I am quite a voracious reader and go through about 30 books a year. I try to read a couple of so-called ‘classics’ alongside my usual mix of history and historical novels. I’ve recently finished Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and I have to say I’m still not entirely sure if I liked it or not. Apart from Mrs Dean the erstwhile narrator, I found it hard to relate to or have sympathy with any of the other characters. In addition, the character of Mr Lockwood is almost an afterthought and I feel is poorly constructed even though we receive the story of Healthcliff and Catherine through him.
The lack of any real backbone to the female characters is also disconcerting and is clearly based on the Bronte sisters’ own experiences rather than any attempt at thinking outside the narrow confines of their own existence. I find this more annoying because Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has more substance to her and that doyenne of the ‘classics’ Jane Austen created several forthright female characters despite her own experiences and life being somewhat limited. Unfortunately I will have consign Catherine, Frances, Isabella and young Catherine to the same category as Tess of the D’Urbavilles – fluffy, light and completely unable to cope with the world and experiences around them. Furthermore, the Bronte sisters all initially published their works under male pen names. When combining both of the above points, are these appropriate ideas to give to teenagers who are encouraged to read this book?
The attempt at a moral message is lost in amongst the number of twists and turns of character interaction and the incomprehensible speech of the servant Joseph. Although, I understand the references I believe there are few of my generation or younger who will grasp them and the ‘classic’ label applied to this book is therefore well deserved as, like Greek and Latin, fewer and fewer people understand the subtleties of religious moralism which dominate 19th century novels.
People continue to gasp in horror if you haven’t read Wuthering Heights. I am certain the release of the new Wuthering Heights film later in 2013 will push sales of the book up again with people waxing lyrical about it as so often happens when people read a book after seeing a film. However, if you want the chance to form your own opinion read it before seeing the new film.
I believe every book deserves a chance; so read it if you have not but in my opinion it is very much a book of its time, the composition poor and the characters rather one-dimensional and I am hard pushed to take much out of it which is relevant today.