By Emily Brontë
He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
Oh, Emily Brontë! Would that you had not left us so young and with so little evidence of your obvious genius! Wuthering Heights, Emily’s first and only book, was published in 1847, but less than a year later Tuberculosis claimed her life at the age of 30. Like any good novel, the book was received with very dichotomized reviews but over the past century has become a beloved novel and a cornerstone of classic fiction. This dark depiction of two passionate families living on the moor is full of power and emotion. Once you pick it up, you will find it very difficult to put down. Reader, be warned.
After Mr. Lockwood moves into Thrushcross Grange, he becomes curious about his strange landlord, Heathcliff. While visiting for dinner, he meets an eclectic collection of Heathcliff’s bitter, barbaric family members, and his chatty housekeeper who knows the family’s history well happily divulges the whole story. Heathcliff and Cathy are adopted siblings and close cohorts, but after their father dies Heathcliff is relegated to the life of a servant and Cathy is bred to be a gentlewoman. While Heathcliff takes out his resentment on those surrounding him and promises to pay back all those who have mistreated him, Cathy refuses to give up her selfish, headstrong ways. From Heathcliff and Cathy’s wild childhood and first pangs of love to their descent into hell and madness, Lockwood’s housekeeper details every fit of rage, every declaration of love, and every bizarre power struggle.
As one can imagine, although Heathcliff and Cathy are the main characters of the story, they are certainly not hero nor heroine. Brontë brilliantly creates a collection of wicked, decrepit characters who, despite their moral shortcomings, make you care about their story. In many stories, you are able to cheer for and sympathize with a protagonist who has some goal or journey to complete. In Wuthering Heights, you will find yourself hanging on every word, wondering how people like this exist and desperately looking for some sign of sanity.
The romance genre that had been popularized by Jane Austen’s and Charlotte Brontë’s works received a much darker, wilder treatment in Emily’s book. And while many claim that Wuthering Heights is in fact not a love story, I would argue otherwise. While Austen’s and Charlotte’s stories generally dealt with one type of love, the romantic love, Emily’s novel operates on the assumption that there are many different ways to love people. From the unhealthy obsessions of lovers acting only on the whims of passion to the incredibly unselfish acts of a child’s caretaker, Brontë examines and illustrates the different forms love takes in life with authenticity. Although Wuthering Heights may somewhat exaggerate the depravity of man, it accurately depicts life as a mixture of triumphs, losses, joy, and sorrow.
Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Jane Eyre are books that will leave you sighing for love and holding a happily-ever-after story like a pretty present with a neat little bow. Wuthering Heights will leave you sighing for the depravity of man holding a disconcerting story of love and loss like a bag of candy mixed with poison. It’s a wickedly stunning tale that I guarantee will leave you wanting more.