The Literature, the Author, His Character and His Beauty

Knitting is a fantastic use of time, in my humble opinion. Really, I think it’s fantastic. It stimulates the mind, increases dexterity, and creates something meaningful simultaneously. I suspect however that much can be said about English literature; it certainly stimulates the mind, if you find the right piece, and makes you dexterous insofar as your vocabulary increases, your capacity for accommodating other ideas grows, and you begin to perceive the world in innumerable different ways. Therefore, the question can be asked: why do children not want to read anymore?

I find this dilemma difficult to empathise with because I have never struggled with not wanting to read. I’d read under the duvet with torches, with glow in the dark things, mobile phone lights… anything that would allow me to see the words on the page and translate them into something fantastic in my mind. Harry Potter and company would transport me to alternate universes. Therefore, I think it is almost unfathomable that children wouldn’t want to be a part of this world; at least not through their own imaginations. Certainly through obvious, glaring media, but not of their own accord, or because they want to experience the novels in the purest form, without the director’s interpretation affecting how one perceives the characters, and the settings.

The castles, dragons, wizards and people who emerge from the realms of my imagination are always exponentially more interesting and more exciting than those put on a screen. The capacity to create an image that everyone is involved with is certainly an advantage of cinema, however it is not fundamental. It treats the integrity of the character and the setting as it was prescribed by the author as superfluous, something that can, and should be, altered at any given moment. This essentially defies the authority of the author as the creator of the literature, and in this way, we can consider that television, film and video gaming has murdered the literary beauty of the literature they seek to portray.

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A good example here is the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde. The perception of the artist of the young man exploits the reality of the young man himself, although it was never intended to be so; all that was intended was for the young man, Gray, to be Basil’s muse, the influence that allowed him to create his art, instead of the exploited and caged creature that he inevitably becomes. I have always been a Wilde fan, and enjoy curling up in armchairs, reading the plethora of work he left us. Nothing is more wonderful than reading, with a pot of tea, on a cold, wet evening; this is not a rare occurrence in this part of the world. It becomes as enchanting as exploring antique book shops, and wandering over hills, having picnics. This simple pursuit then replaces all of these things, because it removes itself from reality; it takes us away, beyond the limits of our minds as they were, unexplored and untouched, and instead, creates something infinitely more beautiful than we truly acknowledge it as.

“But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.” – Oscar Wilde

And so, upon this final quote which I think rather nicely summarises my final paragraph, in that beauty is destroyed as an entity the second intellectual understanding is applied to it, I recommend that everyone dives into Wilde for a while. He’s great fun. I’m planning on writing a fairly lengthy blog on Oscar Wilde very soon, too!

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(1) http://lh4.ggpht.com/_-IeZ3HV-7SE/S0gkZOEnvyI/AAAAAAAABSU/98eoUGEXAoI/PicofDorianGray.jpg

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Heathcliff, I Love You. Best, Cathy.

I may have mentioned on here before that I absolutely adore Wuthering Heights. As clichéd though it may be, it is one of my favourite novels of all time; not least because it represents the beginning of a darker, more emotional age of literature. Emily Bronte also represents the true beginning of the prominence of female writing, despite publishing under a pseudonym. She succeeded Jane Austen as a writer, however was at least in my opinion, the first truly revolutionary writer; the themes of Wuthering Heights were described as psychologically disturbing by critics of the age, especially because of the almost animalistic nature of Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, and the haunting, omnipotent style of their dependence on one another.

Cathy and Heathcliff, ITV Adaptation (1)

This is I think the most enchanting element of the novel; the essence of it being that nothing could stand in the way of their devotion to one another, regardless of the demands of the social hierarchy that they both existed in. Marriages and children seem to have little or no impact on the connection they had between themselves, and set within the Gothic Yorkshire landscape, the ghosts that seem to envelope the novel, and create a dark, moody atmosphere, become a trademark and allow anyone who wishes to, become a part of the novel.

The Yorkshire countryside plays a very significant part in the novel, purely because it is widely regarded as being a sparse, cold space which is uninhabitable by many. The regional accent of Joseph, demonstrated phonetically in the novel adds a large degree of regional identity, something that modern novels particularly seem to lack, especially when considered alongside the phenomena of social networking; we all inhabit each other’s linguistic space and therefore the regional difference and being able to visit a region with no understanding of the linguistic culture is extremely rare.

At this point, we can consider that Cathy is in herself an institution; she represents emotionally powerful women everywhere and she is not necessarily a victim of Heathcliff’s emotional attachment to her. The idea that she was not  financially dependant on Heathcliff, was almost unheard of at the time. Her financial dependence on Edgar Linton is a completely separate dependence from that which she has on Heathcliff. What is extremely interesting is that the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff is never really defined; the reader never really discovers if they did in fact consummate their relationship, or whether their relationship is based around that of the childhood sweetheart. The indefinable relationship that exists between the two of them is perhaps what makes the characters of the novel so important in this particular instance; the reader is allowed to make up his or her own mind about the nature of their relationship. This unsolvable mystery can be pondered by critics, however will, I think, be open to individual interpretation across the board.

The novel has been remade on several occasions both in film and in song; Kate Bush famously made a song named “Wuthering Heights”, and ITV have recently made a two-part drama adaptation which is fantastic, even if it is not  accurate in terms of the text itself. The number of remakes, and the influence the novel has had on concepts of romantic love, shows the innate power of the novel to reshape and subvert our expectations of a 19th century relationship. It also represents how the novel has become an intrinsic part of popular culture, whether it is explicit or not.

Overall then, I think those who have yet to read the novel should go ahead and do it; if only to broaden their minds regarding 19th century literature. I did once believe that 19th century literature was simply dry social commentary, with very little action and even less depth. However I believe Wuthering Heights transcends our expectations of the 19th century novel and brings to life themes which are not immediately associated with a rural female writer.

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(1) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/wutheringheights/homeimages/poster_wutheringheights.jpg

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