Classic Talk #7: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte
Title: Wuthering Heights
Author: Emily Bronte
Published: 1847
Pages: 337
Get it at: Flipkart / Project Gutenberg for free!
My Rating: 4.5/5

My relationship with Wuthering Heights is recent, and a beautiful one. It's also a difficult one. Like most difficult relationships, it started off with disinterest and procrastination to even look at it. I always knew it as the book my mother had loved reading and enjoyed very much. I got a copy about a year ago and set it carefully among other classic paperbacks, skipping it each time until a few weeks ago. 

It so happened that my next project at work pertained to Wuthering Heights. I finally had a chance to not only read, but study it as well. The first few pages were deeply confounding. What was happening? Who is this narrator? Who are all these characters and what is their relationship with each other? This book requires patience to get through the first few pages. I started drawing a character chart and pasted it on the desk, referring to it whenever a character was mentioned, so it was easy to understand the context of dialogues. It's not the ideal way, but it was a great help. I would recommend it if you find the confusion too much to read further, because it is worth reading further. Once you enter the story, it's hard to get out.

This is a story of Heathcliff and Catherine, two people who love each other passionately and believe they share the same soul. It's not that easy, though. Heathcliff was an orphan boy adopted by Catherine's father, Mr Earnhsaw, and despised by her brother Hindley. When Mr Earnshaw dies, the story turns into a series of psychological events, abuse, jealousy, revenge, social class, and love. Shunned by society and having lost the love of his life, Heathcliff's strong and unforgettable character spearheads actions aimed at annihilation of two entire families and generations, driven by revenge.

This book is unforgettable primarily because of characters' portrayal. The entire story is set in two houses - Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, yet the story is large. It is intense, and painfully real. Even though Heathcliff is monstrous in his actions, one can't help sympathising with him. Even though Catherine - both first and second - seems barely improving in the maturity department, one cannot help understanding her. The dialogues, setting (dark houses on desolate moors, viewing apparitions, Gothic in setting) and characters are so deeply woven that you can't help but imagine it happening for real, in a real Yorkshire countryside. 

One of the most remarkable aspects is the way it has been narrated. It runs in multiple narrations, starting and ending with the present, and narrating two generations' worth of story in between. The main narrator is Nelly, who has worked as housekeeper at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and is more of a relative than a servant. The narration is not entirely free from bias, as we see many instances where Nelly's personal opinion is stronger than facts. That adds an interesting dimension to the whole thing. Personally, I have mixed feelings for Nelly, reprimanding her for being too intrusive in the personal lives of her masters, but perhaps that was the way it was. 

When the book first came out, it had mild reception. Critics called the book amoral, because the character's actions seem to have no consequence with respect to law and morality. It gained popularity gradually, and ended up being a classic novel and one of the best known love stories in literature.

Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte's only novel. When you read about Emily Bronte, you feel as fascinated with her own life and personality as you feel for her book. A deeply reserved person by nature, she is one of the Bronte sisters (Anne Bronte of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Charlotte Bronte of Jane Eyre). She first brought out her book by the name of Ellis Bells, and it was only when Charlotte accidentally let slip her real identity, did her real name appear on the book's cover. She died at the age of thirty due to tuberculosis, for which she had refused any medication until it was too late to save her. If you feel interested, you might like to check out videos on her life and death on YouTube. Some really good ones are out there!  


  1. I think this is the first review I am reading on Wuthering Heights.
    I had read the book mentioned at quite many places, and bought it some 4 years back...and never went beyond a few pages.
    Though I remember having started to like it the second time I picked it up, I never went further.

    I loved the review. Hope to read the book soon. It has definitely got something.

    1. Hi Srishti!
      I hope you read and like the book, too. :)


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