With Halloween just behind us and temperatures beginning to drop, I figured, why not cover one last gothic novel before changing our theme for the upcoming holiday season? (Yes, we are only a few days into November and I am already thinking about the holidays). While I won’t walk you through yet another horror novel, because that would be so October of me, there are still plenty of exciting options within the Gothic sphere. While considering my options, I also realized that I have yet to mention any of a very iconic group of sisters – the Brontës. Therefore, in this week’s TBT, we are going to turn to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights.
Before Wuthering Heights, Brontë wrote various works of poetry and prose, many of which took place in a fictional world called Gondal. She and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, published their work collectively in 1846, titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, but the book gained very little attention. One year later, Emily Brontë took to her pseudonym again to publish her novel Wuthering Heights, but it was not well received either. In fact, many people disliked the novel entirely upon its publication. However, Brontë would pass away about one year later of Tuberculosis and Wuthering Heights would be her only complete novel to make it to publication. While many today love Wuthering Heights and its semi-brutal representation of Victorian England, it was an especially large pill to swallow at the time it was published.
The novel follows two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons, and two of their generations from childhood into adulthood, and some to their death. The novel depicts how social class would be the guiding force behind every poor choice in the novel. Be it a marriage or requesting to borrow money from somebody, every decision governed by socioeconomic status and political position then leads to characters falling farther from a position of moral righteousness and any possibility of being happy. Each action in the novel is a reaction – both direct and indirect – to the fact that Heathcliff (an orphan taken to live at Wuthering Heights by the wealthy Mr. Earnshaw) and Catherine (the daughter of Mr. Earnshaw and true love of Heathcliff) would never be together. The primary reason for this, and it should come as no surprise, is that Catherine instead chose to marry for social advancement as opposed to love. The rest of the novel shows how even well into the next generation, this decision comes to haunt all of the families involved.
Without giving away too much, because there is so much more that happens beyond the brief introduction that I provided, there are various ways in which gothic elements are intertwined into this tragic novel. The first, and most obvious, is the reference to the supernatural. One of the characters comes back after death in the form of a ghost, with which a living character has multiple conversations with. Luckily, a number of characters do not make it to the end, so I haven’t given away anything too shocking yet. In addition to this, there are things that occur, which are more in-line with the horror side of gothic novels. Ok, so I will be talking a little bit about horror after all, but Wuthering Heights is not actually a horror novel. With things like imprisonment, plight, persecution, abuse, and escape, Wuthering Heights is never short of a scene to get your blood pumping.
I know that this is a bit of a shorter TBT than usual, but this is a novel that you just have to read yourself and see how you feel about it. Everyone who reads it will take something different away from it. Many are inclined to still dislike the grim portrayal of Victorian England, as well as the characters of the novel. They are brutal, greedy, and spiteful at first glance, so it is very easy to dislike them. However, it is through looking beyond the top-layer of ugliness and foul language where you will find the qualities that have made Wuthering Heights a part of the literary canon; why those who like the novel usually actually love the novel instead, and why over a century and a half later, so many are still going to their local bookstores to pick up a copy.
At the very least, let this novel serve as your buffer or your transition novel between Halloween horror and holiday joy. It is not as drastic of a transition as Mariah Carey’s hilarious alarm clock Tik Tok, so you won’t go into shock moving so quickly from one polar opposite to the other. On the other hand, you can also use it as a transition into reading other classics. You might find yourself slightly inclined to dust off your copy, or buy “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens (my personal holiday-season go-to, which also happens to fit together quite nicely with the writing style of Brontë). You can also use this as your introduction to the Brontë sisters as a whole. For whatever reason you may have, Wuthering Heights is the perfect novel for this time of year, transitioning your reading as we all transition into the holiday season.