My rating: 4 stars
More than a love story, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a tale of demented obsession and revenge. Despicable characters are enthrallingly brought to life in a gothic novel that is narrated in the first person from the points of view of two secondary characters – Mr Lockwood and Mrs Dean. Past and present generations become either willingly or inadvertently embroiled in a long-term reprisal scheme that stems from an unhealthy fascination.
Mr Lockwood became Mr Heathcliff’s tenant in 1801. He paid two visits to his landlord at Wuthering Heights but was never properly welcomed. That is not surprising, however, seeing that he was too intrusive and inconvenient. He didn’t consider himself so, though. Lockwood had to stay at Wuthering Heights after his second visit because of a snowstorm. One of the servants, Zillah, took him to a room where he found some writings by a Catherine Earnshaw. He realised then that there was a mystery involving that household.
When Lockwood returned home, his housekeeper, Mrs Dean, who had been living there for 18 years, told him the story of his neighbours. Before she moved there, she used to work at Wuthering Heights. At the time her employer was Mr Earnshaw, who had two children – Catherine and Hindley. Once, after a journey to Liverpool, he returned home taking with him a homeless boy, whom he called Heathcliff. Hindley didn’t like him, and a conflict soon erupted between the two. The situation deescalated when Hindley was sent to college. Catherine and Heathcliff became close friends and supported one another when Mr Earnshaw died.
Hindley returned home for his father’s funeral and for everyone’s surprise a wife accompanied him. Many changes occurred then. He put Heathcliff to work outdoors and made sure that he knew that he wasn’t part of the family. Since then Heathcliff harboured a desire for revenge that only grew with time and with the decisions of other characters. The tension between the two of them was palpable. The situation only became bleaker when Hindley’s wife died giving birth and he resorted to drinking.
If, at first, I had some sympathy for Catherine and Heathcliff, it completely disappeared as the story progressed. Catherine started to divide her attentions between Heathcliff and their neighbour Edgar Linton, since the plan that she had for her future involved both of them. Although she couldn’t part from Heathcliff, she had more practical considerations in mind. Depending on the company she was in, she behaved differently. As a child, Catherine was mischievous but was also capable of kindness. She grew arrogant, avaricious and proud, however. Heathcliff was obsessed with revenge and cruel even to those who had never wronged him. They are both despicably fascinating.
The reason for certain characters to be living at Wuthering Heights at the beginning of the novel starts to become clear as the story progresses. Their present situation is the consequence of past events and decisions. Although readers are told about what happened in the past from Mrs Dean’s perspective, the characters are vivid and the story is enthralling. There are details that she was obviously unware of. So, unfortunately, we can’t know for sure what was going on in the characters’ minds at specific times.
The writing style is for most of the novel engaging and easily captures different experiences. The voices of the two narrators are characteristic to them. While Lockwood is decidedly pompous, Mrs Dean is more sensible and absorbing. Occasionally, there are short conversations between the two. Sadly, I couldn’t understand any of Joseph’s interventions during dialogues, because of the way in which they are written, mimicking his absurd number of mistakes. As one of the servants at Wuthering Heights, he isn’t thankfully particularly relevant.
The enthralling plot is complemented by various visual descriptions of the weather conditions and the characters’ surroundings, which help set the scene.
“The rainy night had ushered in a misty morning – half frost, half drizzle – and temporary brooks crossed our path, gurgling from the uplands.”
It’s not easy to turn a story full of loathsome characters into a compelling book. But Emily Brontë managed to achieve that, even if at times I wanted to know more about the inner thoughts of certain characters.