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What's up with Wuthering Heights?


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I somehow managed to make it to this point in my life without reading Wuthering Heights, so now I am . . .  and I gotta say, I am not enjoying it very much.  It's not the genre or the style - I love Jane Eyre, and Dickens, and Austen.  It's not that I need happy good characters, I love Frankenstein and Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina . . . . but geez, I just can't find it in me to care about these people or their problems at all!  They are totally detestable.  What am I missing?  Can anyone kick me in the seat of the pants into an appreciation of this novel?  I'm not even going for love at this point, just appreciation and trying to understand its "greatness"?

 

 

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I did not like that book at all.  I didn't read it until I was well into adulthood.  It's referenced sometimes as a love story.  But it was a pretty twisted love story.  I agree, everyone acts detestable and selfish, and I didn't think the ending was very redeeming either.  I'm not sure why it's considered a classic.  I felt really bleh after reading it.

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How about if you think of the book as important rather than great?  There are books that were such a shock to the sensibilities of their age that any assessment of greatness has to be secondary.  I don't know if you have read 'Brave New World' recently, but that falls into that category for me.  So does Catcher in the Rye (which I read for the first time as an adult) although others disagree.

 

Imagine the comet that was WH, streaking across the Victorian sky.  Wonder at its importance, whether you like it or not.

 

L

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How about if you think of the book as important rather than great?  There are books that were such a shock to the sensibilities of their age that any assessment of greatness has to be secondary.  I don't know if you have read 'Brave New World' recently, but that falls into that category for me.  So does Catcher in the Rye (which I read for the first time as an adult) although others disagree.

 

Imagine the comet that was WH, streaking across the Victorian sky.  Wonder at its importance, whether you like it or not.

 

L

Having listened to Wuthering Heights and Brave New World in the past year, I completely agree. WH was difficult to get through at times. Heathcliff was so awful! Same with BNW. The people are detestable, but they are important books that I'm glad I got through. I can't say my moods were that great while I listened to them and for a few week after though. 

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Hmm...I read it a few years ago and must have missed something. I don't see anything compelling enough for me to add it to Lily's list. Of course, I may change my mind in time. Maybe she needs to read it just to say she read it or something. It was one of the few classics that have left me only with lasting impressions of--- :001_huh: and :thumbdown: .

 

Why do I have this nagging feeling I'll regret this post one day? Drat. I hate that feeling...Maybe I should reread WH before posting...

 

Stay tuned for the post where I rave about Wuthering Heights or the post explaining how Lily spends all her free time hours reading and rereading Wuthering Heights...

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The people are detestable, but they are important books that I'm glad I got through.

 

Why? Did they change your life? Change how you view the world? Give you a deeper appreciation of life or perhaps insight into the lives of those around you? Was the book a window into a time period? How is your life better for having read Wuthering Heights? What makes you glad you got through it? (Other than it finally being over. ;) )

 

 

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I loved it at 15 but recently re-read it and was appalled by how awful Heathcliff and Cathy truly are. He's not a romantic, brooding "bad boy" but a complete and utter jerk. She's tempestuous all right, but what the teenaged me excused as driven by passion, the adult me felt like she deserved to be smacked upside the head for (figuratively, not literally!)

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I had read it a couple of times before my senior year in high school, and it was one of the works we had to read and discuss in class. It was pretty much the only time I really participated in classroom discussion, not because I loved it but because I was already familiar with it. :-)

 

Can't tell you why you *should* read it, though, other than for things like discerning Victorian attitudes such as not discussing pregnancy...

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How about if you think of the book as important rather than great?  There are books that were such a shock to the sensibilities of their age that any assessment of greatness has to be secondary.  I don't know if you have read 'Brave New World' recently, but that falls into that category for me.  So does Catcher in the Rye (which I read for the first time as an adult) although others disagree.

 

Imagine the comet that was WH, streaking across the Victorian sky.  Wonder at its importance, whether you like it or not.

 

L

 

Ok, I can do that - but help me figure out why it was so important.  I get that Jane Eyre was quite revolutionary in its portrayal of Jane's insistence on maintaining her independence, physical and moral, along with its portrayal of the passion in her nature.  I get all the gothic undertones, yet how it transcended the gothic.  I can see the gothic undertones in WH, too, but I'm not sure exactly how to read this book within its context - it was shocking because the hero and heroine were decidedly unheroic, maybe?  That definitely strikes me as a more modern sensibility, and was probably pretty shocking at the time.  What else?

