What can be said about Emily Brontë’s enigmatic novel? Readers either love it…or they hate it.
Wuthering Heights (1847) is controversial because it stirs the soul like no other novel can. Within its pages, embodied within the fiery essence of love, lie the pangs of humiliation and emotional turmoil, the both of which resurface in the form of devotionally motivated vengeance peppered with spots of domestic violence. Heathcliff is the monster, but why? What are the social constructs that propel his need to make others suffer? And who is Catherine, but a woman who knows she cannot outwit the unspoken rules of society? She marries Edgar to help Heathcliff, but is this a justified mode of action?
Feelings drive the plot henceforth, where personalities rise above principles. Wuthering Heights drives deep into the meaning of life, of what is fair and what isn’t. Where the points of importance are kept in moderation by the kindly narrator, Mrs. Dean, they are at once blown out of proportion by the lightning that strikes by the force of desire, the desire to be loved, the desire to enforce hate. The pain goes so deep that the effects are generational, all the more harrowing by the fact that such far-reaching consequences were intended, even celebrated. Biblical in this sense, the wrath of God is the metaphor, where the sins of the elder will be paid for by the sins of the younger. But the strain on the heart can only go so far. It kills others, but ends by the force of its own relentlessness. The flowering of humanity finds its way in the end, as does the spring of life within those most dark and lonesome places.
The latest film edition of Wuthering Heights includes a new spin on the novel in which the interracial element is taken to the full extreme, but why should that matter? Without a doubt, the pain remains the same. Enjoy the new movie, with James Howson performing as Heathcliff, in a movie theater or on a DVD coming soon: