expected from books written in English from the nineteenth century. Meaning, there will be descriptions that go on for a mile and monologues that go on for two.
Yet, clarity is maintained throughout the book. You will understand what everyone means, what their intentions are and their personalities, which really is the story itself.
Perspective in this novel does shift from time to time, from Lockwood’s perspective to Ellen Dean’s perspective when telling the story, to Lockwood's retelling of the story from Ellen Dean’s perspective, but it is highlighted enough so that there isn’t any confusion.
Despite this, I took my time reading Wuthering Heights as the last book I read was written in this decade and I needed a moment to settle back into reading something much older than that. I have read a few classics, but there’s always something about 18th and 19th-century writing combined with dramatic stories that are a completely different ball game from the adventures written in those times.
With that said, you could read Wuthering Heights in 3 to 4 days comfortably, although if you take 1 or 2 more I would perfectly understand because I took 8 days to read the book.
My Thoughts on Wuthering Heights
I chose to read Wuthering Heights for two real reasons. First, I know it is a classic and it is mentioned occasionally in other media. Second, it is commonly read in school.
Now, Wuthering Heights was never included in my school syllabus, of which I am thankful because school often ruins classics for young readers. It is better to approach a classic willingly and read it as you normally would, without the pressure of knowing you will have to write a few thousand words about your thoughts, symbolism and other garbage you read on the internet that might push your grade up.
Even though I am writing about my thoughts now, I am glad I read this book as an adult.
I can see why this was the kind of book to make it into a school syllabus and at the same time, I can see why my school, as did many others, took it out. The book is written well, I enjoyed the style and relating the story to my wife in my, “Guess what Heathcliff did now!” retellings.
However, I realised that if this book had been written today, if it wasn’t a classic that was thrown at students around the world and referenced in other media, I certainly wouldn’t have read it. The plot, not so much the theme, doesn’t suit my tastes and I feel I enjoyed it for the wrong reasons.
I will probably have to write that statement again when I read Pride and Prejudice someday.
I feel that if I took up the mantle of a ‘professional’ book reviewer, I would preach nothing but good things about Wuthering Heights and encourage all who haven’t read it to drop what they are reading currently so they can read it immediately.
However, I am not a professional book reviewer and am completely biased.
If you enjoy tragic love stories with dark elements sprinkled here and there, then you will enjoy Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. If you want to read it because of its fame as a classic, I won’t stop you, as I still took something from it in the end.
However, if it doesn’t sound like your cup of tea and it being a classic does little to sway you in reading it, then don’t bother, you’re not missing much.
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy reading!
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