 

I'm actually interested, not just trying to bash the book! I've often found through participating in a book group that I like a book more after having discussed it than I did before.

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I loved it at 15 but recently re-read it and was appalled by how awful Heathcliff and Cathy truly are. He's not a romantic, brooding "bad boy" but a complete and utter jerk. She's tempestuous all right, but what the teenaged me excused as driven by passion, the adult me felt like she deserved to be smacked upside the head for (figuratively, not literally!)

 

Right, see, that's what I was expecting! I've seen WH alluded to so many times in other literature, I was expecting Heathcliff to be a romantic brooding bad boy, and he and Cathy to be star-crossed.  But that's not what I'm finding at all! It's not remotely romantically tragic, except in the sense that the characters own qualities and choices lead to their doom.  But neither of them is a tragic hero in a Hamlet or Oedipus sense, and Heathcliff certainly isn't bad-boy endearing a la James Dean or anything . . . the book has definitely violated my expectations based on how I've seen it discussed in other literature.

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I just did Wuthering Heights with my AP Lit students.  One thing that struck me is what a great narrator Nelly Dean is.  She is the one likable character in the book and she is actually sympathetic to all these crazy, evil people even while she recognizes how crazy and evil they are.  Also -- it is a great book for discussing setting.  Each of the three main settings -- Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and the moor -- is symbolic.  The moor is wild and unrestrained, like Heathcliff.  Thrushcross Grange represents refined civilization and Cathy chooses it over Heathcliff but never really belongs there.  I also like the way the book ends with the hope that Hareton, who has been abused by Heathcliff in the same way Heathcliff was abused by his father, and young Cathy may actually have a healthy relationship.

 

In a recent thread, someone said that people usually like either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.  That's true for me.  I've reread Jane Eyre several times, hoping I could come to like it, but I've always hated it.  I somehow really like Wuthering Heights, though!

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Why? Did they change your life? Change how you view the world? Give you a deeper appreciation of life or perhaps insight into the lives of those around you? Was the book a window into a time period? How is your life better for having read Wuthering Heights? What makes you glad you got through it? (Other than it finally being over. ;) )

I actually like tragic love stories, such as Great Gatsby (another one people seem to love or hate). WH didn't seem to be a tragic love story though. It's more of a Victorian sociopath story. I read about how this book was shocking for the times and I think that makes it important. 

 

I am glad I read it as an adult and not a teenager. I think it would have changed my life and view of the world having read it when I was more easily influenced. I had some rather dark times back then and I could see it affirming my views on relationships. If anything it gave me a deeper appreciation for how cruel some people can be. I tend to be idealistic, so reading about someone like Heathcliff was a bit eye opening and uncomfortable. I suppose that's a good thing, right?

 

I do see a shift in my perspective towards today's society after reading Brave New World. That made it worth it to me. 

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I actually like tragic love stories, such as Great Gatsby (another one people seem to love or hate). WH didn't seem to be a tragic love story though. It's more of a Victorian sociopath story. I read about how this book was shocking for the times and I think that makes it important. 

 

I am glad I read it as an adult and not a teenager. I think it would have changed my life and view of the world having read it when I was more easily influenced. I had some rather dark times back then and I could see it affirming my views on relationships. If anything it gave me a deeper appreciation for how cruel some people can be. I tend to be idealistic, so reading about someone like Heathcliff was a bit eye opening and uncomfortable. I suppose that's a good thing, right?

 

I like tragic love stories too. In fact, Lily is often lamenting that I don't seem to like happy stories...lol.  I also read lots of nonfiction about human cruelty, so maybe that's why I don't care for it so much in fiction?

At least not in this particular story where I didn't see much to redeem it.

 

ETA: Ethan Frome is not a happy book, yet it holds a prominent place on my bookshelves. The same is true for many other books that tell tragic love stories. Wuthering Heights didn't earn a good place on my shelves. ;)

 

Obviously books speak to everyone differently. That is why I am a little hesitant to make a MUST READ book list for Lily. I want it to be somewhat fluid. There are so many worthwhile books...who am I to make the final judgement for her?

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I was thinking more about the tragic hero/likeability thing.  So Rochester isn't a "good" man - yet I sympathize with him, right? I see the attraction.  Heathcliff just seems despicable, bent on nothing but revenge.  

