04 April 2007

Wuthering Heights


I decided to join the book club organised by our ward's Relief Society and thus undertook to read the book they will be discussing at their next meeting: Wuthering Heights. I read Wuthering Heights when I was in high school. Not because it was assigned, but rather because I wanted to. I had already embarked on my anglophilic obsession with 19th century British women novelists and had worked my way through Austen's ouvre and had finished Jane Eyre. Wuthering Heights was the logical next step. Being seventeen and engaged in several intense crushes (well, intense as any high school crush can be) on inappropriate boys, naturally the book appealed to me. I felt the anguish of proud Catherine and anger of spurned Heathcliff. I was so engaged in the book that I declined an invitation to a co-ed snowmobiling party to finish it. I bought a copy of the book. It sat on my shelf through college and beyond and I haven't really thought of it in years except when packing and unpacking it during my many moves. Until now.

I don't know if it is age or wisdom, but the book doesn't hold the same power it once did. As I read it, often aloud to my mom so we can both get it finished by Tuesday, I am more annoyed with the characters than anything. Edgar Linton, who I mentally mocked along with Catherine, is now the most sympathetic. I have no patience for what I now read as Catherine's selfish rantings. Either I have grown cynical or just lost my naivete, but I hold no romantic notions about Heathliff. I pity him; I wonder what would have become of him if shown one ounce of courtesy or compassion by any in the Earnshaw or Linton households other than Catherine and her father. However, I no longer have any idea of hope that he might have some shred of human decency, an idea I harbored when I read the book a decade ago. And it isn't just because I know the end from the beginning now, because the genius of Wuthering Heights is how engrossing the story is, even though the novel's struture is such that the outcome for most of the characters is known from the beginning of the novel. The first time I read it, I knew that Heathcliff came to a bad end, because he opens that book very near the bad end. I'm just not connecting to book the way I once did, nor am I enjoying reading it as I once did. It is more like a chore.

An interesting corollary to this is that a decade ago when I read Jane Eyre I liked it, but wasn't moved by it. After seeing the recent Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of it, I re-read it and found it so much more engaging. Is this also a symptom of age or wisdom? Or do I simply not have the emotional energy for any entertainment without a fully happy and hopeful ending these days?

And in a superficial and wholly 'What the crap!?!" moment for you all, when I was searching Google for a picture of the book, I came across a Wikipedia entry that mentioned someone in Hollywood was floating the idea of a film adaptation of Wuthering Heights with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp as Catherine and Heathcliff respectively. Any thoughts?

9 comments:

Katie said...

I think that is sick. Angelina Jolie? You've got to be kidding me. As a side note, Wuthering Heights has never been my favorite. My senior seminar was on the Bronte sisters' art and literature. They were fascinating women and had very screwed up lives.

esperanza said...

Yeah! That would be perfect!!! It would so be rated R though, and they would Sooooo play up on the violence and sexuality. Hmmm. I still think it would be a good cast of characters. I had a similar experience, sort of. I didn't like it in high school but my mom recommended it to me because she had read it like 10 times or something in high school and it is her favorite book, of course her other favorite was Anna Karaneia, which say what about my mom? jk. But don't you remember we read it again in college in London for Enlgish class? I was even more horrified by it in college! Its worth reading though. But I don't enjoy the British novelists quite like I did when I was younger, but I think it is a symptom of my loss in the belief that true love could really exist for me, so its my older girl cynicism I guess! I hope i fall in love, but I find so many more things less in chanting than I would like to!

ZB said...

Um my comment is: I'm not smart enough to comment on this even tho I am an English Major Graduate. Sorry, some people just graduate and don't really learn anything.I'm all about juvenile literature.

Anonymous said...

My intolerance for any Bronte, Austen, etc novel is well-documented, so I won't get into it here. Give me Wharton any day. Or at least Spinelli--right, ZB? ;)

Parker

cherbear said...

I'm with ZB; I love the juvenile lit. Of course my favorite book is Wizard of Oz and the rest of the series so that's where I stand. I did try to read Wuthering Heights in high school also. Since I was a librarian assistant, I knew all the good books. I also saw some miniseries they did while I was in HS (1995) so that kinda inspired me to find the book and read it. Well, I never finished the book, but I think I liked the miniseries. I hardly remember it now. Maybe I'll read it in my spare time at work so I can see what my opinion is of it now. Though, I'm still trying to read Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray that I started reading a year ago.

blackjazz said...

cherbear - I did the same with Picture of Dorian Gray. Eventually I got into it and read the rest of it quickly, really enjoying it. It's just the beginning that drags a bit. (Incidentally, I think it's quite a disturbing novel.)

aquamarine said...

I too think it would be hard to read this particular book again and finding it as engaging as in HS, seeing as my perspective on things has changed immensely.

cherbear said...

Blackjazz--this is precisely why I wanted to read it. I figured it would be a little disturbing. For some strange reason, I like that kinda stuff. I'd seen "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" which has so many literary figures that I was intrigued by all, especially Dorian Gray, probably because Stuart Townsend is hot, so I decided to read it. I'm sure I'll be reading about Alan Quartermaine soon as well. Thanks for the advice on the novel. I'll just keep trudging through it.

ZB said...

Scully....have you got a job or something? I need you to post something brilliant. My mommy brain is going flatline.