Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Genre: Classic Fiction
Pages: 353
Publication Date: Originally published in 1847
Source: Free Nook Book at Barnes and Noble
Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Description (from Barnes & Noble):
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics: All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.
Emily Brontë’s only novel, Wuthering Heights remains one of literature’s most disturbing explorations into the dark side of romantic passion. Heathcliff and Cathy believe they’re destined to love each other forever, but when cruelty and snobbery separate them, their untamed emotions literally consume them.
Set amid the wild and stormy Yorkshire moors, Wuthering Heights, an unpolished and devastating epic of childhood playmates who grow into soul mates, is widely regarded as the most original tale of thwarted desire and heartbreak in the English language.

I feel like I'm about to stand before a firing squad with this review. Wuthering Heights is a classic novel, beloved by many and well-known. I had heard of Cathy and Heathcliff even before I picked up this book, and it's probably gotten some revived interest stemming from the fact that it is "Bella and Edward's Favorite Book" (which I could care less about, but there you go). Perhaps because this is a story that has stood the test of time, I had unreasonable expectations. What I found when I started turning the pages was nothing that I had expected.

I really, really disliked this book. I didn't feel that way at first. The early chapters, where we get a glimpse of the characters' childhoods, were interesting. Even though I had a tendency to get lost with the multiple narrators and narrators within narrators, I was intrigued. But then the story developed, and as the characters became adults and started doing the most selfish, violent, and horrible things to each other, I started to wonder why I was continuing to read the story. I generally don't connect well with books when I hate all of the characters.

I found Wuthering Heights to be so depressing that I almost didn't finish it (and it took me  f-o-r-e-v-e-r  to actually finish). I came to absolutely hate Heathcliff. I had sympathy for him in his younger days--he was treated horribly for no reason and deserved better. But then he grew up into a violent and abusive person, deciding to ruin people's lives in retaliation for the wrongs he had experienced in life. He had no compassion for anyone (not even his own son), no mercy for anyone, and his actions were almost entirely undertaken in pure selfishness.

The physical and emotional abuse that occurred throughout this book to basically all of the characters is what left me the most uncomfortable. It was that aspect of the story that made me want to put it aside the most. But I just couldn't bring myself to give up--I kept hoping that something good would happen that would help redeem the rest of the book. I was glad that at the end Heathcliff had backed off a bit from making everyone's lives miserable, but he was still not very admirable and I didn't care in the slightest about him even in the end. Maybe it's because I don't have any appreciation or sympathy for Heathcliff's love for Cathy. I would never want anyone to put me on a pedestal like that--and Cathy was not worthy of that pedestal anyway if you ask me.

Cathy was another horrid, selfish character, though she didn't go to the extremes that Heathcliff did to ruin everyone's lives. She was focused entirely on her own happiness, and acted out to get her way. Mr. Lockwood, who is the narrator of the story (except when Nelly is narrating to him) seems like a totally unnecessary character and several times I wondered whether he was even necessary. Nelly, who was the main story-teller and had her bright moments, could be a shrew at times and antagonized people even though she knew better. And the vast majority of the time I could not understand a word that Joseph said. His dialect was too much for me, and I got to the point that started skipping his dialog because he was so loathsome when I did sort-of understand him.

It's been a long time since I've had such a negative feeling towards a book. I know a lot of people really like this book, but apparently I missed whatever it is that people like about it. If you are one of those fans, I hope you can forgive my rant here and we can just agree to disagree on this one.

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