Quantcast I’ve long been an enormous fan of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, that dark, powerful, hauntingly beautiful romance.  My favorite lines are uttered by Catherine:
“Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 9

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem a part of it.”
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 9

But there are many other fabulous lines in this brilliant novel.  One of the most famous uttered by Heathcliff:
“‘And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!’”
- Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, Ch. 16 

I break my heart for Heathcliff.  At least he and Catherine are together in the end, I have no doubt.

I’ve included an excellent review of Wuthering Heights below:

A Drama Ahead of Its Time
When Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights was first published in 1847, under the name of Ellis Bell, it received mixed reviews. Although some critics saw the potential evident in the cyclical plot and other literary devices, many others were shocked and dismayed by the unashamedly dark storyline.
 
To be sure, Wuthering Heights was a very different book than what was generally considered acceptable during that era. In direct contrast to Emily Bronte’s novel, Susannah Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (1828) tells the story of a young lady who permits her beau to steal her away in the middle of the night. Predictably, he impregnates her and then abandons her, after which she dies of a broken heart. As was common in novels of the era, Charlotte Temple used a fictional story to instruct its readers–primarily young ladies–in what was expected of them.
In Wuthering Heights, one of the main female characters dies of what could also be considered a broken heart, but the effect is a very different one from that of Charlotte Temple. Instead of presenting an overly sentimental worst-case scenario meant to frighten its readers onto the straight-and-narrow, Wuthering Heights seduces its readers with its dark passion and misguided characters. Both Heathcliff and Catherine are flawed characters, but their flaws intrigue the reader just as surely as they repel. If there is any lesson to be learned in Catherine’s death, it is the folly of denying your heart’s greatest passion–a mistake completely at odds with the cause of Charlotte Temple’s downfall.
 
Controversy & Obscurity: Wuthering Heights
Due to the novel’s tumultuous passion, the book received a mixture of responses. Eventually, those who were scandalized by the book’s inappropriateness won out, and Emily Bronte’s only novel was buried in literary obscurity. Decades later, when Wuthering Heights was revived by the interest of modern scholars, the unique literary devices used in the work began to earn more attention than its soap opera-like tale of obsession and loss.
Although the second part of the novel–the part that chiefly concerns Catherine and Heathcliff’s respective children–is frequently overlooked in retellings and screen adaptations, many contemporary critics believe it holds the key to Emily Bronte’s real literary genius. The first generation of children–Catherine, her brother Hindley, and the gypsy child Heathcliff–had led miserable lives, and both Catherine and Hindley died young as payment for their misguided passions. As a result of Heathcliff’s scheming prior to Hindley’s death, he has inherited the Earnshaw home, as well as the care of Hindley’s son, Hareton. After the death of Heathcliff’s estranged wife–Catherine’s husband’s sister, his own son, Linton, comes to live with him as well, setting in motion his final push for revenge.
Generations: Wuthering Heights
The highlight of the second part of the book is when Heathcliff effectively kidnaps Catherine’s daughter, who is called Cathy. With the three children now all under one roof, the latter half of the book parallels the beginning, when Catherine, Hindley, and Heathcliff were all children together in the same house. However, whether by a twist of fate or Heathcliff’s mistreatment of the boy, Hareton’s demeanor and place in the household resembles Healthcliff’s childhood persona more than that of his own father, while Linton is so weak and sickly that he is the perfect opposite of Heathcliff.
Despite the clear similarities to the old rivalries, though, the children begin to converge, rather than to follow in the footsteps of their parents. Maddened by a desire for revenge, Heathcliff attempts to play them against one another, forcing Cathy to marry Linton so that he may inherit the neighboring property that belongs to his rival, Catherine’s widower. Linton dies soon after. After Heathcliff’s own death, the tale comes full circle: the estates return to their rightful heirs, Hareton and the younger Cathy fall in love, and Heathcliff’s legacy of revenge disappears almost without a trace.

Despite its early reception, the combination of unbridled passion and a complex storytelling form makes Wuthering Heights a favorite in many modern literary circles. The darkness of the story and the lack of accompanying moral teachings shocked many of its contemporaries, while the intricacies of the cyclical plot–the destruction and ultimate reunification of the families–were overlooked until recent decades. A novel that combines masterful literary devices with all of the scandals of a soap opera, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights was a drama far ahead of its time.
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I was particularly taken with the 2009 Wuthering Heights production but there are many excellent versions of this timeless classic.
A lovely tribute to the film:


Another beautiful Collection of Film Clips:

9 comments

  1. Autumn Jordon // July 9, 2010 at 11:57 AM  

    Oh, I so love Heathcliff. His lines are perfection. What emotion they convey.

    God, I wish I could write lines like these.

    Now I want to watch the movie all over again. Wait! I have the book. I can read while DH drives.

    Thanks, Beth. ((HUGS))

  2. Beth Trissel // July 9, 2010 at 1:14 PM  

    Go for it, Autumn. :)

  3. Mary Marvella // July 10, 2010 at 12:49 AM  

    Woman still read this one and sigh! Wonderful job, Beth!

    I was on the run all day.

  4. Toni V.S. // July 10, 2010 at 12:13 PM  

    A great article, Beth. I've only seen the Richard Burton version of this story and clips of the Olivier version. I would think playing Heathcliff would be considered up there with Hamlet and a few other choice roles. I have a copy of the novel which shows Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon on the cover as Heathcliff and Cathy. Funny how we come to think of "Heathcliff" now as a silly name or a certain cat when it's really a dark, rugged, vengeful name.

  5. Beth Trissel // July 10, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

    Excellent observations, Toni. There's nothing remotely humorous about Heathcliff.

  6. Joanne // July 10, 2010 at 8:15 PM  

    Sigh...Wuthering Heights. It's definitely one of my favorite movies.

  7. Beth Trissel // July 11, 2010 at 9:02 AM  

    Everyone loves Wuthering Heights, don't they?

  8. Judy // July 11, 2010 at 8:47 PM  

    Ok,now you've piqued my interest. I will rent the movie. Amazing how wading through the darkness of a novel can lead to so many insights. Thanks for the post, Beth.

  9. Mary Ricksen // July 11, 2010 at 9:29 PM  

    Boy don't we wish for a book that successful and memorable.