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Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte

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#1 OFFLINE   Amanda Grange

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Posted 08 September 2005 - 01:08 PM

I'm probably being far too ambitious, but I'll try and post something every day about WH.

Random thoughts:
WH seems to come out of nowhere, like Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. With most works of art, it's easy to see a link with what's gone before, but WH is in a class of its own, I think.

Here are some things I like/find interesting about it.

Structure
Doesn't pull its punches - follows characters and their actions to their conclusions
Nature vs nurture debate. Does anyone know when this debate started? It's certainly clearly laid out in WH, when Heathcliff thinks, I'll see if one tree will grow as twisted as another with the same wind.
The 'preacher' dream reminds me of Kafka, but WH predates The Trial by (?) a lot :) of years
OTT romance
Effortlessly creates exactly the right sort of psychological climate for these kinds of characters to flourish a lot :) of years before Freud.
The last para - one of the most beautiful in the English language, imo
Sense of redemption

Btw, the story is based on Bronte family history. Can't remember all the details, but they had a relative in the past who had adopted a boy. The boy and old man loved each other, and the old man left everything to the boy, who had to marry the daughter of the house. The boy made the daughter's life a misery, because he was an awful character. EB changed the story, in that she made the boy and girl love each other. A way of empowering women, perhaps, and rewriting family history in a way which suited her?

1st 3 chapters
The story within a story is often criticised, but I think it works very well. It adds another layer of mystery, and allows for some very powerful images. I think the 1st person sets up the isolation of the book very well. As soon as there's a narrator, there's an extra person involved, almost a confidante for the character - at least, someone who knows and cares about them, but here Lockwood seems very isolated.

I love the atmosphere. The 'solitary neighbour', the 'wuthering' weather, and morose Heathcliff. I love the power of the writing.

I wish I could read WH for the first time again, because the opening doesn't give any sign of what's coming. The book appears to be about Lockwood.

Chapter 2
(Joseph's speech: 'What are you doing? The master's down in the fold. Go round by the end of the lane (? I don't know laith), if you want to speak to him.' - 'There's no one but the missus, and she'll not open it if you make a din til night.' - 'Not me. I'll have no hand in it.')
I think curiosity is what keeps the reader reading in this chapter. The characters are unpleasant, but it seems like a traditional romantic set-up, with a likely outcome of the young woman escaping her awful relatives and blossoming with Lockwood. The unsettling part of this expectation is that we know Lockwood is also not very nice.

There's a kind of black humour to the writing, eg Lockwood mistaking the dead rabbits for cats. I think this is one of the things that gives the book its power. The language and incidents are not those usually found in a romance. It creates a tension in the book that drives it forward. Another source of tension here is that Lockwood is completely out of his depth, and keeps putting his foot in it.

The mystery aspects also draw me in:when Lockwood mentions Heathcliff's wife, we learn that she's dead. I think the book is interactive, which makes for an engrossing read. There's a lot for the reader to work out. Is Mrs Heathcliff's death the cause of all the hostility in the house? for eg. I think the advantage of the 1st person narrator is again evident. It's easy to empathise with Lockwood, who digs himself in deeper and deeper with everything he says.
(Joseph's speech to Cathy, when he brings in a pail of porridge for the dogs: 'I wonder how you can bear to stand there in idleness, when they're all going out. But you're nothing, it's no use talking, youll never mend your ill ways, but go right to the devil, like your mother before you.')

The mystery aspects deepin in Chapter 3, with the bedchamber Lockwood is given. Again, it's interactive. If Heathcliff doesn't want anyone in there, is it because his wife died there? It shares some characteristics with a romantic thriller - not as developed as in Jane Eyre, but they're there.

I think the flashback for the main story, and the names on the window ledge, Cathy's diary, is a stroke of genius. These are awful people, and the only way for a reader to become sympathetic towards them is to become involved with them as children.

(Working class note, following on from discussion on favourite romance thread. Cathy and Heathcliff are educated with the plough boy. Joseph takes on the role of father. There's a lot more interaction between the servants and masters in WH than there is in P&P, and they're treated very much the same.)

