As I mentioned in this post, I first read Wuthering Heights for the first time as a senior in high school. I hated it. I’m pretty sure I hated it more than any book I had ever read up until that point (until, of course, we read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and As I Lay Dying). Then again, I was a senior in high school, was taking WAY too many AP classes, and honestly just couldn’t be bothered with doing work for most of that year, especially when we were reading three books at a time for my English class. But I liked it much better this time!
Wuthering Heights is the story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an abandoned child Catherine’s father found on the side of the road and brought home to raise as his own. Cathy and Heathcliff are inseparable as children, but go on to marry other people for a variety of reasons. Their stormy relationship—as well as Heathcliff’s stormy relationship with the world at large—forms the basis for an intricate story of…well, of crazy people, to put it bluntly.
The main reason I didn’t like this book initially was because I pretty much hated every single one of the characters. Secondary reasons included the fact that I was absurdly involved in EVERYTHING in high school (yes, I was one of those kids), so I rarely had any free time; I was taking several other AP classes; I was applying to college; this was an outside reading assignment on top of all the other work I had to do (I barely had time to read for pleasure, much less for school); and, finally, my teacher told us it would be like Pride and Prejudice. All of these things, combined with the fact that I didn’t learn how to stop procrastinating until very late in my college career, made my first go at Wuthering Heights a terrible, terrible experience.
But that’s over now! I truly feel as though I read a completely different book. I just reread my review and I don’t remember why I thought almost any of that (aside from disliking Heathcliff and Cathy). I honestly didn’t even really remember a lot of what happened in the book before I picked it up this time around, and once again my expectations were not met, but this time in a good way.
Though I still didn’t really love any of the characters, I did understand them a little bit better. You do have to admit Hindley did have a pretty sucky life (not that I condone alcoholism). As annoying as I found Edgar Linton this time around—I kind of thought of him as an annoying sissy boy, but apparently I liked him the first time I read it—he did love Catherine. So did Heathcliff, though, and to be honest I found their weird feud over her childish. I kind of felt like this…but of course he didn’t let her go. And of course there was the fact that basically everyone in this story had their own particular brand of insanity: Catherine for loving Heathcliff, Heathcliff and Edgar for loving Catherine, Catherine Linton for loving Linton Heathcliff (also, what’s up with everyone having the SAME NAMES?), Joseph and his bible insanity…the list goes on. But it was all amusing this time instead of annoying. A very interesting snippet of the human experience.
Something that I don’t get is that people call this the greatest love story of all time. I disagree. Yes, a love story is part of it, but it’s really about a bunch of people who are batshit insane. Plus the fact that if I were to consider this a great love story, it would have to have a happy ending. I believe in happy endings with all my being mostly because I hate reading depressing stuff. And I mean, it wouldn’t even have to be a happily ever after but the right people should get together. And that was clearly not the case here. Therefore I maintain that it is not a great love story. It’s a great SAD story.
I am definitely glad I read this again. I don’t know when I’ll read it a third time, but I’m sure I will…eventually.