I’ll admit that when I first read Wuthering Heights a few years ago I wasn’t very impressed. The characters were ridiculously melodramatic, the names were confusing, and there seemed to be no point to this dark, tumultuous novel. However, recently reading it again for one of my courses has made me question my initial impressions. They say that some things get better with age; for me, Emily Brontë’s classic novel Wuthering Heights certainly falls into that category.
First, I am fascinated by the layered narration through which Emily tells her story within a story. Initially the reader is led to believe that Mr. Lockwood, Mr. Heathcliff’s most recent tenant, will be narrating the novel; however, one soon realizes that we are told the story by Nelly Dean through the ears of Mr. Lockwood. This layered narration adds depth and context to the story of Cathy and Heathcliff. Reading Wuthering Heights almost feels as though you are being read an unsettling bedtime story that will surely give you nightmares nights to come.
Since I had already read this book once before, I now had the luxury of reading it again without having to worry about understanding the basic plot. (Also, pro tip: creating character maps beforehand is a life saver!) Instead, I could now focus on the characters themselves and the motivations behind their behavior. Rather than be frustrated by their melodramatic tendencies, I started to admire how Emily had crafted such memorable characters that reflected and interacted with their surroundings in such interesting ways. Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange seemed almost more like characters than locations, influencing what occurred within their formidable walls.
Heathcliff caught my attention in particular; as I’m sure he does for many readers. I began to notice that most descriptions of his appearance, demeanor, and actions portray him more as an animal than a man. He is wild, savage, ruthless, and lacks any semblance of tact, courtesy, and empathy. Yet why is it that I still felt bad for this cruel “creature”? Emily’s ability to foster a connection between the reader and Heathcliff is one of the many brilliant aspects of this novel. Heathcliff may be rude and violent and unpredictable, but he is still human. The image of Heathcliff as a maltreated young orphan never quite goes away.
I wouldn’t say that Wuthering Heights is an enjoyable novel to read; rather, it is endlessly fascinating, engaging, and thought-provoking. I appreciate this text for challenging me as a reader and making me think about connections between characters, settings, and language more deeply; however, it’s not something I would choose to pick up on a whim or bring along with me for a relaxing day at the beach. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this novel again and I can even see myself picking it up for a third time in the future.
What are your thoughts on Wuthering Heights? Do your opinions of novels change when you reread them? Have any recommendations of what I should read next? Let me know in the comment section below!