(Joseph's speech, when they go downstairs: 'The master's only just buried, and the Sabbath isn't over, and the sound of the gospel's still in your ears, and you dare be playing! Shame on you. Sit down, bad children. There's good enough books, if you'll read them. Sit down and think of your souls.' - 'Master Hindley, Master, come here! Cathy's torn the back off The Helmet of Salvation, and [I've no idea what pawsed his fit means) to the first part of 'The Broad Way to desturction.' It's dreadful of you to let them go on in this way. Ech! The old man would have whipped them properly - but he's gone.!')

The dream sets up an unnerving atmosphere, and prepares the way for Cathy at the window. WH is in part an excellent ghost story. Is the ghost real?
The mystery deepens as Heathcliff comes in. It's the strength of the writing I love here. 'What can you mean by talking in this way to me?' thundered Heathcliff with savage vehemence.

Savage characters, a savage setting - and then Heathcliff crying. I'm trying to think. Does the hero in any other romance cry? And not just a small weep, but 'an uncontrollable passion of tears.' This was one of the things that really grabbed me by the throat when I first read WH, and one of the reasons I think it's such a powerful romance. Love is at the centre of Heathcliff's being. Perhaps that's why people like reading about him, even though he's so unpleasant?

#2 OFFLINE   David

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Posted 09 September 2005 - 04:24 PM

Wow!

Actually, I'm going to say that again.

Wow!

Ambitious is certainly the word, Amanda! You might be able to publish this thread as a study guide by the time it's complete! (or does Bill hold any copyrights over material? There's an intriguing question)

I also adore WH, which is one of the very few books you can describe as 'unique' with total justification - especially remarkable given that it emerges from the Victorian era, which contains some of the greatest novels ever written but is not known for the vast diversity of approaches amongst its practitioners.

The multiple narration, fractured structure and highly unconventional characters make it fascinating, though it is always strongest for me in the first half, with Cathy and Heathcliff's story. Here, the rugged, primeval landscape is in utter harmony with the bare, emotionally charged lives, which is why the 'ghost' story element works so well, because we can credibly imagine spirits in unison with this raw setting.

I think the Lockwood aspect is vital for framing the story. He is our representative, a member of 'our' safe, conventional world and by having him present at these events we are forced to confront how alarmingly different everything is, but then also progressively to appreciate how something fundamental suffuses it all, in a way with which we have lost touch. It is almost a natural successor to the Romantic mindset of the early part of the century, which showed 'civilised' society failing to recognise any more the truths of existence embodied in nature. By that closing paragraph we are no longer quite in tune with Lockwood and his function has changed. By now we are linked to those spirits on the moors whilst he is too ready to be dismissive and return to 'safe' Victorian life.

Heathcliff is a brilliant anti-hero, and daring in the associations drawn around him. You mentioned elsewhere, Amanda, that you didn't think the book worried itself with issues of good and evil. I can't agree with that. Hellish and devilish insinuations are made frequently in relation to Heathcliff, and whilst I know Bronte is not trying to suggest he is a devil, I think she wants us to consider what is traditionally labelled as 'evil' by Lockwood's society from a different perspective. There are certainly no definitive answers, but we are not allowed the easy, black-and-white distinctions she would have been used to seeing.

It's clear that EB was a phenomenal talent - far better than Charlotte, in my opinon. Like so many other huge talents in the first half of the 19th century (Keats, Shelley, Byron) it was a great loss that she died so young.

#3 OFFLINE   Amanda Grange

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Posted 09 September 2005 - 10:51 PM

SPOILERS – I should have put this at the top of the last post, too.

So, here's the next installment of the study guide :D :D

There’s a lot of misdirection in WH. By Chapter 4, I think the natural assumption, from what we’ve been told, is that Heathcliff has become a morose recluse, following the death of his much-loved wife (Cathy) and their son. I’ve read the book so many times, I’d forgotten how much it twists and turns along the way. It reminds me of Rebecca in this way.

Chapter 4
There’s a marked contrast between the present, cosy atmosphere of Lockwood sitting by the fire, and the events Nelly unfolds. I think one of the reasons WH doesn’t descend into melodrama is that the larger than life events are told at one remove, first through Lockwood's eyes, then through Nelly's.

