Wuthering Heights

...I tell you, I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me!
Perhaps it is because I have my nice and neat two years previous effort staring me in the face, but I find it difficult to settle on a catalyzing shade of feeling for this piece of now. Another possibility is, after reading this first in hate, second in love, third in awe (in all the blissful horror of that ancient word), further explication to myself of the qualities of this work see
...I tell you, I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me!
Perhaps it is because I have my nice and neat two years previous effort staring me in the face, but I find it difficult to settle on a catalyzing shade of feeling for this piece of now. Another possibility is, after reading this first in hate, second in love, third in awe (in all the blissful horror of that ancient word), further explication to myself of the qualities of this work seems superfluous. There are many, of course, who would disagree, but my interest in convincing others after having been utterly so has waned over the years, filled up with more care for my own development. Besides, this work is a classic. My pleasure at watching it claim that title again, again, and again knows no bounds.The reading populace has such a naive view of what an abusive childhood entails. It takes the nice, comfortable modus operandi of ethics and renders sum zero everything that does not save. Aspects such as gender, skin color, proximity to possible escape routes of the social climbing variety, all become an adaptation at the moment necessity arises. In place of hate there is endurance, in place of friendship there is utilization, in place of love there is solidarity. Adulthood being what it is, the question of one ever "reforming" is rhetorical at best, stigmatized at worst; power being it what it is, it is no wonder most of this work's audience focus on Heathcliff and Catherine rather than Edgar, Mrs. Earnshaw, Hindley. Anyone who faults another for marrying for the sake of money in capitalistic society is a liar and a fool, especially when killing for the sake of the same is so widely accepted.One: Lockwood is an unreliable narrator. Two: Nelly Dean is unreliable in both narrator and character, a pedagogical taste for controlling communication and a devil's advocate romanticism when it comes to other people's lives. Three: Lockwood violated Catherine's confidence by reading her private journal of future planning, and thereby suffers for it. Four: we, the readers, are violating Lockwood's confidnce by reading his private journal of wishful thinking. Five: The second generation lived out the foundered desires of the stronger of the first, and they will be haunted for it.We have violated this text, and we will reap accordingly.I have to wonder what Emily Brontë would have made of the stage. The perspectives, the costs, the interweaving of one's transcribing of another's translation, the brief and inexorable nature of the scenes with their conflicts of duties and susceptibilities and pride, all laid large in the power of their subtle insinuations, their all-is-not-what-it-seems. The might-makes-right democracy of Wuthering Heights, the eugenics deathtrap of Thrushcross Grange, Edgar without Catherine in the face of Heathcliff's son, Heathcliff with Catherine in the face of Hindley's son, Cathy, Catherine, Cathy, more than a name and a pliable soul if the ghosts are anything to go by. The evil that white supremacist patriarchy does, and how it ensures a supply of safe fresh blood.

The best part of it all is all we do not know. (view spoiler) [Catherine (hide spoiler)]dies and we do not know. (view spoiler) [Heathcliff (hide spoiler)]dies and we do not know. The wife fulfills her namesake's wish of outliving her husband and earns, what, for these fell-free souls living on a moor of ghosts? Lockwood sees nothing the matter with it, but we know how much trust he deserves, he and his befriended Nelly Dean with her love for silent corpses.

...if you neglect it, you shall prove, practically, that the dead are not annihilated!"
---

6/22/13 Review

Note: I do not usually feel the need to discuss plot points in my reviews, but here it is unavoidable. So, spoilers ahead. You have been warned. Also, this is the best place to mention that this is my second reading, and the first time during high school resulted in a one star. The more you know.Emily Brontë is, depending on her authorial intent, a genius. Of course, gauging the authorial intent of any author is difficult enough even when they are alive, equipped with a bountiful bibliography, and available for interviews. Determining the intent of a woman dead for more than 160 years who left little to no pieces of work beyond that of her only novel is, well. The words 'foolish' and 'near impossible' come to mind, so my pontifications could be wildly off the mark. But if they aren't, then she is indeed, in my mind, a genius.

Let us set the stage. Emily Brontë was born in 1818, published Wuthering Heights in 1847, and died in 1848. It is during this 19th century that the 'racialist consciousness' in Europe, birthed during the 16th century in reaction to colonial expansion, achieved its full-fledged form as scientific orthodoxy. Colonial expansion encouraged the use of cheap labor, the cheapest labor available was that of slavery, and those who were conquered and differed in physical characteristics from their conquerors fell victim to a pseudoscientific ideological justification that "biology determines destiny". These trends spread fast in reaction to those muttering that slavery did not follow neither Christianity nor the "rights of man" propounded by the earlier age of Enlightenment, and quickly became subsumed in sociocultural ideologies. It is impossible for Brontë to not have noticed these trends, and direct evidence of observance is embodied in the character of Heathcliff.

As much as visual adaptations like to deny, Heathcliff is a person of color, described as a "dark-skinned gypsy in aspect" (a portrayal that was not adhered to till the 2011 production). As soon as he appears in the domicile of the Earnshaws at the age of seven, brought along by a well-meaning and overly earnest father, he is referred to as "gipsy brat", "stupid little thing", and "it". The father may be on his side, and the daughter Catherine may grow to become inseparable from him, but the son who has eight years on him and the secondhand narrator who is old enough to help around the house abuse him constantly, and the mother prefers a blind eye in all matters related to the child. Events continue in this fashion until the father dies soon after the mother, preferring his abusive son to his headstrong daughter and wondering how her "pretended insolence" brought her closer to Heathcliff's heart than his overt kindness.