 

Yet I also find it kind of strange that I don't sympathize with Heathcliff at all.  He was treated abominably, right? I sympathize with Hareton, who is being treated as badly as Heathcliff was.  What is it about Heathcliff that makes him so very unsympathetic? His choices, I suppose - he chooses to devote himself entirely to revenge.  He isn't hapless in the least, he is making his bed.  

 

Cathy too.  (Cathy the elder) is not a sympathetic character at all.  You have the sense that they - Cathy & Heathcliff - deserved each other.

 

Ellen/Nelly is a sympathetic character, as is Cathy the younger - sympathetic, but foolish (I'm not quite done yet).

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I was thinking more about the tragic hero/likeability thing.  So Rochester isn't a "good" man - yet I sympathize with him, right? I see the attraction.  Heathcliff just seems despicable, bent on nothing but revenge.  

 

Yet I also find it kind of strange that I don't sympathize with Heathcliff at all.  He was treated abominably, right? I sympathize with Hareton, who is being treated as badly as Heathcliff was.  What is it about Heathcliff that makes him so very unsympathetic? His choices, I suppose - he chooses to devote himself entirely to revenge.  He isn't hapless in the least, he is making his bed.  

 

Cathy too.  (Cathy the elder) is not a sympathetic character at all.  You have the sense that they - Cathy & Heathcliff - deserved each other.

 

Ellen/Nelly is a sympathetic character, as is Cathy the younger - sympathetic, but foolish (I'm not quite done yet).

 

Would you stop it before you convince me to drag the darn book out and start reading it again??? Drat this forum!

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I was thinking more about the tragic hero/likeability thing.  So Rochester isn't a "good" man - yet I sympathize with him, right? I see the attraction.  Heathcliff just seems despicable, bent on nothing but revenge.  

 

Yet I also find it kind of strange that I don't sympathize with Heathcliff at all.  He was treated abominably, right? I sympathize with Hareton, who is being treated as badly as Heathcliff was.  What is it about Heathcliff that makes him so very unsympathetic? His choices, I suppose - he chooses to devote himself entirely to revenge.  He isn't hapless in the least, he is making his bed.  

 

Cathy too.  (Cathy the elder) is not a sympathetic character at all.  You have the sense that they - Cathy & Heathcliff - deserved each other.

 

Ellen/Nelly is a sympathetic character, as is Cathy the younger - sympathetic, but foolish (I'm not quite done yet).

When he came back, he could have done so many things differently that would have made him sympathetic and made this a true tragic love story. Instead, he is just filled with revenge. Everything he did from the moment he stepped back into town just made me despise him even more. Bronte didn't even give you a few redeeming moments where you think aww...he's not so bad or he's just misunderstood. I can't think of a single instance. He was on the evil side the whole time. 

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Gatsby is another book I re-read as an adult this past year after having loved it in high school. That novel held up much better for the most part, although I found Daisy Buchanan less sympathetic than I had as a teen.

 

Jane Eyre I really liked as a teen but haven't re-read.

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Please take into account that I first read Wuthering Heights as a teen so this is not a highly intellectual book review :laugh:   Probably due to a very good English Lit. teacher, I loved the book. For some reason I came away from it with a kind of warning thought that when a person puts him or herself first, there is no happiness: no happy relationship, no happy ending. Heathcliff and Cathy were both supremely selfish; yes, they were obsessed with each other but I didn't see it as true love, even at that age.  Having recently re-read Anna Karenina, I had some of the same thoughts: fulfilling one's selfish desires at all costs is dangerous.

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Please take into account that I first read Wuthering Heights as a teen so this is not a highly intellectual book review :laugh:   Probably due to a very good English Lit. teacher, I loved the book. For some reason I came away from it with a kind of warning thought that when a person puts him or herself first, there is no happiness: no happy relationship, no happy ending. Heathcliff and Cathy were both supremely selfish; yes, they were obsessed with each other but I didn't see it as true love, even at that age.  Having recently re-read Anna Karenina, I had some of the same thoughts: fulfilling one's selfish desires at all costs is dangerous.

 

Hmm, you might  have just picked my next re-read!

 

I don't disagree with your assessment of WH at all.  It doesn't look like love, it looks like two selfish, obsessive people making themselves and everyone around them miserable.  I'm looking for a deeper message, though, than "Being selfish is bad. Don't be a jerk."  KWIM?  The greatest novels don't have a truism at their core, they have a Truth.  I'm still trying to figure out what this novel's Truth is.

