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.


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