I'd never really thought about the servant aspect before, but after the recent posts on the romance thread, I started to notice it and compare it with Austen. Nelly’s position is almost like that of a poor relation in Austen. She runs errands and plays with the children, being of an age with the oldest boy, Hindley. She’s freer than a poor relation, though, and happier. The Earnshaws are not rich people: Mr Earnshaw walks to Liverpool, he doesn’t ride. We’re socially a long way beneath Austen’s characters.

You mentioned elsewhere, Amanda, that you didn't think the book worried itself with issues of good and evil. I can't agree with that. Hellish and devilish insinuations are made frequently in relation to Heathcliff, and whilst I know Bronte is not trying to suggest he is a devil, I think she wants us to consider what is traditionally labelled as 'evil' by Lockwood's society from a different perspective.


Hm, I think I painted myself into a corner with that ;) Having commented on the nature/ nurture aspects yesterday, I can't really get away from the good/evil aspects of the book. What I was getting at was that I don't think EB is judgemental. I'm not convinced that she wants us to consider good and evil, because I don't think the book is written for an audience. I think she wrote it for herself, and I don't really think she cares what anyone else thinks.


The introduction of Heathcliff is suitably dark, and has overtones of the supernatural. I think a case could be made for him being a changeling.

Everything is psychologically right in WH. I think it's very difficult to write a book like this and make it work. The hatred between Heathcliff and Hindley is set up very quickly, and alongside it we get the friendship of Cathy and Heathcliff developing. The death of Mrs Earnshaw, then Mr Earnshaw, again forces Cathy and Heathcliff closer. Hindley comes home, but he's only 20, far too young to be a parent to Cathy and Heathcliff, even if he'd wanted to be. And so they run wild. It's when Cathy is befriended by the Earnshaws, and Heathcliff is literally left out in the cold, that things start to change.

I hadn't really thought about the class aspects before, but it's class that starts to separate Cathy and Heathcliff. The Earnshaws remind her she's a lady, and at about 13, she's ready to start growing up. It's interesting to wonder what would have happened if someone had taken an interest in Heathcliff. If, for eg, Hindley hadn't hated him, and had given him some responsibility around the farm. But of course he does hate him, and - to use a cliche - Hindley sows the wind and reaps the whirlwind.

#4 OFFLINE   David

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Posted 10 September 2005 - 02:13 PM

What I was getting at was that I don't think EB is judgemental. I'm not convinced that she wants us to consider good and evil, because I don't think the book is written for an audience. I think she wrote it for herself, and I don't really think she cares what anyone else thinks.

I certainly agree she's not being judgemental, which is true of so many of the great writers. They pose ideas for us to consider rather than pretending they have all the answers. I think that is what then helps them to be both universal and enduring. Shakespeare would certainly be a case in point.

I don't know it necessarily helps to consider any novel as purely a private conceit, because in that case it's difficult to see any sort of purposeful direction. Even if it was only for the consumption of her sisters (and of course they had shared their group fiction, such as the Angria stories, with passion, so it's hard to believe she would not have wished to share WH), it consequently has to include in her mind the premise of a sharing of ideas. Equally, there is also the warning from modern critical theory of relying too heavily on 'intentionalism', and leaving room in critical debate simply for what a text conveys on its own terms.

I certainly see what she writes as a challenge to conventional Victorian thinking and writing, whether she intended it to be widely read or not. There is a radical stripping away of social niceties here and an exploration of the elemental soul. I would agree she does not see the dark aspects of Heathcliff as simplistically as being 'evil', but with Lockwood as narrator we inevitably have a conventional Victorian perspective brought to bear on the issue, forcing it to have relevance. If she wasn't at all interested in this challenge to Victorian sensibilities, I'm not sure why he's there.

I'm interested by the way our discussions elsewhere about class have brought in a fresh angle to your reading, Amanda. That's much of why this group is so good: there's so much more in every book than one person's outlook and experiences can encompass, and I've certainly seen things I wouldn't have thought of otherwise. Thanks for your ongoing insights, though I don't think I can reply to each one, so I hope some others will share their thoughts along the way during your magnum opus! :)

#5 OFFLINE   mrs.dalloway

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Posted 25 September 2005 - 06:12 PM

To be honest, i think amanda needs to stop reading so much into the story in desperate attempts to analyse everything within the pages and just let the beauty of the words wash over her and allow her to just enjoy the book like everyone else does without feeling the need to justify its existance!
...What dreams may come...

