Thursday, January 22, 2009

"Wuthering Heights - Discussion on chapters 16 - 34

Having finished Wuthering Heights, I am back and ready to talk some more about this perplexing book. It is a real tribute to Emily Bronte and her literary skills that I should get so wound up over the characters in this story. I found them to continue to be wickedly brilliant personalities, and I truly wished damnation on them all. More than once, I laughed out loud at Heathcliff's over-the-top nastiness. He is the devil incarnate! OK, I've got that out of my system! Now for a few thoughtful questions:

1. What is your opinion of Linton? Do you feel any sympathy towards him?

He's not really a likable fellow at all, is he? He's whiny, a martyr and manipulative. Because of his sickly nature, he has most likely been spoiled and coddled by his mother. However, once he arrives at Wuthering Heights, he suffers the wrath of his father, and endures nothing less than full stop child abuse, physically and emotionally. What good can come from that? The role he plays in the entrapment of Cathy is obviously under duress. It doesn't mean I like him any more, but I do feel pity for a kid that never had much of a chance.

2. Why is Cathy so vulnerable to Linton's appeal for pity, when she is otherwise strong-willed and independent?

I was perplexed by this question throughout the last half of the book. I so wanted Cathy to kick him in the butt and tell him to get over himself. But I think there are two forces at work here. First, we have to realize that for all of Cathy's vivaciousness, she has basically been locked up at the Grange for most of her life, with her father and Nosy Nelly to keep her company. She desperately wants company her own age, no matter what the cost. She has to believe this is her only choice...I'm sure she doesn't fathom that she could take off for London and find herself a nice normal guy to hang with. Secondly, it seems that Cathy is generally a kind-hearted girl, and truly doesn't want to hurt anyone, thus prone to an easy guilt-trip.

3. Do you think that Nelly ever recognizes the part she has played in everything that has happened?

Despite her supporting actress role, Nelly has managed to subtly affect the outcomes of nearly every incident in this story. I would love for someone to re-write this book without Nelly in the mix, just to see what might have happened. To answer this question, I only need to quote Nelly in a very poignant paragraph on page 284:

"I seated myself in a chair, and rocked, to and fro, passing harsh judgement on my many derelictions of duty, from which, it struck me then, all the misfortunes of all my employers sprang. It was not the case, in reality, I am aware; but it was, in my imagination, that dismal night; as I thought Heathcliff himself less guilty than I."

Nosy Nelly's conscience starts to haunt her. It is funny that she still reassures herself that nothing is her fault REALLY, but the truth creeps into her mind late at night, when she is tired and vulnerable.

4. Why do you think Heathcliff finally lets go of his animosity and his obsession with revenge at the end of the story? Do you feel any sympathy for him?

Heathcliff has devestated everyone in his path. He has won the game, inherited everyone's wealth, taken revenge and crushed the spirits of anyone remotely related to any perceived wrong done to him. His lifetime of atrocities has not brought him peace however. He is still haunted by Catherine, just as much now as ever. He is aware that despite his attempt to ruin Cathy and prevent happiness from residing at Wuthering Heights, it has blossomed right under his nose. He realizes his efforts have been all for naught, and therefore loses his will to live, and finally finds happiness in knowing he will soon be reunited with Catherine. Does he feel remorse for his past actions? You know, I don't think so - I didn't see it. So I can't really say that I feel sympathy for him. I feel pity more than anything. Nelly, who has known Heathcliff since he was brought home as an orphan, doesn't even know his full name or his birthday. Heathcliff's headstone therefore only bears his one name and the day he died.

5. What was your last emotion in finishing the last page of the book?

Despite my outrage I felt throughout the book, I had an overall sense of peace and closure at the end of the book. I always look for the lesson, not necessarily that I need one, but it is a common question I ask of my kids when they read. I can't say the lesson is that love conquers hate, because that just didn't happen. Maybe the lesson is the possibility of overcoming generations of inbred hate and hysterical behavior. (Sidenote: What the hell is it with this "willing yourself to die" nonsense? These people drop like flies by simply willing themselves to the greater beyond! If people died simply because they wanted to teach their loved ones to take them seriously, nobody would live past the age of 10!)

I hope those of you that have read the book with me have had an enlightening experience. Will I read this again? Probably not in the near future, but I dare say I might at some point. It would be interesting to have a second go at it, knowing what to expect. Now I need to move on to more upbeat subjects, like the Holocaust...


Michele said...

