Wuthering Heights – a twisted romance

Catherine and Heathcliff from the 1939 film

Call me strange. Call me weird. Call me twisted. I have always found stories with darker themes, tones and events to be much more compelling and intriguing. Wuthering Heights encapsulates something beautiful in its execution of delivering romance. It takes place in the bleakest of places, secluded and separated from the rest of the world and filled with uninhibited characters both loathsome and frustrating. Brontë’s harrowing novel highlights the trauma and emotional agony that love can cause, rather than the happy ending everyone yearns for.

Yet as much as this is a love story, it is just as much a tale of revenge. Because what does the individual do when they cannot be with the one they love? They mentally torture everyone else around them who they have a dislike for. At least that is what Heathcliff does, although not much to his own advantage. Cathy is everything he wants in the world and everything in the world he cannot get, no matter how hard his efforts – something many of us have struggled to come to terms with at some point or another, even if not over a man or woman.

Top Withens (the supposed inspiration for Wuthering Heights), Haworth Moors
Top Withens (the supposed inspiration for Wuthering Heights), Haworth Moors

Heathcliff is an absolutely wonderfully horrid character. A character full of anger, hatred and a dark romantic passion that burns hotter than most. Being a Gothic novel, the story is perpetually dark and dreary, but whenever his character enters a scene, the tone grows exponentially darker still. You can feel the fear other characters feel on his account. He is sinister to an extent that he rivals all the darkest villains of literature. Brontë does a marvellous job in convincing the reader to think the same way – to hate Heathcliff with a passion that makes you feel all the more confused when you realise you also pity the poor fellow.

Cathy Earnshaw almost equals Heathcliff in wickedness. A woman thwarted by her love for a fundamentally evil man and one who a reader will struggle to sympathise with because she herself is fundamentally the equivalent to a shape-shifting demon who manipulates the emotions of anyone she can. Her relationship with Heathcliff is the driving force of the novel and arguably the best part of the novel. Indeed, the novel does lull in interest once the narrative shifts to focusing on a newer generations of characters.

Everything in Wuthering Heights has a double or an opposite. Edgar Linton is Heathcliff’s opposite; a kind, conscientious and loving man. Whereas Cathy Earnshaw’s opposite is her own daughter, also named Cathy, for very similar reasons. Even the houses are opposites of each other  – Wuthering Heights itself, opposed to Thrushcross Grange. The former is a dark and dreary place in keeping with the genre of the novel whilst the other is a bright and generally happy reprieve of a setting which would be better suited within a classical romance novel.

Wuthering Heights is a beautifully written novel and perhaps the most beautifully written story of all the famous Gothic tales. Its characters are hauntingly and tragically memorable and its eerie setting is one that can etch itself into someone’s mind with extreme effect. It is, without doubt, a masterpiece of classical literature. A novel that transcends being remembered only for its themes and importance to contemporary and modern social status. A novel whose story lives on as something we can all relate to. Almost living up even to Dracula, it is one of the single greatest novels ever written.