Book Review: Wuthering Heights

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine's father. After Mr Earnshaw's death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine's brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature."

After reading Wuthering Heights, I'm confused as to why anyone considers it a romance. It's tragic. And highly dramatic, in typical Victorian gothic fashion.

Heathcliff is described by others as demonic in behavior and dark in aspect. Certainly everything he says and does indicates a man who takes pleasure in causing others pain, a man who is cunning and patient, a man who has a wild temper and tendency toward violence, and a man who focuses always on the wrongs people do to him.

Catherine is described by others as having a high temper (i.e. she's a drama llama) even though she's beautiful, and being very self-centered. And she certainly seems that way by deed and word, too- she commands everyone in speech, she marries to spite the man she loves (who also loves her, so...why the need for spite?), she pitches fits until she gets her way, and then (spoiler alert!) she dies from...uhm...a hissy fit? 

Seriously, that chapter totally lost me. After absolutely no mention of a pregnancy, she has a tantrum about her husband and her lover not paying enough attention to her, starves herself for 3 days, and then wastes away until she gives birth, then dies.  

The side characters aren't much better: 
Catherine's drunken cowardly brother who doted on his (also now-dead) wife but ignores his young son; 
Catherine's sister-in-law, who is so convinced that Heathcliff is a misunderstood Byronic hero that she marries him and then proceeds to be abused by him until she runs away (then gives birth and, of course, dies); 
Joseph, the manservant who talks Christian but judges and condemns everyone; 
Catherine's husband, whose religion and sole focus in life is doting on his wife (and some weeping); 
Nell, the apparently only sane, kind character but who is guilty of doting on every child in her care to the point of enabling bad behavior; 
Catherine's brother's son, who grows up abused and neglected, and OF COURSE he becomes the only decent character- so very Victorian; 
Catherine's daughter Cathy, a spoiled bossy pants; 
Heathcliff's son Linton, a condescending namby pamby bully

I'm sorry, but I just don't see how destructive, self-centered people who take delight in hurting each other and then proclaiming they are soulmates can be romantic. I mean, aside from the literary meaning of Romantic. Their entire story was a train wreck. Compelling, in the way reality TV and soap operas are, and definitely complex....but train wreck characters. And Heathcliff's dying of....uhm...being delirious? I guess it's just too subtle for a dunce like me. It had none of the Turning of the Screw's compelling "is this real or a hallucination", nor any of Jane Eyre's charming "one decent person amid jerks" talent.

If nothing else, this story hits home the perils of spoiling your children. If you indulge them, out of love or laziness, they will become terrible people and wreak havoc for generations. Also, the corruption of a vengeful soul erodes the happiness of all inhabitants for miles around, and for decades.

Labels: , , , , , , ,