Love your thoughts on this, Sandy, and find myself nodding my head in agreement.

Couldn't agree more on the "willing oneself to die"'s like a drama-prone 12 year old girl is constantly in the room. I fully admit to wishing more then once that they'd stop whining about it and just DO IT for the love of Pete.

I'll have my answers for you this weekend!

And thanks, by the way, for prompting us to read this one!

Anonymous said...

I finished it! (Happy dance) Here's the link to my post:

Unknown said...

I've finally finished it! I found it a real chore. So depressing! I'll try to answer your questions over the next couple of days.

I'm really glad that I had people to share the pain of reading this novel with - I'm not sure I'd have made it to the end without you!

Thank you for the great questions too!

Sandy Nawrot said...

For anyone reading these comments, you must go read Carrie's comments...they are hilarious!

Jackie - I am glad I had someone to share the pain with through this book as well. Isn't that pathetic that we all felt we were slogging through it?? I will say that it is an amazing piece of work, and deserves some credit for making us all squirm and rage. I know some people who read it over and over! I think I would jump out a window if I did that! Can't wait for your answers!

Unknown said...

So, now that you're through with the you think Heathcliff is Catherine's half-brother?

This issue came up the second time I read the book, and definatly through me for a loop. It does make a lot of sense. Why would Catherine's father bring him a stranger's child? Why can't the two of them ever just get together? They love eachother but they cannot love eachother.

I've enjoyed reading your posts on W.H.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Ah James. I can count on you to come up with the humdinger. I never even went there. But you are makes all the sense in the world. I'm going to think about this for awhile. Look for ironies and stuff.

Unknown said...

My comments are here:

I loved James's point about being half siblings - it somehow makes the book much more interesting - I wish I'd known when Heathcliffe turned up in the book.

Melody said...

Enjoyed reading your thoughts, Sandy!

I think I'm the last person to read Wuthering Heights! I haven't read the book although it has been sitting on my pile for some time...

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - don't feel bad, that is exactly how Jackie, Carrie, Michele and I felt. I wish we could have pulled you into the read-along! I just kept dragging my feet in reading it, and finally put it on my TBR challenge to force it on myself!

Michele said...

Okay, I had to take a few days to mull this over and watch the Masterpiece Theater version, too.

Linton. Couldn't stand the whiny little creep. Possibly one of my most hated characters in the book. What Cathy saw there is beyond me. The only reasonable explanation I could come up with it that she was so isolated by her father that she was desperate for any company at all, even Linton.

I don't think Nelly is introspective enough to see her role. She was an enabler, despite her protests. Of course, if I were surrounded by the kind of people she was, I'd probably subconsciously direct them towards misery, too. ha.

Now Heathcliff. Gosh. He was a product of his environment, certainly. But I was disappointed he never rose above it, especially by the end. I never got the sense that he let go of anything. With all the people willing themselves to die, why did he survive??? Bronte would say to torture himself, which is fine with me, but his torture of everyone else just sickened me.

My last emotion was (and continues to be) wonderment: what on earth did I see in this novel as a teenager???? And will my perceptions change again in another twenty years? I'll have to check then because that's how long it will be before I pick this one up again, LOL.

Thanks, Sandy, for encouraging us to read this one again. I'll be posting some more thoughts on it in the next day or two.

ps....did you watch the movie on PBS? If so, what did you think?

Sandy Nawrot said...

Michele - I knew you would have some good answers...very well put. You make me laugh. They were all whiny martyrs and psychos! I will most likely read it again, but it will be awhile! (Did you see James' question about Heathcliff being Catherine's half-brother??? What the...Doesn't this make your brain run in overdrive?)
I did not see this on TV...between Netflix and American Idol, I got lost. What did you think? Is is worth seeing?

Michele said...

Let's see, the movie was Masterpiece Theater's newest production on PBS, approx. 3 hrs long. I was sooooo curious how the screenwriters would handle this.

Let's just say that they had to change a few (make that a LOT) of things to make the movie work. After all, H and C aren't exactly sympathetic characters on the surface are they?

So they rewrote a lot. H and C both became much sweeter (most of the time). They had explicit trysts prior to C's marriage. Linton wasn't near so whiny and he didn't lure Cathy into WH.

Gosh, come to think of it, there were so many changes I couldn't even begin to list them all here. But it did occur to me that if the novel was written the way the screenplay was, I might have enjoyed this re-read better! LOL....go figure...I don't even LIKE movies for pete's sake!