#6 OFFLINE   Cathy

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 09:47 AM

I'm going to have to come back and read this thread again at some point when I've recently read WH, as its been a little while...
...hope I can help with the nature/nurture debate though, its been around at least since the middle ages, I seem to remember being told the personifications of Nature and Nurture in Piers Plowman ( :eek: :o ) were the earliest but the debate has probably been around longer, wouldn't be surprised.

#7 ONLINE   megustaleer

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 01:33 PM

To be honest, i think amanda needs to stop reading so much into the story in desperate attempts to analyse everything within the pages and just let the beauty of the words wash over her and allow her to just enjoy the book like everyone else does without feeling the need to justify its existance!


The point of BGO is to discuss books (or so I thought when I joined), and a proper discussion needs something a bit more meaty than 'Ooh I thought it was lovely"

I appreciate a bit more of an in-depth analysis to compare and contrast my thoughts with, or to give me an idea of what to expect in a book I've not read before.

I had never had any inclination to read WH until I read the detailed discussion on this thread.

#8 OFFLINE   Cathy

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 04:59 PM

The point of BGO is to discuss books (or so I thought when I joined), and a proper discussion needs something a bit more meaty than 'Ooh I thought it was lovely"

I appreciate a bit more of an in-depth analysis to compare and contrast my thoughts with, or to give me an idea of what to expect in a book I've not read before.

I had never had any inclination to read WH until I read the detailed discussion on this thread.


To try to balance out both a bit...hopefully there is room for both big meaty discussions and gushing...I have enjoyed Amanda's posts because WH is something I usually just go all 'ooh its lovely' about! (and on that note, Megustaleer, it is really, really worth a read!) Take comfort, Mrs Dalloway, that surely its being given so much attention here because it is a really good book!

#9 OFFLINE   Leanne

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 02:34 AM

To be honest, i think amanda needs to stop reading so much into the story in desperate attempts to analyse everything within the pages and just let the beauty of the words wash over her and allow her to just enjoy the book like everyone else does without feeling the need to justify its existance!


But analysing a novel isn't about justifying its existance - when novels are so rich in detail and make you *think*, and really *think*, (like Wuthering Heights does) it's so satisfying to share with other people your take on it. There are much worse things than being passionate about your personal take on a novel...

Plus that's the purpose of BGO isn't it, to share our views? If we all logged on and said 'wow, that was great, loved it' or 'that was terrible' and not much else, there'd be not much to gain from sharing, as we wouldn't know other people's reasons for liking/disliking.

I'd love to join in the discussion on Wuthering Heights but it's been at least ten years since I last read it... Amanda's posts have inspired me to re-read (another great thing about analysis!)

#10 OFFLINE   Leanne

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 02:38 AM

The point of BGO is to discuss books (or so I thought when I joined), and a proper discussion needs something a bit more meaty than 'Ooh I thought it was lovely"


Sorry, Megustaleer, think I've just repeated your views in a less succinct way! ;)

#11 OFFLINE   Amanda Grange

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 08:59 AM

Well, I overestimated my time and underestimated things to do as usual, so the idea of posting something about WH every day didn't happen - probably to Mrs Dalloway's relief ;) - but having some time now I'm going to continue to gush/analyse/overanalyse - delete according to preference. I'll just say that every time I read WH I let the beauty of the language wash over me (well, actually I don't let it happen, I can't stop it ) but as others have said, a book group is about discussing books, not enjoying them quietly. And if I didn't love the book, I wouldn't spend so much time writing about it. I was sort of hoping someone else would join in . . . :D

*SPOILERS*

The section from Chapter 7 - Chapter 16 is, I would guess, most people's favourite, although it would be interesting to hear if anyone prefers other parts of the book. It's the part that contains the love story between Cathy and Heathcliff. Strange that the vision of Cathy and Heathcliff running across the moors and calling to each other is such a cliche, because it never happens, and theirs is never a sugary romance, or even a romance at all, really, but a primal connection.

