Wuthering Heights

For anyone who has read “Wuthering Heights,” by Emily Brontë,  you realize the layers of themes addressed throughout the book, the feelings evoked by injustices, and the depths of the characters explained by one housekeeper ought to preclude anyone from writing a CliffsNotes review or summary.

Brontë’s character development is some of the best I have read. The most astounding part, as mentioned above, is that she writes all of this through the housekeeper’s perspective; thereby, making Ellen Dean the best storyteller ever. This is no easy literary feat. When using one narrator to voice so many characters, you run the risk of them all adopting the same (or a similar) voice, and you have to blend the stories of the past with the narrative of the present. Brontë nails this. At least by halfway through, I would have been able to identify the character based entirely on the dialogue. Additionally, Brontë builds and grows her characters. We learn who they are. We learn how they think. We learn who we don’t want to emulate and how we don’t want to feel.

Brontë writes a difficult story. I don’t mean the writing style, time period, or at-times challenging vocabulary. “Wuthering Heights” hits you in the gut with hatred, heartbreak, destitution, manipulation, infidelity, and  abuse—physical, emotional, verbal. You reel after each incident, wondering how much worse it could get. It does get worse. You think you have steeled yourself for the next occasion only to realize all of your unspoken, worst fears have been realized in this story. Brontë includes it all. Brontë doesn’t mince words, either. There is no doubting what she means to say. By the end you seriously consider how much of her story is taken from her life or what she has been exposed to at one time or another. No one’s imagination is that good without prior experience, I’m sorry to say. This is surprising given her childhood home at Haworth Parsonage.

“Wuthering Heights” illustrates all the depravity akin to what you would find in a book by Dickens, though it is much easier to read, and by the end there are traces of romance and hope you would find in a book by Austen. Truth, however, is sorely lacking.

Although man’s depravity is thoroughly displayed by the characters, there is no solution offered for this corruption. The end brings some cheer to the reader: Heathcliff’s dominance ends; Hareton and Cathy are free and happy. But poor Brontë doesn’t seem to have a clue about the gospel and the hope of eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is no literary scene that affords her or her characters hope for eternity.

This is the most heart-clenching realization about Brontë and “Wuthering Heights.” You work your way through the pages, endure the happenings of the story, and reach the end with no promise for something else, something better. So one should ask how this came to be considered a classic. It is worth reading because Brontë writes so well. But the story she tells is a sad one, and not the type I would like to imitate—in real life or in writing.

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