Nelly, I am Heathcliff!
I wouldn’t be you!
Whoa! Emily Brontë, where did that come from?! As I was perusing this novel, I was just as intrigued by the person who wrote the story as by the novel itself. Who was this Emily Brontë who dared imagine and put into words this bold, brash, intense, in-your-face story? How courageous; how risky; how different; how honest. I like her.
What is it about a good novel that gives us a connection with its author, even when the author is long gone and experienced a far different world from our own? I could read a recently published novel and would be indifferent about the contemporary author if he or she didn’t move me. But reading Brontë’s novel, I wished that I knew her, that I were alive when she was alive, so I could hear her innermost thoughts.
And I couldn’t help liking the novel either. Brontë didn’t like to beat around the bush, or so it seems. I think she wanted to expose us, herself included, in the starkness of our ugly souls. I almost hesitate to call it a love story, because it’s as if that part of the plot was but a tool to showcase some of the worst consequences of a most passionate love. And yet I am envious, envious of Catherine and Heathcliff. I covet the connection that enables two people to understand each other so completely and unmistakably thay they feel like one.
I cannot express it; but surely you and everybody have a notion that there is or should be an existence of yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation, if I were entirely contained here?
And yet the novel ends so that we see more than the ugliness. Ugliness begets ugliness, unless we find in ourselves a way out. The same emotional bond that destroys can save us. At this point in the story, Brontë threw me for a loop: After what has been a tumultuous plot comes in stark contrast the scene where Cathy is teaching Hareton how to read, and my heart leapt. Is the love between Catherine and Hareton less passionate than that between Catherine and Heathcliff? I do not think so. More sappy, perhaps, but maybe not less passionate; and one knew (or imagined) that they would love each other at least to the grave.
I thought that the narration of the story was unique. There were actually two narrators: Nelly Dean, the servant who was witness to most events, and Mr. Lockwood, Heathcliff’s new tenant at Thrushcross Grange, and who seemed to be socially inept, especially with the ladies. What makes it remarkable is that Brontë switched between these two narrators at some points in the story, and I hardly noticed. For a story that was savage at some points and chock-full with intense emotions throughout, the narration was low-key, and I can imagine myself peacefully rereading this novel in the near future on some rainy nights.
From Catherine Earnshaw to Catherine Linton; from Catherine Linton to Catherine Heathcliff to would-be Catherine Earnshaw; from Hareton Earnshaw to Hindley Earnshaw to Hareton Earnshaw, not to mention Heathcliff, just Heathcliff; from Edgar and Isabella Linton to Linton Heathcliff. Emily Brontë, oh how your imagination plays with us, and I love you.
Finally, here is another of Emily Brontë’s poems. I include it because, since we are on the subject of deep and abiding love, well, it seems to fit. And because I like it.
Remembrance Cold in the earth--and the deep snow piled above thee, Far, far, removed, cold in the dreary grave! Have I forgot, my only Love, to love thee, Severed at last by Time's all-severing wave? Now, when alone, do my thoughts no longer hover Over the mountains, on that northern shore, Resting their wings where heath and fern-leaves cover Thy noble heart for ever, ever more? Cold in the earth--and fifteen wild Decembers, From those brown hills, have melted into spring: Faithful, indeed, is the spirit that remembers After such years of change and suffering! Sweet Love of youth, forgive, if I forget thee, While the world's tide is bearing me along; Other desires and other hopes beset me, Hopes which obscure, but cannot do thee wrong! No later light has lightened up my heaven, No second morn has ever shone for me; All my life's bliss from thy dear life was given, All my life's bliss is in the grave with thee. But, when the days of golden dreams had perished, And even Despair was powerless to destroy; Then did I learn how existence could be cherished, Strengthened, and fed without the aid of joy. Then did I check the tears of useless passion-- Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine; Sternly denied its burning wish to hasten Down to that tomb already more than mine. And, even yet, I dare not let it languish, Dare not indulge in memory's rapturous pain; Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish, How could I seek the empty world again?
(Blogger’s note: I’m glad I have read this novel. I remember my Mom comically aping a scene from an old movie adaptation—where Catherine was shouting “Heathcliiiiiff!”—whenever Wuthering Heights was mentioned. She must have liked the movie. :))