I don't know if anyone's see the Timothy Dalton film of WH. It takes a lot of liberties, and ends half way through the book, but I think by and large it captures the spirit of the book. It really brings out Heathcliff's awful treatment, and why he would want his revenge. And, of course, the sight of a young Timothy Dalton in breeches is something anyone wanting to make a serious study of the film should watch as often as possible :D

For such a dark book, there are plenty of homely touches, which I never really notice when reading it, but the description of Christmas: 'the rich scent of the heating spices . .. the shining kitchen utensils, the polished clock, decked in holly, the silver mugs ranged on a tray ready to be filled with mulled ale for supper' is very evocative.

Cathy tried to grow up in a slipshod household, with no mother to model herself on. I know that a lot of people who don't like the book don't like Cathy. Well, she's no angel, that's for sure, but I think she's a great character. Again, EB creates exactly the right climate for Cathy to develop as she does, a sure sugn of genius imo. She's the mistress of the house when her sister-in-law dies and she's about 14, but the servants - Nelly and Joseph- won't let her be the mistress, so she's stuck in a no-man's land of not being able to command the servants and yet it being wrong for her to obey them. Hindley slips into drunkenness after his wife's death - 'his sorrow was of that kind that will not lament. He neither wept nor prayed; he cursed and defied; execrated God and man, and gaev himself up to reckless dissipation.' Hindley at the time is in his early twenties. It would be interesting to see a film where actors of the right age were cast - they are all very young when the main events happen.

But the main thrust is of course Cathy and Heathcliff, who are in their teens, a Romeo and Juliet transplanted from a civilised world to a raw one. Cathy tries to cope with her handsome young neighbour, Edgar, who would be an ideal mate. Her brother and his family encourage the attachment. No one thinks they're too young, as we would today. Fifteen seems perfectly old enough to those around them, for them to be falling in love with a view to marriage. Nelly, however, tries to scare Edgar away, telling him Cathy's a fiend. Not very friendly behaviour, and not the sort of thing a servant should be doing. But no one can come between Heathcliff and Cathy. Cathy encourages Edgar so that she can marry him then use his money to help Heathcliff get away from her brother, who beats him regularly, deprives him of education and tries to turn him into a dumb beast.

One of the interesting things from the point of view of the unreliable narrator is that, in chapter 8, Nelly says 'I did not love her (Cathy), and rather relished mortifying her vanity now and then.' We see the whole story of Cathy and Heathcliff through her eyes, and as she didn't like Cathy, it does raise the idea, how accurate is her retelling, and was Cathy as bad as she made out?

In Chapter 9 there is, perhaps, the defining moment of the book: Heathcliff, lying on the settle and hidden from view, overhears the 15-yr-old Cathy saying she's going to marry Edgar and that it would be degrading to marry Heathcliff. EB's language is unmatched anywhere, imo, and the ideas are astounding for the daughter of a rector. I'm sure whole books have been written on how such a woman came to write such things.

Cathy, explaining her feelings for Heathcliff, says that she dreamt once she was in heaven, but ' heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth, and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights, where I woke sobbing for joy . . . . Whatever our soulds are made of, his (Heathcliff's) and mine are the same; and Linton's (Edgar's) is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.'

Heathcliff hears only part of her speech and runs off when she says it would be degrading to marry him. Cathy follows him on to the moor and nearly catches her death of cold, because it's raining, but she can't find him.

Cathy comes down with a fever, is nursed by Mr and Mrs Linton, who catch it and die of it, and 3 years later, at the age of 18, marries Edgar. Edgar is by this time about 20, and the master of the house. Heatchliff has run off and not come back. Interesting that Cathy holds out against Edgar for 3 years once Heathcliff has gone, because, without the incentive of marrying him for his money to save Heathcliff, she has no desire to marry him. In the end, I thik she does it to escape her drunken brother, but wouldbe interested to know if anyone else thinks she loves Edgar.

Translation of Joseph's moralising in chapter 9: 'and how is it that that nothing (nothing used as a derogatory term) hasn't come in from the field by this time? What's he doing? Great idle sight'

'That lad gets worse and worse. He's left the gate open and miss's pony has trodden down two rigs of corn, and trotted through, right into the meadow! However, the master'll play the devil in the morning, and he'll do well. he's patience itself with such careless, awful creatures - patience itself he is. But he won't be so always - you'll see, all of you! You mustn't drive him out of his head for nothing.'

