Book Review: Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars

A word of warning to those who deign to tackle this book.  Pay attention to names.  They can get confusing real fast if you’re not careful.  There are Ms’s and Mrs’s and more Mr’s than you can shake a stick at.  And all of them have one of three last names.  So you will have Ms. Earnshaw and Mrs. Earnshaw and two Mr. Lintons engaged in conversation and it can be difficult to discern which subject is being talked about/to.  I just made that example up, it is not meant to reflect any actual conversations had in the book.  Now back to our regularly scheduled book review.

I do not know what I was expecting when I started reading “Wuthering Heights”, but it was not this.  Heathcliff is perhaps the most despicable character ever to grace printed paper.  That wouldn’t be so bad, but everyone else in the book is also a fairly horrible human being.  The book is filled with spite and abuse and petty revenge.  In other words, it’s the perfect love story driven to its appropriately mad conclusion.

You may think I’m joking, but every single person is horrible to every other person in this book.  Heathcliff is just better at being horrible than anyone else.  Ok, maybe not every single person.  Edgar Linton is pretty fair to his daughter Cathy and much of his poor treatment of Cathy can be construed as mere fatherly protection.  But horrible people need to fall in love too.

Here’s the basic story.  Heathcliff, an adopted member of the Earnshaw family who is treated contemptuously by Hindly Earnshaw, who goes a bit crazy after the death of his wife, loves Catherine Earnshaw who loves him back but decides to marry Edgar Linton because he’s more upwardly mobile.  They have a child, Cathy, before Catherine dies.  Heathcliff, angry at both the Earnshaws and the Lintons, goes away and makes a fortune.  Heathcliff returns and gets the alcoholic Earnshaw to grow so indebted to him that when Earnshaw dies, Heathcliff inherits Wuthering Heights and continues to treat the entire household contemptuously.  Revenge plan one, successful.  Meanwhile, in order to get back at the Lintons, Heathcliff marries Isabella Linton who, for some ungodly reason, is infatuated with Heathcliff.  His horrible treatment of Isabella drives her away to London where she raises their son, Linton, and soon dies.  Edgar attempts to take Linton under his wing, but Heathcliff immediately takes ownership of his son.  Heathcliff then plots to marry off Linton to Cathy and is successful by kidnapping Cathy until she agrees to marry Linton.  Edgar dies.  Linton dies.  Heathcliff inherits Thrushcross Grange.  Revenge plan two, successful.  While this is going on, there is this horribly messed up flirty thing going on between Hareton, Hindly’s son who Heathcliff raises as a servant, and Cathy.  Hareton and Cathy fall in love.  Heathcliff dies.  The end.

Everything in between what was stated in the plot outline above is people behaving badly towards each other.  There is lots of madness and lots of early deaths in all the families associated with this book.  I blame inbreeding.  I wonder what Emile Bronte’s life was like where she was able to come up with a tale like this.

There were parts of the book that I found engrossing and parts that I just found tiresome.  It is an interesting study on love gone horribly wrong and delves deep into the depths of human depravity.  Which is pretty cool.  I was taken a bit aback by how suddenly and unfulfillingly the story ended.  Man, did I want Heathcliff to die a horrible death, but he actually dies happy.  Mad, but happy.  This was so disappointing.  I would have been happier if it ended with “And Heathcliff lived happily ever after.”