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Gatsby is another book I re-read as an adult this past year after having loved it in high school. That novel held up much better for the most part, although I found Daisy Buchanan less sympathetic than I had as a teen.

 

Jane Eyre I really liked as a teen but haven't re-read.

 

Right, Daisy isn't sympathetic at all - kind of a modern Cathy, in fact.  There were other sympathetic characters in that book though, including Gatsby himself, for all his flaws.

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As a teen, I'd seen Daisy as a tragic heroine caught between duty and her heart or some such nonsense. A precursor to the whole "Team So-and-So" so popular in modern YA chick lit. As an adult I can recognize her selfishness in a way that I missed as a teen.

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I'm actually interested, not just trying to bash the book! I've often found through participating in a book group that I like a book more after having discussed it than I did before.

 

There's nothing sacred about WH. Bash away. :D But do *not* try to bash Girl of the Limberlost!!! :leaving:

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Ok, I can do that - but help me figure out why it was so important.  I get that Jane Eyre was quite revolutionary in its portrayal of Jane's insistence on maintaining her independence, physical and moral, along with its portrayal of the passion in her nature.  I get all the gothic undertones, yet how it transcended the gothic.  I can see the gothic undertones in WH, too, but I'm not sure exactly how to read this book within its context - it was shocking because the hero and heroine were decidedly unheroic, maybe?  That definitely strikes me as a more modern sensibility, and was probably pretty shocking at the time.  What else?

 

I'm actually interested, not just trying to bash the book! I've often found through participating in a book group that I like a book more after having discussed it than I did before.

 

Yes, to me the shock at the time of publication was the unheroic and determinedly un-Christian, indeed anti-Christian tone.  

 

L

 

Edited for clarity

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I like tragic love stories too, and tragedies in all forms.  The Great Gatsby is one of my favorites.  But I like my tragic heroes to be at least a little bit likeable!  ;)

Maybe if you watched the movie version with Timothy Dalton you'd like Heathcliff at least a *bit* better?  Then you could contrast it with the Olivier version.  Seriously, it has been a lot of years since I read WH, but I'm not sure (in my bizarre brain) I would have called Heathcliff the tragic hero.  To me it's still a woman story with a heroine, and the challenge is grappling with someone who made such conflicted choices.

 

I am glad I read it as an adult and not a teenager. I think it would have changed my life and view of the world having read it when I was more easily influenced. I had some rather dark times back then and I could see it affirming my views on relationships. If anything it gave me a deeper appreciation for how cruel some people can be. I tend to be idealistic, so reading about someone like Heathcliff was a bit eye opening and uncomfortable. I suppose that's a good thing, right?

 

Now see I read it in high school and it did confirm what I had seen of the struggles of love and the conflicted choices women make.  

 

I just did Wuthering Heights with my AP Lit students.  One thing that struck me is what a great narrator Nelly Dean is.  She is the one likable character in the book and she is actually sympathetic to all these crazy, evil people even while she recognizes how crazy and evil they are.  Also -- it is a great book for discussing setting.  Each of the three main settings -- Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, and the moor -- is symbolic.  The moor is wild and unrestrained, like Heathcliff.  Thrushcross Grange represents refined civilization and Cathy chooses it over Heathcliff but never really belongs there.  I also like the way the book ends with the hope that Hareton, who has been abused by Heathcliff in the same way Heathcliff was abused by his father, and young Cathy may actually have a healthy relationship.

 

In a recent thread, someone said that people usually like either Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre.  That's true for me.  I've reread Jane Eyre several times, hoping I could come to like it, but I've always hated it.  I somehow really like Wuthering Heights, though!

Your class sounds fun!  I liked both WH and JE, though probably JE slightly better.  What does that say about me?   :lol:   Seriously, they both have crazy people and the deranged element and strong, conflicted women.  Guess some people just have the upbringing to identify with it, lol.  To me they have many similarities, but I haven't read them in years and am not known for being discriminating.  Their approach to the mystic (lovers' connections), etc. etc. are similar.

 

I think what turned me on to JE (besides having a father who could have been the woman in the attic in some ways ;)  ) was the strong feminist element a teacher pointed out to me in 9th grade.   Gives you a fresh way to read it.

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Sorry - I'll go back and edit.  I meant the shock at the time of publication.

