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NA306312 - BRONTE, E.: Wuthering Heights (Abridged)
When Mr. Earnshaw brings a black-haired foundling child into his home on the Yorkshire moors, he little imagines the dramatic events, which will follow. The passionate relationship between Cathy Earnshaw and the foundling Heathcliff, is a story of love, hate, pity and retribution, the effects of which reverberate throughout the succeeding generations...
Emily Jane Brontë was born in 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire. Two years later the family moved to Haworth, near Bradford, where her father became curate. Emily was the fifth child of the family. The two eldest died in infancy, the third was Charlotte, then came Patrick Branwell, and the youngest child was Anne. Their mother died in 1821, leaving her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, to look after the children.
Left very much to their own devices, the Brontë children read avidly and would write their own poems, serials, and journals. Emily took up a teaching post, but ill health forced her to give it up. Wuthering Heights, her only novel, was published in 1847, only one year before her death from tuberculosis in 1848.
It seems extraordinary that a young woman, who lived a secluded life in a vicarage in Yorkshire, could have created Wuthering Heights, a story that seethes with such passion and drama, and, above all, could have conceived the character of Heathcliff, who has transcended the confines of the novel and has become, in the popular imagination, a towering archetype. He has become the symbol of wild, unconfined emotion; he is the dark mysterious stranger who threatens, and yet mesmerizes with his irresistible power. However, when we remember that the Brontë children were nurtured by their aunt, an ardent Methodist, who encouraged them to read religious magazines full of miracles, apparitions and ominous dreams, that they devoured the work of Scott, Byron, Wordsworth, and were steeped in traditional folk tales and Aesop’s Fables, we can begin to understand the sources of Emily Brontë’s awesome imagination.
This tragic, yet inherently powerful story of unconsummated passion,
has spawned many imitators, yet Wuthering Heights has endured, possibly because it contains elements that a lesser writer could not possibly sustain: the supernatural, life after death, the symmetry of repetition, the power of obsessive love. But above all, there lies at the heart of the novel a troubling puzzle. Heathcliff becomes cruel and intolerable, driven almost to madness by the loss of Catherine, yet the reader is loathe to condemn him, in spite
of his barbarism and total lack of pity. Although, as a child there is something ‘other’ about him, with his dark looks and uncertain provenance, we feel that his ill treatment at the hands of ‘civilized’ society compounds his wayward tendencies.
Catherine, of course, in spite of her very different up bringing shares
his love of freedom on the untamed moors. Is it ‘nature’ or ‘nurture’, which makes them so? Emily Brontë avoids a trite answer, although significantly
it is through reading, and the love of books that Cathy finally ‘reaches’ Hareton. These are issues, which will no doubt, continue to exercise literary commentators, but Wuthering Heights will continue to move and delight, because it is, quite simply, the most memorable love story ever written.
Notes by Heather Godwin
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