'I should more likely look for the horse. It would be more sense. But I can look for neither horse nor man on a night like this - as black as a chimney - and Heathcliff's not the man to come at my whistle - maybe he'd be less hard of hearing with *you*.'

'No, no, he's not at Gimmerton,' said Joseph. 'I wouldn't wonder at him being at the bottom of a bog. This visitation wasn't for nothing, and I'd have you look out, miss - you might be the next (to Cathy). Thank Heaven for all! All works together for the good of those who are chosen, and picked out from the rubbish. You know what the Scripture says - '

'Running after the lads as usual. If I were you, Master, I'd just slam the dorr in their faces, all of them, gentle and simple! Never a day that you're out but that cat Linton comes sneaking here, and Miss Nelly she's a fine lass! She sits watching for you in the kitchen, and as you're in at one door he's out at the other, and then, our grand lady goes courting on her side. It's bonny behaviour, lurking in the fields after twelve at night with that foul, worthless devil of a gypsy, Heathcliff. They think I'm blind, but I'm nothing of the sort! I've seen young Linton both coming and going, and I've seen you, (to Nelly) you good for nothing, slatternly witch, nip up and bolt into the house the minute you heard the master's horse clatter up the road.'

#12 OFFLINE   David

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 11:40 AM

Good to see you back posting about WH again, Amanda! :) I had thought the daily posts might be a bit ambitious!

The section you cover is indeed my favourite, and it is because of that remarkable relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff. It certainly isn't a conventional 'romance' but has that spiritual, elemental quality that haunts the rest of the book, as you suggest.

I haven't seen the Timothy Dalton film, though I have to say the thought of Mr Dalton in breeches doesn't do a lot for me! :rolleyes:

The homely touches are important, I think, in helping to set up the incredible contrast of Wuthering Heights later in the book. It is as if the soul has been ripped from the place, which in a sense it has with Cathy's departure. Being able to look back with at least some wistfulness really helps that.

You're quite right that Cathy's no angel, but that's part of what makes their relationship so remarkable and entrancing, as well as to give it the tragic inevitability of being doomed. She is in so many ways her own worst enemy, but Bronte demonstrates great skill in keeping our response balanced on a knife-edge. Rather like Michael Henchard in The Mayor of Casterbridge we are unimpressed by a lot of what she does, but we retain a fundamental sympathy and engagement.

I certainly don't think she truly loves Edgar, but he represents her aspirational side, bringing a focus to the tear that runs through her psyche, the divided and irreconcilable desires that drive her. Thrushcross Grange is almost the social heaven from which ultimately she feels she must be thrown, to which she does not truly belong. Heathcliff represents the elemental soul that beats deepest in her heart, and with his departure she tries to push it deeper still. Marriage to Edgar is in many ways a part of this, a denial.

Of course we disapprove of a number of things that Nelly does, but the business of what a servant should or shouldn't do is an interesting one. Naturally in the purest sense she should not interfere, but at the same time I think any servant who helps nurture a child and lives with the family is going to become involved in their lives one way or another. You invoke Romeo and Juliet, Amanda, and of course within that is another interfering character similar to Nelly, although she is much fonder of her charge.

It's a while since I've read it so I don't have the detail, I'm afraid, but some more really interesting thoughts, Amanda! Thank you.

:)

#13 OFFLINE   Amanda Grange

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 12:19 PM

I meant to say, before I got carried away - Thanks, Cathy for the nature/nurture info. I suppose this means I can't claim EB invented it ;)

And to megustaleer, it's definitely worth a read imo because it's unique. It tends to be a love it/hate it book. Be interested to know what you think of it.


I certainly don't think she truly loves Edgar, but he represents her aspirational side


Interesting. I'm not convinced she has an aspirational side. She spends a long time deciding to marry Edgar, and only does it when she's convinced Heathcliff won't return. I think if she'd wanted carriages etc she would have married him at once. I think she was hoping Heathcliff would come back.

Thrushcross Grange is almost the social heaven from which ultimately she feels she must be thrown, to which she does not truly belong


Yes, I'd go along with this. One of the things I hated about the Olivier film was that Cathy said, 'Take me away from all this' to Heathcliff, when they were standing on the moors. If ever a line killed every character and setting in a book, this was it! The harsh environment of the moors was where Cathy belonged, and she knew it.