 

L

 

Interesting. I don't remember feeling that shock about time of publication with this book, although I have with others. Hmmm....maybe I had read the others first, so I wasn't shocked by this one? I remember the feelings and thoughts, but I'm not sure I can remember exactly which books or the order in which I read them....It would be interesting to see if that made a difference. Or perhaps I had recently read nonfiction about the time period, so the book didn't surprise me? I'm not sure. Interesting!

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Interesting. I don't remember feeling that shock with this book, although I have with others. Hmmm....maybe I had read the others first, so I wasn't shocked by this one? I remember the feelings and thoughts, but I'm not sure I can remember exactly which books or the order in which I read them....It would be interesting to see if that made a difference. Or perhaps I had recently read nonfiction about the time period, so the book didn't surprise me? I'm not sure. Interesting!

 

What I didn't realise when I first read WH at school was that there are only thirty years between the publication of Persuasion and Wuthering Heights.  Such a contrast in morals, mores and atmosphere!

 

L

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I read WH for the first time last summer. Based on what I'd heard of the story I expected tragic love story. What I read was tragic but not a love story. I think it was a clear look at how self centered behavior twists all interaction with others. I imagine that the readers of the time were probably also surprised by the ugly truth, as well as by the lack of judgement on the part of narrator. There is no hero or villain because life isn't that clear cut.  I never felt this was a cautionary tale though it can certainly be turned into one.

 

I didn't love it and it won't be required reading for our school.

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I'm not a fan. I read it all through once in high school. As an adult I've listened once and read with annotating once. Both of the latter times I had to quit half way because I so disliked the characters.

 

I do wonder how it is read differently now than on publication since we do know the author was a woman. Do we expect more of a love story now than then? On the other hand I'm not sure it was received well then either. It strikes me as a book often talked about and listed on lists but not really enjoyed. In other words a famous and well known book but not a good book. (Good book being one you buy extra copies of to send to friends or that you eagerly ask if they've read.)

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I somehow managed to make it to this point in my life without reading Wuthering Heights, so now I am . . .  and I gotta say, I am not enjoying it very much.  It's not the genre or the style - I love Jane Eyre, and Dickens, and Austen.  It's not that I need happy good characters, I love Frankenstein and Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina . . . . but geez, I just can't find it in me to care about these people or their problems at all!  They are totally detestable.  What am I missing?  Can anyone kick me in the seat of the pants into an appreciation of this novel?  I'm not even going for love at this point, just appreciation and trying to understand its "greatness"?

 

For what it's worth, I adore Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Villete. I went on a kick for Wilkie Collins a few years ago and read not only The Woman in White and The Moonstone but several of his other books and plays in the space of just a few months, I love Austen and Dickens . . .

 

But I just could not trudge through Wuthering Heights for many years. I finally got through it on audio during one of my 26-hour round-trip drives to and from my daughter's college.

 

And I still can't say I "liked" the book. I acknowledge that, once I got to a certain point, I found the story and the writing compelling. I was able to lose myself in the writing, and I was driven to keep going so that I could find out what happened next. However, I just hated Heathcliff and Catherine so much, found them such despicable people, that I could not invest myself in caring about them. My overriding feeling once I finally got to the end of the book was something like relief, that it was over, that they were over.

 

So, I do admit that the book is richly written and the characters well developed. I'm glad I can finally say I've read it. But I in no way "enjoyed" the reading, and I have no desire to revisit that world or those people ever again.

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I like tragic love stories too, and tragedies in all forms.  The Great Gatsby is one of my favorites.  But I like my tragic heroes to be at least a little bit likeable!  ;)

 

Agreed. For me, in order for someone to be "tragic," I have to care about the character. I have to be able to invest in him and want the best for him, so that I can feel sad when he makes a terrible choice or suffers some terrible pain.

 

In WH, I just hated the characters so much that I felt they deserved their suffering. It wasn't tragic for me, just depressing.

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Gone with the Wind was a good read with some detestable characters.  
Wuthering Heights was a dry-as-dirt read with some detestable characters.  

 

I read it "for fun" when I was in college, dragging myself through, convinced there must be some sort of redemptive value in this as people always rave about it.  
Never did find the fascination. 

