fiction, review

Wuthering Heights

Indonesian edition’s cover

Wuthering Heights is a place where rage, love, jealousy, revenge, pride and a petty yet deciding misunderstanding blend into the dark atmosphere of romanticism which takes form and then blankets a miserably beautiful story of two people and a family. Written in 1847, this only work of Emily Brontë displays vividly the worst side any human being could have. It’s one of classic literary works that deserves compliments for its well woven narrative, disgracefully human characters, and style of writing genuinely spiked with 19th century’s taste of Gothic. Every emotion, every description, is very well concocted and screaming mastery of storytelling.

The horrendous events taking place in Wuthering Heights, and the consequent fates that befall the people living in it, start when Mr. Earnshaw brings home with him a poor little orphan from Liverpool. Named Heathcliffe, serves as both his first and last name, the presence of the gypsy boy is generally undesirable and unwanted, sparking jealousy and resentment in the heart of Mr. Earnshaw’s own children, Hindley and Catherine. It is Hindley’s most desire to get rid of Heathcliffe, for it is painfully obvious to him that Heathcliffe has taken much of Mr. Earnshaw’s prime love and attention. However, on the other hand, Catherine is, at the very least, willing to make friends with the strange boy. Over the time, the somewhat loveless friendship between Heathcliffe and Catherine has gotten closer and stronger, forging an even more intense feeling of affection nobody can ever predict nor understand. But then comes the turning point which leads their indescribable close relationship into a destructive, unpredictable change, where Catherine has an accident and is being looked after by the Linton family. She comes home with a new appearance, a new look. And a new attitude, which unintentionally misleads Heathcliffe into believing that it’s over between them. No matter how her feelings for Heathcliffe truly is, Catherine chooses to marry Edgar Linton, who has education and wealth and position in the society. Heathcliffe’s hatred toward the Earnshaw family unquestionably heightens, after what they do to him upon Mr. Earnshaw’s death and after Catherine betrays his love for her. Hurt and vengeful, Heathcliffe leaves Wuthering Heights with a plan in his mind to come back and take everything from both the Earnshaw and Linton families, to satisfy the anger burning inside him since the days of his miserable childhood.

Wuthering Heights, as a powerful narrative, seems to exhibit the flaws and ugly faces in the character of every human being. None of the protagonists shows a character a hero should have. Their nature is as dark as the nature of the 19th century romanticism shrouding them. They’re all full of hate and desire to hurt each other, however excusable it is. Considering his background, it might be understandable for Heathcliffe to have such rough and uneducated manners. The lack of love and affection over the period of his childhood also becomes a good reason for his lack of compassion and forgiveness towards other people. The feeling of betrayal and the way his adoptive family treats him are only successful in arousing his deep anger and desire to take revenge on all of them, to make them pay a huge price. And Catherine is no better. She is selfish, she is fickle and spoiled. Being a daughter of a rich family might be the base for her unbearably horrible nature. It seems to me that Emily Brontë here intends to show, as clearly as possible, that human beings are all sinful creatures, becoming so by the hardship of their lives and the faults in their upbringing. However fictionally unacceptable those characters seem to me, Brontë is very much successful, I would say, in sketching and coloring all of them.

The story is told in flashback and narrated from Ellen Dean’s point of view, a servant to the Earnshaw family. I found it rather objective and more believable that way, and it enormously helps to hold the complicated plot together for the book has not only many characters with twisting and complex natures, but also a grueling love story with intricate complexity of its own. The narrative created by Emily Brontë is, in my opinion, powerfully gripping and sharply poignant, driving the readers to hate the hateful characters and drowning them under the severe wave of a passionate, sad, trying, and vengeful tale of love. Its atmosphere of dark romanticism spices up the sorrowful air emanated already from the basic idea. Brontë has incredibly, and forcefully, arranged such a marvelous storyline, built such strong emotions, come up with such a brilliant idea and then presented them all in one deservedly acclaimed masterpiece.

Overall, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is indeed a work of classics anyone should not miss for the world. By this book, Brontë has proved that a love story doesn’t necessarily have to talk only about everlasting love or even a mutual feeling of love. Brontë has also shown that a love story does not always end happily ever after, and that romanticism is not merely about sweetness and toe-curling kisses and hugs and sex. Though having such shockingly horrible characters, Wuthering Heights has every magnetic feature a reader might want in a work of literature. It is, undoubtedly, highly recommended.

Rating: 4/5

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