#14 OFFLINE   David

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 01:12 PM

It's part of what makes Cathy's character so interesting, isn't it, that her precise drives and motivations are not as clear-cut as they might be. I wouldn't want to suggest that such social desires are the primary force within her, just part of the inner confusion that helps create such traumas between herself and Heathcliff. At heart, as I said above, she is the elemental, spiritual girl/woman who belongs with Heathcliff and the moors, but her head is turned after her unintentional stay at Thrushcross Grange. She has a taste of the fine life and enjoys it. I agree with you that Nelly's judgment is not entirely to be trutsted, but it's interesting that she tells Lockwood,

"[Cathy] gained the admiration of Isabella, and the heart and soul of her brother - acquisitions that flattered her from the first, for she was full of ambition - "

I think that fateful stay at Thrushcross Grange was the moment that introduced competing feelings in Cathy that ultimately caused the schism between herself and Heathcliff. After all, if she didn't have feelings like that, why did that distancing happen? She's too independent simply to comply with what she's told.

That she took so long to marry Edgar of course shows her deep feeling for Heathcliff and lack of true love for Edgar, but having lost the deeper life to which she was ineluctably drawn, she eventually realises she must settle for the other. It's almost a tragically ironic judgement on allowing herself to feel attracted to that life.

I enjoyed nipping back to the book to remind myself and find some textual evidence!

#15 OFFLINE   Amanda Grange

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 01:39 PM

It's part of what makes Cathy's character so interesting, isn't it, that her precise drives and motivations are not as clear-cut as they might be.

I particularly find this when Heathcliff returns. Why doesn't Cathy go off with him? He's plenty of money, having made good, but she stays with Edgar and still sees Heathcliff. I think this is probably why EB made her pregnant, to give her a motivation for staying.

Interesting to realise that it's the treatment of stories that makes the difference. In bald outline, the love triangle could be a soap plot, but the language and complex emotions lift it onto another level.

Incidentally, I think a sentence after Heathcliff runs off and we return to the Lockwood framing story for a while, could just about sum up the book. When Nelly is resuming her story about Cathy, she tells Lockwood that Cathy and Edgar were happy for a time, but that their happiness ended when Heathcliff returned. "We must be for ourselves in the long run," says Nelly.

I think this could have come from Gone With the Wind. It's rather like Rhett's speech that the weak go to the wall and deserve to go to the wall. I see a lot of simlarities between Cathy and Scarlett. Both very young, both are very strong characters, both are trying to cope with problems that are too big for them, and both are for themselves, in the long run. There are plenty of differences, too, of course ;)

#16 OFFLINE   David

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 01:49 PM

Mmmm. Can't comment on that. I keep feeling I ought to read GWTW, since it's caused a lot of interest in the group, but never feel that motivated to do so. I'm not even sure I know why, but it simply doesn't appeal. Still, why not flag this up on the GWTW thread and see if people who know it have a view?

The old love triangle is universal, isn't it! And indeed, is frequently done very badly. Frankly, if you boil most novels down to the essentials of their story they are quite simple. Often surprisingly so. You're absolutely right that it's the novelist's skill that makes it work.

Cathy's responses upon Heathcliff's return are indeed interesting, but I think this probably intrudes on your next instalment, Amanda, so I'll wait until then! :)

#17 OFFLINE   Jassie

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Posted 04 October 2005 - 07:03 PM

The point of BGO is to discuss books (or so I thought when I joined), and a proper discussion needs something a bit more meaty than 'Ooh I thought it was lovely"

I appreciate a bit more of an in-depth analysis to compare and contrast my thoughts with, or to give me an idea of what to expect in a book I've not read before.

I had never had any inclination to read WH until I read the detailed discussion on this thread.


I agree Megustaleer! I'm going to have to give WH another go, its the only one of the Bronte novels I gave up on numerous times, but I'm a great believer in giving a novel time to appeal, so maybe its time to try again. It can be my bedtime read after cramming in my text books and lectures!
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#18 OFFLINE   Amanda Grange

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 11:06 AM

I thought I’d just post some quotes from the central part of the book, when Heatchliff returns to find Cathy married, because it’s the language that makes WH one of my favourite books. Maybe it will tempt someone to try the book.

