When I started this novel I didn’t really like it that much, I was a little confused as to what was going on, whom was whom, and why I was even being told this tale. As I got a little bit deeper into it I admired the ability of Emily to create such interesting and detestable characters, but I was still uneasy as to if I liked the novel.
I think what I was having trouble working out was weather Emily was writing a novel that was deliberately unsettling and filled with hateful people being hateful just for hateful’s sake. I recognized that the characters were well written and I enjoyed that though this is a novel predating the edict of ‘show don’t tell’, Emily always followed a tell with a much more insightful show, yet I felt sort of miserable reading it, I hated the characters (their actions, I mean) and I kept wanting to put it down. Yet I couldn’t put it down. I felt compelled to continue, to discover what the motivations were for these characters, why I was being told this story, felt compelled by the excellent and powerful writing.
And during the day when I was at work and away from the novel, I kept thinking about it, rolling the plot and situations over in my mind trying to make sense of it all. I knew I didn’t yet know all the facts (in a way the novel is a bit of a mystery story) and so I just had to trust Emily to actually have a point, that she didn’t write this just to be shocking but that there was true art here.
Well I’m glad I stuck it out and stayed with this one because this is an extraordinary novel. This story and these characters are people who will haunt me till the day I die – for better or worse. These are characters who though I didn’t like most of them, loved them too. And that’s the real art here because by the very nature of how I felt about these people could I understand their passions for each other, Hareton especially. He loved Heathcliff and also hated him and we understand why – not because there was a simple explanation for such illogical behavior, but because it is complicated.
The novel begins with very much keeping the reader in the dark because it would be impossible to know a family and all their troubles and their past after just a few pages (or hours in real life). In fact you could never hope to really know another family and all it’s secrets (other than your own) if given an entire lifetime – the relationships are just far too complicated. Yet here in this novel Emily manages to reveal the secrets, the pain, the plotting, the love, and the hate page by page, slowly and with exquisite ability to make you feel the passage of time. You live with these people and you empathize with them by the end even of you can’t forgive them because only they could forgive each other since it’s their family.
I imagine that this novel is sort of a prototype of trashy family drama stories but nothing can come close to this. Emily does not hate her characters, she shows them for who why are, warts and all, and she loves them every page without fail. The mistake too many other writers make is that they don’t love their characters and just turn them into cliches to be beaten about for a few hundred pages. The most contemporary author I can think of who could match this style of work would be Raymond Carver. Carver could write about hateful people and make you love them anyway. It’s a very gift in literature, just as it is in life.
I’m not going to compare this work to Jane Eyre because it almost isn’t even fair since Wuthering Heights is FAR superior but I will repeat myself in saying that the major flaw of Jane Eyre was that Charlotte made all her characters too good – they had no flaws. Emily does not make that mistake and has written a much more gripping story.
Never have I been so turned round in the course of a novel. I went from confusion to hate to acceptance and finally to appreciation to the genius of this work. This is a towering achievement of fiction and is one of the best novels I have ever read. I put this right up with Fathers and Sons as one of my favorite novels I’ve ever read. I am so glad I decided to read Wuthering Heights.