‘He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.’
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
I don’t think there’s a person in the world, never mind an avid reader, who hasn’t at least heard of Wuthering Heights. It’s one of those books that you feel you must read. I’ve attempted to read it twice before, but put it down and failed to pick it up again for whatever reason.
I liked Wuthering Heights. I did. It just wasn’t for the reasons I expected because it wasn’t what I expected it to be. I think I expected a Romeo and Juliet-like story; beautifully tragic and heart-wrenching. It just didn’t match the glorious image of what I thought the book would be, which is often the case with classics but that doesn’t tame anyone’s disappointment. Some people gush about them without actually reading them and this creates a false narrative. It’s a story about the dark side of humanity – bitterness, revenge, self-destruction and deep-ridden jealousy – more than anything else.
If I’d have read Wuthering Heights in my teens, before I’d fully experienced relationships and mistook destruction for passion, I think I’d have had a completely different take on it. I’d have romanticised Cathy and Heathcliff’s destructive relationship, like I did Bella and Edward’s in Twilight until I realised just how unhealthy it was. I spent more time hating Heathcliff than wishing he and Cathy would finally end up together and live happily ever after. If I’m honest, I think Cathy was actually better off with Edgar, even if she didn’t realise it herself but I’m sure a lot of people will disagree with me on that. It isn’t their story I dislike; I dislike the way people gush about wanting a relationship just as passionate as Cathy and Heathcliff’s like it’s something to aim for.
I get that Heathcliff’s an intense man who’s consumed by his love for Cathy and this turns him into a revengeful and abusive cretin. But, to me at least, this isn’t love. Wanting to destroy the child of the person you profess to love so deeply isn’t love. It’s spiteful way of spitting your dummy out because you didn’t get your own way. Putting a hole in someone’s coffin so you can disintegrate together without the other person’s permission (when living) isn’t love. It’s just creepy. Heathcliff reminds me of that guy on a night out who offers to buy a woman a drink and becomes aggressive and angry when she refuses to go home with him. Fuck Heathcliff. His type of love is not what young girls should be aiming to find. It’s what they should be avoiding at all costs.
Don’t get me wrong, Cathy isn’t passive in this, but she isn’t intentionally cruel. I’m torn when it comes to Cathy. I loved how unforgivingly dramatic and emotional she was, but part of me just wanted to shake her and tell her to follow her heart instead of her head.
I know it sounds like I hated every minute of it, but I really didn’t. The novel is beautifully written and I loved the idea of how not being true to yourself and your heart can be destructive, even if I didn’t like how destructive the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff was, it was necessary. Their relationship needed to be there in order for that idea, that warning, to shine through. Brontë must have been deeply inspired by the Romantics. The story reminds me a lot of William Blake’s poem, ‘The Sick Rose’:
O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.
Wuthering Heights perfectly echoes the same sentiment. Heathcliff and Cathy think they can’t be together, the ‘invisible worm’ embeds itself and destroys, not only their lives, but the lives of anyone they come into close contact with. It tells you, if anything, to always follow your heart. I doubt Heathcliff would’ve been the perfect partner in any case, but whether Heathcliff would’ve been a different man if they had followed their hearts is a different post for a different time.
Overall, if I’m being honest, the imaginary narrative was a better story (Sorry, Emily!). I hate to be that person, but I can’t help it. I so wanted it to match my expectations. I wanted to fall in love with Heathcliff and Cathy’s relationship the way other people had, but I just couldn’t.
If you’re thinking of reading it, do it! Despite my grievances, it’s totally worth it. Just let go of what you think it will be and take the story as it comes. I’d love to know how you found the book, even if you completely disagree with me. Let me know :).