If anyone really can’t get into it, they might like to try starting at Chapter 4, second section “Before I came to live here”. You don’t really need anything that’s gone before to understand the rest of the book, and if you like it, you can then go back and read the first 3 chapters. No one else writes with EB’s savage power, and reading the book is an unmissable experience, imo.

So, Heathcliff returns, mad, bad and dangerous to know. He’s now rich and outwardly a gentleman, though “a half-civilized ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire.”

Cathy and Heathcliff seeing each other again:
He took a seat opposite Catherine, who kept her gaze fixed on him as if she feared he would vanish were she to remove it. He did not raise his to her often: a quick glance now and then sufficed; but it flashed back, each time more confidently, the undisguised delight he drank from hers.

Edgar, realising that his sister is falling in love with Heathcliff:
He had sense to comprehend Heathcliff’s disposition: to know that, though his exterior was altered, his mind was unchangeable and unchanged. And he dreaded that mind: it revolted him: he shrank forebodingly from the idea of committing Isabella to its keeping.

Cathy at first tells Heathcliff to stay away from Isabella, then, seeing she can't stop him, says he should marry her. 'If I really thought you wanted me to marry Isabella, I'd cut my throat!' he says.

Nelly’s fears on learning that Heathcliff is staying at Wuthering Heights, where he drinks and gambles with Hindley.
His abode at the Heights was an oppression past explaining. I felt that God had abandoned the stray sheep there(Hindley) to its own wicked wanderings, and an evil beast prowled between it and the fold, waiting his time to spring and destroy.


When Nelly tells Heathcliff, who has been waiting in the grounds, of Cathy’s death, Nelly says,
“‘Her life closed in a gentle dream – may she wake as kindly in the other world.’
‘May she wake in torment!’ he cried with a frightful vehemence . . . ‘And I pray one prayer – I repeat it till my tongue stiffens – Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe – I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you. Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul!’
He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears.”

The ghostly visitation at the start of the book is thus explained, and Heathcliff’s reaction to it. Twenty years after her death he still can't forget her.

#19 OFFLINE   David

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Posted 05 October 2005 - 03:29 PM

Great stuff!

:)

#20 OFFLINE   Ade

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Posted 28 October 2005 - 01:47 PM

Phew! I've just worked my way through this amazing discussion on this brilliant novel. I suppose the aspect that strikes me most is about class. In the first place, the two houses are so different: the genteel, aristocratic world of Thrushcross Grange (where we don't see characters working, as such) and the rugged, working farm that is Wuthering Heights. A bit like the squire and the yeoman farmer? I think this may say something about the changing social world of the Victorians - the landed aristocracy could no longer rely on their privilege and wealth to survive in the face of energetic outsiders with the ability to make money and gain power like Heathcliff. Interestingly, we don't know how Heathcliff made his money, but he certainly becomes a threat to the status quo - perhaps as the Chartists and other groups were also doing in the real world of that time? In addition, in a novel that is so much about lineage, Heathcliff has no connections or family - he it the total self-made man. The fact that he is so destructive of everything around him perhaps reflects Victorian anxiety about social unrest.

I remember reading a critical piece once (by Terry Eagleton, I think) that sees Cathy's tragedy as the fact that she is a class traitor. She is seduced by the world that Edgar represents, but it is a world in terminal decline and this choice destroys her - an act of 'bad faith'. It's interesting that Bronte gives the servants and working-class characters such a rich life. The language of the working-classes is celebrated in the dialect used and one of the narrators is a servant - this must have been quite revolutionary for its time (although I suppose Walter Scott was doing something similar with Scottish dialect). But Nelly is also limited by her ideas of conventional morality - I think the main reason we see Heathcliff as demonic and vampiric is because he is viewed from her perspective (or Lockwood's, which isn't really much better). The fact that our narrators really don't understand what is happening adds so much to the suspense of the novel.

Yet, in the end, the disarray that Heathcliff has caused is healed by the harmony of the next generation. And Heathcliff has no place here - his genetic inheritance is not continued through. He emerges as the disruptive outsider and disappears in the same way leaving the world fundamentally changed.





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