I am very happy that Emily agreed to write something for us today, and why am I not surprised she chose one of the all time favorites of mine?
My love for Emily extends beyond a love of her writing, I can't deny that it probably has something to do with our shared names and the fact we both come from small towns in Yorkshire. Anyone who visits Haworth - the small picturesque village where the Brontes lived - and sees the tiny bedroom in which Emily would write and then takes a walk a little further out onto the moors that feature so often in her work, anyone who does that cannot fail to imagine how the world of Wuthering Heights took shape in Emily's mind, it's hard not to think you can see Cathy and Heathcliff wandering along that breezy wilderness in the world of their own that they'd always needed to be free.
What I think I love most about Wuthering Heights - and especially what I loved most about it when I was eleven - is that it is a book of outsiders. Growing up I was always an outsider, a little nerdy and weird, more concerned with reading and learning than participating in whatever games the other kids were playing. It was only natural that I would find something of myself in a novel where nothing quite fits in with the regular world. The dark, foreboding house on the moors is, itself, an outsider, away from civilisation and normality. Heathcliff spent his life an outsider, it was a curse that even wealth and love couldn't cure him of. For me, Wuthering Heights was always about an isolated place and an isolated man, and it was this I could understand, even at eleven years old.
I feel like I must say something in defense of Heathcliff, it's true anyway that one cannot write about Wuthering Heights without having something to say about Heathcliff. But as someone who feels strongly about feminism and has written extensively about feminism and sexism in literature, I want to talk about the "bad boy". Most of my reviewer friends are exhausted with novels that glorify control-freaks and violent boyfriends, in a world where books like Hush, Hush and Fallen are bestsellers you simply cannot ignore the dangers of the "bad boy" stereotype.
And it's no secret that Heathcliff - despite all his violent, abusive, insane ways - has been romanticised, I think because a lot of women just want someone to love them as passionately as Heathcliff loved Cathy. Having men like these in the movies doesn't really help the situation:
"Whether it is right or advisable to create a character like Heathcliff, I do not know."
But Heathcliff is actually a victim of abuse, he's the outsider I mentioned before, the one who doesn't know how to be anything other than evil with anyone other than Cathy because she is the only form of love he's known. Heathcliff is a tragic character, not unlike Othello or Macbeth; he is a man who was doomed to fail at life because of his lack of self-worth, because of his surety that he could not possibly be loved. This story isn't about finding forgiveness for Heathcliff, but I do believe it's about achieving a certain level of understanding. And perhaps the suggestion that even the most evil and violent characters deserve some peace and love in the end - as that is what I believe Emily Bronte gave Heathcliff through his death. I say so often in my reviews that I don't really care for romances, but that's not strictly true. A romance story can fill/steal/break your heart if it's done right, but it so seldom is. Emily Bronte, a woman who remained single to the day she died, seems to know more about telling a love story - a sad, heartbreaking love story - than all today's authors put together.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Another gorgeous Bronte novel with a love story, but mostly about a woman trying to find her place in the world.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. A fantastic story about social class, snobbery and how the real gentlemen are not always who you were expecting.
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. The true dystopian classic about how totalitarian regimes can take away even the freedom of your mind.
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The disturbing but incredibly well-written tale of a man's perverted obsession.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Okay, so maybe not quite a classic - yet. But this is a well-crafted feminist dystopian nightmare, a definite classic of the future.
Thank you so much Flannery, Tatiana and Catie for having me, it's been fantastic to be part of the classics love!
Thank you, Emily, for visiting us and talking so passionately about a book that is loved by all of us. I especially agree with your points about Heathcliff. I am the type of reader who falls easily for moody and brooding, but I was never romantically attracted to Heathcliff. Hareton and Cathy's is the love story I am personally much more attached to.
You can check out Emily's wonderful reviews on Goodreads and on her pretty blog - The Book Geek.