And the son who comes into power in the house? In words written by Catherine:

"He has been blaming our father (how dared he?) for treating H. too liberally; and swears he will reduce him to his right place—"
In the words of the narrator:
...it was one of their chief amusements to run away to the moors in the morning and remain there all day, and the after punishment grew a mere thing to laugh at.
Starvation for Catherine, and a flogging for Heathcliff, day in and day out, framed only by Sundays where Joseph,

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that "pious discoursing" and "self-righteous pharisee" saw to it to fill their heads with thoughts of blasphemy, death, and hell.

I include so much of the beginning because I feel it is necessary to remind those that condemn Heathcliff and wonder at his relationship with Catherine of the childhood they were bequeathed. The events may not excuse him, but they do explain him, and from a character in a novel nothing more can be asked. It must also be mentioned that Heathcliff never reacted with violence to his punishments, but stayed stoic and, in the narrator's words "not vindictive". It is this narrator within a narrator, a housekeeper who has been present at nearly all the major events of Heathcliff's life, that is the true mark of Brontë's genius, seeking as she is to portray a person of color as a fully-developed character that is impossible to pigeonhole as one way or the other. For the narrator is a constant condemner of Heathcliff, as well as anyone who strays outside the boundaries of gender, class, relationships, religion, and above all, 'race'.

"Come to the glass, and I'll let you see what you should wish. Do you mark those two lines between your eyes; and those thick brows, that instead of rising arched, sink in the middle; and that couple of black fiends, so deeply buried, who never open their windows boldly, but lurk glinting under them, like devil's spies? Wish and learn to smooth away the surly wrinkles, to raise your lids frankly, and change the fiends to confident, innocent angels, suspecting and doubting nothing, and always seeing friends where they are not sure of foes—Don't get the expression of a vicious cur that appears to know the kicks it gets are its deserts, and yet hates all the world, as well as the kicker, for what it suffers."

"In other words, I must wish for Edgar Linton's great blue eyes and even forehead," he replied. "I do—and that won't help me to them."

In other words, while Brontë often grants the most beautiful phrases and boundless depths of character to Catherine and Heathcliff, she makes sure that the lenses that the reader views them from are from the narrow-minded view of a hypocrite, whose only commentary seeks to negatively portray whomever it happens to land upon.

So, what do you get when you combine broken class dynamics that by chance mix and meld into strange and unusual forms, each hating the other with contempt and physical violence, aided along by a narrator with no real love for anyone who refuses to conform to her expectations of gender, and ultimately driven by a man who loves and hates the woman who married another in hopes of supporting the one who shares her soul? All of which happens to have been initiated by a mewling boy who never really grew out from under the shadow of his father favoring a human being that society has deemed to be "lower", and unlike Heathcliff is able for a time to enjoy true happiness with his beloved. Unlike Heathcliff, drowns his sorrows upon her death in drink and attempted destruction of his toddler son, wrecks and ruins his inherited estate to pieces, and yet is held up and pitied by the narrator who deems Heathcliff an "evil genius" who can do no good. A narrator who leaves a seven-month pregnant woman to starve for three days, and whose thoughts towards her are encompassed by:

"She's fainted or dead," I thought, "so much the better. Far better that she should be dead, than lingering a burden and a misery-maker to all about her."
For what? For being trapped between two worlds that refuse to reconcile with each other and having to cope with it without the aid of drink and fits of fury that being female is supposed to negate? A gentry husband who enjoys the benefits of adhering to the standards of beauty and intelligence determined by upper class society, a hardened soul mate who scorns those weak and spoiled productions of 'civilization' and would rather roam the moors full of knowledge of one's damnation and reveling in it so long as that one person is there by their side? A husband who seeks to keep the lines of bigotry pure through ignorance and the building of white towers, and a soul mate who aims to "demolish the two houses" through the manipulation of descendants whose faces are physical reminders of the ones who tortured his body and twisted his mind, as well as the one who may be gone yet still retains a firm grasp on his very essence? And yet, for all Heathcliff's wrathful machinations of revenge in the face of a world that condemned him for being born, despite his rejection of a god that equates the light with good and the dark with evil and his ploys to play the violent self-efficiency of one descendant off of the prejudiced self-assurance of another, his bloodline ends with a redemption that would have been impossible had the former tragedies been avoided. For through days of ignorance, threats, and fervent loathing, came the slow cracking along lines of former bigotry, bringing one who loved Heathcliff and his wild prowess to rest with one courageous enough to try and understand the man behind the mask woven by general society. No thanks to the narrator, of course, who knew so many sides of the story and favored scolding over explanation, and in fact directly contributed to the horrible chain of events that largely occurred out of misunderstandings acting along trenches of prejudice.

Let me make one thing clear. I wouldn't know romantic passion if it hit me over the head with a two-by-four. However, there are some things I do know; the struggle of the individual against the baseless ideology, the search to find the one who embraces them beyond the boundaries of said ideologies, the prejudice of those who conform to said ideologies, the agonies of childhood working their way out physically and psychologically throughout adulthood, the great range of feeling encompassed within human relationships that when intensified doesn't necessarily only intensify one side of the spectrum. The trickiness of narrators, who paint a picture and will often, if you're careful, tell you more about themselves than the image. And finally, the beauty rendered by words of landscapes untouched by the best laid schemes of mice and men, ones I may not have seen but can enjoy in their fullest form nonetheless:

He said the pleasantest manner of spending a hot July day was lying from morning till evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moors, with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom, and the larks singing high up over head, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly. That was his most perfect idea of heaven's happiness—mine was rocking in a rustling green tree, with the west wind blowing, and bright, white clouds flitting rapidly above; and not only larks, but throstles, and blackbirds, and linnets, and cuckoos pouring out music on every side, and the moors seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells; but close by, great swells of long grass undulating in waves to the breeze; and woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild with joy. He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle, and dance in a glorious jubilee.
Yes. That, I know. My hopes are that Brontë knew it, too. ...more


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