Classic Author: Emily Bronte and Wuthering Heights

I’ve been reading Wuthering Heights. It’s sometimes good to re-read a classic novel. This was a perfect choice for February’s weather; it truly fit the mood.

About the Author
Emily Jane Brontë (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best remembered for her only novel, Wuthering Heights, now considered a classic of English literature. Emily was the third eldest of the four surviving Brontë siblings, between the youngest Anne and her brother Branwell. She published under the pen name Ellis Bell.

Emily Brontë was born on 30 July 1818 in Thornton, near Bradford in Yorkshire, to Maria Branwell and Patrick Brontë. She was the younger sister of Charlotte Brontë and the fifth of six children. In 1824, the family moved to Haworth, where Emily’s father was perpetual curate, and it was in these surroundings that their literary gifts flourished.

Emily’s health, like her sisters’, had been weakened by unsanitary conditions at home, the source of water being contaminated by runoff from the church’s graveyard. She became sick during her brother’s funeral in September 1848. Though her condition worsened steadily, she rejected medical help and all proffered remedies, saying that she would have “no poisoning doctor” near her. She eventually died of tuberculosis, on 19 December 1848 at around two in the afternoon. She was interred in the Church of St. Michael and All Angels family vault, Haworth, West Yorkshire.

About the Book
Wuthering Heights is a novel by Emily Brontë published in 1847. It was the poet’s only novel. It was written between December 1845 and July 1846. It remained unpublished until July 1847 and was not printed until December after the success of her sister Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. It was finally printed under the pseudonym Ellis Bell; a posthumous second edition was edited by Charlotte and then released under Emily’s real name.

The title of the novel comes from the Yorkshire manor on the moors of the story. The narrative centres on the all-encompassing, passionate but doomed love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and how this unresolved passion eventually destroys them and many around them.

Today considered a classic of English literature, Wuthering Heights was met with mixed reviews when it first appeared, mainly because of the narrative’s stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty. Although Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was generally considered the best of the Brontë sisters’ works during most of the nineteenth century, many subsequent critics of Wuthering Heights argued that it was a superior achievement.

My Review
Much can be and has been said concerning Wuthering Heights. I believe that you either love the story or hate it. There is no middle ground on such a dark, emotional story. I used to confuse the story with Jane Eyre, so it has been good to review them each and savor the differences.

Emily’s story is one of passion, both intense and violent. How can two people who loved each other so much be so cruel to each other and those around them. Catherine and Heathcliff feel betrayal deeply. I often feel that Heathcliff never had the chance to be a good person – he only had the negative expectations of those around him to guide his behavior, especially once Catherine’s father passed away. How does anyone live a good, respectable life when they are always told that they are trash, not good for anything, even called heathen by the lowest of the servants and “respectable” people?

I can’t help but feel sympathy for this poor couple and their doomed feelings for each other, even while I am truly disappointed by their behavior and treatment of everyone else around them.

The story is delivered by the housekeeper as she tells the man who is renting the house Catherine lived in while she was married. She is a firsthand witness to much of the tale and a confidant for the rest.

I think this story is a great tragic love story, showing how selfishness and cruelty can ruin families. A true classic should be read and re-read and this is one! You can find free copies or inexpensive versions of the book in print or e-book on every site available.