Friday, April 23, 2010

Wuthering Heights Wednesday - The Friday Catch Up Edition

When Jill from Fizzy Thoughts announced that she was going to be doing a read-along of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, I jumped at the chance to join in. Wuthering Heights was on several of my challenge lists for the year and, what the heck, I already own the book so remembering to pick up a copy wouldn't be a problem. Turns out that finding my copy was, however. In the end it was right where it was supposed to be; I was just looking for a completely different book. I had forgotten that my copy of the book is a little (just barely 4" x 7"), almost forty year old, inexpensive hardcover. And by inexpensive, I mean $1.60--even by 1960's standards, that's inexpensive.

Each week the bloggers that are participating in the read-along are posting their summaries and thoughts on three chapters at a time. This is week three--since I'm behind and have nine chapters, I'm going to be doing a Cliff's Notes edition of my thoughts.

Chapters 1-3
Mr. Lockwood opens the book recalling a visit he has just paid to his new landlord Mr. Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights. Mr. Lockwood declares Mr. Heathcliff "a gypsy in aspect; in dress and manner a gentleman." Lockwood feels as though he and Heathcliff are a "suitable pair." Uninvited, Lockwood drops by for a second visit. After being stranded by a snowstorm and forced to spend the night at Wuthering Heights, Lockwood changes his opinion. It's on this visit that Lockwood also meets a young man named Hareton (whom Lockwood finds repulsive), young Catherine (the wife of Heathcliff's late son) and Heathcliff's servants Zillah and Joseph.

After Lockwood has finally fallen asleep, he is awakened by a tapping at the window sill. He breaks out a windowpane trying to brush away what he assumes is an offending tree branch. Instead he is grasped by a young woman's hand and she begs to be let in. Fearing what is happening, Lockwood lets out a scream that causes Heathcliff to come to the room; furious, he tells Lockwood to leave. As Lockwood is leaving, he witnesses Heathcliff at the window begging Catherine to come in.

Chapters 4-6
When Lockwood is able to return home the next morning, he asks his housekeeper, Mrs. Dean (Ellen or Nelly), if she knows anything about Heathcliff. Well of course she does! It turns out that she was a servant in the Earnshaw house then Catherine and Hindley were young. The Earnshaws were a happy little family until Mr. Earnshaw went off to London on business. Instead of returning home with gifts for his kids as promised, Earnshaw brought home a raggedy, sullen orphan. The spoiled Earnshaw children are really mean to him at first but Catherine soon begins to dote on him. But Hindley hates the boy, who is named Heathcliff, and his hatred grows the more his father dotes on Heathcliff.

Then Hindley goes off to college and old Earnshaw grows ill. Joseph (he was around even then) is constantly preaching and telling old Earnshaw the children are all bad. Earnshaw only seems to hear it about Cathy and she starts to grow hard the harder her life becomes.

When Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns for the funeral with a sickly wife and promptly banishes Heathcliff from the house, makes him work as a outside servant, and stops his education. Cathy and Heathcliff take to running wild and roaming the moors. One day they decide to go spy on the richy rich Lintons at Thrushcross Grange and, while they're there, Cathy is attacked by a dog. Heathcliff is sent home but the Lintons take Cathy in until she is healed.

Chapters 7-9
When Cathy's leg is healed, she returns to Wuthering Heights. She has changed a lot and Heathcliff realizes how far apart they have grown. At first he decides to become as dirty and unkempt as possible but soon asks Ellen to help him become better.

"Were I in your place, I would frame high notions of my birth, and the thoughts of what I was should give me courage and dignity to support the oppressions of a little farmer."
Then the Linton children, Edgar and Isabella, begin visiting and Heathcliff is pushed further and further away from Cathy; she is torn between wanting to fit in with them and wanting to be with Heathcliff.

When Frances gives birth to Hareton, the consumption she has been battling becomes much more serious. Hindley goes crazy with grief and becomes a drunken bum.

Cathy develops two personalities--at home she's awful but around the Lintons she's charming and she manages to charm Edgar into proposing. Cathy accepts even though she confesses to Ellen that she really loves Heathcliff but that she can't marry him because he's below her and they would be beggars. If she marries Edgar, Cathy says, she can help Heathcliff. He happens to overhear only the part where she says she wouldn't marry him and decides to run away.

Within the next three years, both of Edgar's parents die and Cathy and Edgar are married.

My Thoughts
Whew--I had forgotten how much happened in these first few chapters! Bronte packed in a lot of characters and plenty of action while still creating a wonderful sense of place and fully realized characters.

When I read this before I really did not like Heathcliff--he seemed to come to the Earnshaws already a person who would always be disagreeable. But as I read the story again, I did begin to feel sorry for him and think that if he had been treated better from the time he came to live at Wuthering Heights, he may have turned out much differently. Had old Mr. Earnshaw not given so much of his affection to Heathcliff, Cathy and Hindley might not have turned out to be such unpleasant people.

My favorite passage was Cathy describing her love of Heathcliff to Ellen:

"I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of your beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here? My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff's miseries, and I watched and felt each from the beginning; my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger; I should not seem a part of it."

So now I'm caught up with the read-along and caught up in the book. I'll be back Wednesday with my next update!


  1. It seems that among the familys' many dysfunctions, one would have to include an inability to come up with different names for each generation so it wouldn't be so darned confusing!

  2. And all of the same initials even! I got tired of typing all of the names and thought about just using initials but you have Hindley and Hareton and Heathcliff.

  3. I wish you'd post a picture of you book. I love seeing old books. I read this book years ago and it was just okay for me.

  4. Yeah for Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff! Looking forward to your thoughts on the next bit of the book.

  5. And the author didn't keep it consistent either. Mr. Hindley, Hindley, Mr. Earnshaw...all the same person. Then Nelly, Ellen, Mrs. Dean...also the same person. I had to print out a family tree to keep 'em all straight but I think I have it now.

    I sort of like Heathcliff. He's dark and moody but why wouldn't he be? He was treated like an animal as a child and shunned by that evil wretch of a woman. I know he has an evil streak but that doesn't surprise me and given the rest of them, I'm sort of rooting for him.

  6. I read this a few years ago and think that it's high time to read it again. This time, I think I will try to read about Heathcliff's story with a little more compassion. It might change the way I ultimately view him as a character and motivator. Wonderful thoughts in this post!

  7. I just joined you guys! So excited to be doing something bookish again. :)

    I only read your summary up to 1-3 as that's how far I've read, but the grasping hand always gets to me a little bit. The characters at the beginning are just so strange, huh?

    PS--I'd love to see a picture of your book copy!