Emily Brontë may have just changed my mind on this whole Realism genre. I was scared away a little by Jane Austen’s Emma, but now I’m enjoying this era of literary work.
This is a story about love. A love that is so strong, so intense, that it transcends life and death. It goes beyond what any of us mere mortals can even think to call love. Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is epic in a way that is arguably more epic than that of even Romeo and Juliet. And, I don’t say this lightly.
Brontë created a world so vastly different from her own, mingling Romanticism and Realism for a fight to the death. The first volume describes our two lovers’ heated passion in a way that many could relate to. It is not until the second volume that we see why Heathcliff is the Heathcliff we met earlier in the novel.
Most of the story is told from the eyes of Nelly Dean, a servant for the Earnshaw, Linton, and Heathcliff families (all at various points in her life). A young man named Lockwood has rented Thruscross Grange because he has ran away from his own love. Nelly is his housekeeper, and she tells him the story of Catherine and Heathcliff.
However, Catherine and Heathcliff only share part of the story. Eventually, Catherine, Catherine’s daughter, and Linton, Heathcliff’s son, share their own love story.
Heathcliff is seeking revenge in the second volume. I’ve heard many voice that they didn’t like his character much after this point, but it was some of the best-written work that I’ve read in a while. Heathcliff’s search for vengeance only fuels the idea of love conquering all. If he hadn’t tortured Hareton or Catherine (younger), the reader wouldn’t believe that his love for Catherine went beyond all other loves.
Heathcliff is a compelling Romantic character in a world that isn’t meant for him. He is driven to cruelty from the start, but Catherine sends him over the edge. He becomes obsessive, and his love for her makes him evil to all others. This is not a story about happily-ever-after-love. It’s a story about hearts driven to madness. Unobtainable love. Passion so unsettling that you cringe at every act of vengeance Heathcliff puts to his victims.
It’s all for love. We see this as Heathcliff wills himself to finally settle with Catherine.
I was a bit disappointed with the Realist ending of young Catherine and Hareton, but this is a Realist novel.
It’s one of those novels that you either love or hate. If you like reading stories where everything ends with the big, happy wedding, this isn’t your story. If you want to read about passsion, madness, vengeance, and a love that transcends all things, this is the novel you should read. I still recommend reading it at least once though, no matter what type of story you prefer.
My faith is now restored in Realism. I only wish that Brontë had lived long enough to give us more, and to see Wuthering Heights become a success.