Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathyyy…
‘Wuthering Heights’ was one of the first novels I ever studied at A-Level, and it really did consolidate my thoughts on doing English at university. As you can tell from the cover picture, it is a well-read and well-loved book of mine. The story is close to my heart, and I recommend it for anyone who loves a compelling romance with a deep dark mystery involved. There is no wonder Kate Bush released a song about it as the story’s haunting presence is very on-brand.
The story opens with a narrative from Lockwood after the events of the main story. He meets his brooding and enigmatic landlord, Heathcliff. Heathcliff’s mysterious persona drives Lockwood to ask his maid, Nelly, about his life story. The rest of the story is told through Nelly’s narrative.
The previous owner to Wuthering Heights, Mr Earnshaw, was a rich businessman. He found Heathcliff as a boy on the streets and pitied him, and so took him back to Wuthering Heights. Mr Earnshaw’s children Catherine and Hindley can’t stand Heathcliff at first as he looks weird (most likely is foreign) and barely speaks any english. But, after time, Catherine begins to fall in love with Heathcliff. Hindley still can’t stand Heathcliff.
When Mr Earnshaw dies, Hindley takes over Wuthering Heights and immediately dominates him. Hindley makes Heathcliff do manual labour all day, and works him like a slave.
Catherine’s eye is caught by her neighbour, Edgar, who quickly falls for her. Catherine realises she would have a more stable life with Edgar as he is very wealthy and Heathcliff doesn’t have a penny to his name, and so marries Edgar even though she does not love him. This angers Heathcliff and he runs away.
Heathcliff returns years later with lots of money, and wants to get revenge on Hindley, Catherine and Edgar. Heathcliff tricks Hindley into selling him Wuthering Heights, and Heathcliff treats Hindley like a slave just as Hindley did to him many years ago. Heathcliff then marries Edgar’s sister, Isabella, just to get back at Edgar and Catherine. Catherine dies in childbirth giving birth to baby Cathy, and at the same time Isabella gives birth to Heathcliff’s son Linton.
Years later, Cathy and Linton begin to fall in love. Heathcliff forces the two to marry. Linton is a sickly man, and dies just after the wedding. Heathcliff keeps young Cathy under lock and key at Wuthering Heights.
During Heathcliff’s later years, the ghost of Catherine haunts Heathcliff every night. Like the song says, “Too long I roam in the night, I’m coming back to his side, to put it right”. Every night she comes to his window to confess her love for him and to apologise for running off with Edgar. This constant haunting and heartbreak is too much for Heathcliff to bare, and he commits suicide.
“Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same”
“Be with me always, take any form, drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”
“She burned too bright for this world”
“How cruel, you veins are full of ice-water and mine are boiling”
As you may be able to tell from a few quotes I have picked out, the core of ‘Wuthering Heights’ is an intense love story. Bronte does not shy away from exploring the idea of soulmates, and what exactly it means to be separated from each other and die of heartbreak. Despite the story being told in a framed narrative and so never hearing about their love from the source, their emotions are still able to be presented as raw and passionate. Many have critiqued Catherine for not truly loving Heathcliff as she married Edgar instead, however this opinion only comes with totally missing the point of the novel. Catherine had no choice as an orphaned woman at the time and needed financial stability or she would stand no chance. The fact that Catherine’s ghost is unable to move along and visits Heathcliff every night to apologise and confess her love for him reveals how much she regrets her decision. Heathcliff feels the same and commits suicide as he would rather be dead than be without Catherine. I very much recommend this novel for someone who is interested in reading a heartbreaking tale of pure love and pure sorrow. The intensity of the novel and the beautiful landscape and writing style make it easy to see why this novel is regarded as a classic.