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Ok, I finished it last night, and I actually like it a little bit better now.  I appreciate how it ended, actually - I appreciate that Heathcliff didn't go through some miraculous redemption, he died just as he lived.  I don't think he was a heroic character in the least.  I think the heroic character was Hareton, who was actually the perfect counterpoint to Heathcliff.  Hareton was raised by a brutal drunkard and deliberately "ruined" by Heathcliff - his childhood was much worse than Heathcliff's, because he didn't have a friend or someone on his side at all (unless you count Joseph).  Yet he retained a basic nobility of character and chose love and forgiveness over hatred and revenge.  This is at least hopeful, and lends a little deeper element to the message of the book, which I take to be something along the lines of "selfish, bad choices lead to misery and suffering, for you and for everyone around you, but you do have the power to choose a different path."  I like that.  I like books that offer flawed characters making different choices in similar situations, when the situations are allowed to work themselves out logically/believably, without wrapping everything up neatly and happily at the end.

 

FWIW, I don't give Cathy the younger near as much credit as I give Hareton.  After all, Cathy had a happy childhood, was loved and petted, was the center of her father's universe.  Sure, she suffered awful abuse by Heathcliff for a short time, and this shocked and disillusioned her, but she was able to draw on a lifetime of being loved and being valued to make a different choice.  Hareton, on the other hand, had no good model, he found the power to choose a different path from Heathcliff's from inside himself - love? 

 

Anyway, I guess I'm glad I finally read it, I probably won't assign it to my kids in high school, and I appreciate the discussion! It definitely helped motivate me to finish!

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Yes, to me the shock at the time of publication was the unheroic and determinedly un-Christian, indeed anti-Christian tone.  

 

L

 

Edited for clarity

 

 

Good point, particularly when you compare it to Jane Eyre.  JE may have been unconventional in some ways, but there was definitely the presence of Providence, the reward for the just, redemption, and a very strong Christian element throughout.  WH had none of that.  There was a little moralizing by Nelly about rewards in the hereafter, but not a main theme at all, and not one put before the reader by the narrator, the way it is in JE.

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For what it's worth, I adore Jane Eyre and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Villete. I went on a kick for Wilkie Collins a few years ago and read not only The Woman in White and The Moonstone but several of his other books and plays in the space of just a few months, I love Austen and Dickens . . .

 

But I just could not trudge through Wuthering Heights for many years. I finally got through it on audio during one of my 26-hour round-trip drives to and from my daughter's college.

 

And I still can't say I "liked" the book. I acknowledge that, once I got to a certain point, I found the story and the writing compelling. I was able to lose myself in the writing, and I was driven to keep going so that I could find out what happened next. However, I just hated Heathcliff and Catherine so much, found them such despicable people, that I could not invest myself in caring about them. My overriding feeling once I finally got to the end of the book was something like relief, that it was over, that they were over.

 

So, I do admit that the book is richly written and the characters well developed. I'm glad I can finally say I've read it. But I in no way "enjoyed" the reading, and I have no desire to revisit that world or those people ever again.

 

I had the same experience, and I think it was when Cathy the younger came into the story.  Finally, a character I could like and root for, and care about what happened! I think what made the first half so hard to get through was that I really didn't care about H & C.

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I'm not a fan. I read it all through once in high school. As an adult I've listened once and read with annotating once. Both of the latter times I had to quit half way because I so disliked the characters.

 

I do wonder how it is read differently now than on publication since we do know the author was a woman. Do we expect more of a love story now than then? On the other hand I'm not sure it was received well then either. It strikes me as a book often talked about and listed on lists but not really enjoyed. In other words a famous and well known book but not a good book. (Good book being one you buy extra copies of to send to friends or that you eagerly ask if they've read.)

 

Yes, in reading about the book's critical reception at the time, it wasn't very well-received, was it? And not for the reasons you'd predict, necessarily - not because it had a strong woman character, shocking to Victorian sensibilities.  

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I read WH for the first time as an adult, and while I did not love it, I did find it fascinating. I have been thinking about this book lately and wanting to read it again. It is on my summer reading list, so I appreciate the discussion. Now I can read it with these perspectives in mind. I'm also adding Jane Eyre to the list. I have never read it, so this seems like a good time - maybe a little 'pick me up' after WH.

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I went on a kick for Wilkie Collins a few years ago and read not only The Woman in White and The Moonstone but several of his other books and plays in the space of just a few months

Too funny that you mention Collins as I just put a library hold this week for "The Moonstone". It is recommended on one of the DYOCC lists and I haven't ever read it.

