Emily Brontë, “Wuthering Heights” (1847) – Part of me wants to just link to the video for that Kate Bush song, but that would just be a bid for cheap likes. More than anything, Wuthering Heights was a surprise for me, much like it was for the critics who read it at the time. I wasn’t scandalized by it like they were, but I was surprised by the raw, wild quality of the emotions and the actions impelled by them in this book. It’s a stark contrast from other “respectable” Victorian writers. Everyone continually blackmails each other’s futures by leveraging landed positions and unlikely attractions (like anyone’s attraction to Heathcliff, who I guess gets away with it because of his craggy brow or however she phrases it) to either steal other people’s land or set up some kind of awful marriage. People get stabbed and falsely imprisoned and set upon by dogs. It’s a mess! Along with being more extreme in its action than a lot of Victorian novels, this one also gets to the points it’s making somewhat quicker, without the mannered pace common at the time. I also always enjoy a third-party narrator in a story, though that might enter into the feeling of repetition I had towards the end- but that might just be the nature of the story.
Maybe I’m influenced by other criticism I’ve read, but I do think the historical context — setting the novel at the turn of the nineteenth century when she was writing in the late 1840s — is meant to convey a message about the worth and sustainability of all of these high-romantic feelings and gothic tropes. Cathy and Hareton might not be much, emotionally, next to Heathcliff and Catherine, but at least it’s an actual match and not someone’s lover’s revenge turned into a state-sanctified marriage pact. All in all, a satisfactory read, would wuther these heights again. ****’