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My high school teacher made a big fuss about WH contrasting civilization with the wild -- both in the people and the settings.

 

I guess seen from that perspective, it kind of makes sense, although it sure makes the wild look really, really awful. Evil, in fact. Which I find uncomfortable because I see wildness as not necessarily having a value label of good or evil. It just is.

 

Back in high school I thought it was kind of eh, whatever. Other people in my English class loved it. However, I reread it recently, and I can honestly say I see even less in it now. Yes, it's a depiction of evil, but it is so unrelenting, that the evil characters aren't human. I was mostly left wondering how they ended up that way. For Heathcliff's case, I could kind of understand -- maybe something truly horrible happened to him before the story begin. But Catherine? I just don't see it. Unless the idea was that some people are born bad. Original sin or genetics or something. But when I'm reading a book, I guess I expect to know more about why things are the way they are, and WH just uses evil to make a point, without telling us where the evil came from. In modern day fiction, if I saw such two dimensional characters, I would be unimpressed.

 

I can of see the book as an argument against the noble savage idea. From the standpoint of trying to understand philosophical thinking at the time, it might be valuable. But maybe culture has since moved on, so we don't see immediately that that's what the idea was supposed to be?

 

Other books that I've reread since high school are Emma, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice. The only one that seemed better to me was Pride and Prejudice. I think I've just come to appreciate humor more, and Emma has never struck me as being all that witty. There are moments, but not enough to make the book worth reading for me.

 

Jane Eyre is a weird one. When I first read it, wow, what a read! But the 2nd time, years later, I was just bothered by unlikable characters -- particularly Rochester. I'm ok with him being unlikable, but what did Jane see in him? Metaphorically speaking, I guess he's not quite as powerful in the end, so maybe she can put up with him better, but had he done all that much to convince her (or me) that he was a worthwhile person to spend time with? Being blind wasn't necessarily going to stop his manipulative behavior. It looked to me that all it did was make him pitiful. If the ordeal had made him more humble and more honest the ending would have made more sense. But I had the feeling he just said things to make her believe that. So he was just manipulating Jane (and the reader) yet again. It makes him an interesting character, but Jane's reaction to it wasn't really all that believable to me.

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The Moonstone is one of my favorite books.

 

The Woman in White is more of a love story. As a result, it seems Collins focused more on his love pair and skipped all the character studies of the minor characters. For that reason, I didn't like it as well. It's still a good read, but I was expecting The Moonstone again.

 

For me, The Moonstone out-Dickens Dickens himself in the exploration of characters. I tend to find Dickens gets a little tiresome. Lots and lots of words. And every time we have a new character, Dickens has to do another little "study" -- whether he has anything interesting to say or not. Dickens' little character sketches also seem to all be caricatures, while Collins' are about real people.

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The Moonstone is one of my favorite books.

 

The Woman in White is more of a love story. As a result, it seems Collins focused more on his love pair and skipped all the character studies of the minor characters. For that reason, I didn't like it as well. It's still a good read, but I was expecting The Moonstone again.

 

For me, The Moonstone out-Dickens Dickens himself in the exploration of characters. I tend to find Dickens gets a little tiresome. Lots and lots of words. And every time we have a new character, Dickens has to do another little "study" -- whether he has anything interesting to say or not. Dickens' little character sketches also seem to all be caricatures, while Collins' are about real people.

 

Them's fightin' words. :boxing_smiley:    Dickens' little character sketches? :svengo:

 

;)

 

The Moonstone has been on my list forever. You just bumped it way up to the top.

 

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I liked JE as a kid, then didn't like it as a young recently married adult. I rejected the view that Rochester is heroic or a desirae husband.

 

I reread the book two years ago in order to use it in my lit coop class. I liked it much better on this very close reading. Rochester is no better. But Jane came off so much stronger. She goes through about four cycles of being trammeled by other people. And each time gains more will and voice in rejecting someone else's manipulations. It was especially interesting to see the coops reactions to the cousin at the end. In some ways he was worse than Rochester because he was relentless and willfull ignoring Jane.

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Them's fightin' words. :boxing_smiley:    Dickens' little character sketches? :svengo:

 

;)

 

The Moonstone has been on my list forever. You just bumped it way up to the top.

 

 

Me too! I've never finished a Collins book.  The Woman and White didn't keep my attention.  I'll have to try The Moonstone.

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