Author’s note: this was actually written for an old blog many, many years ago. So if it makes me sound like a 16 year old girl, it’s because I was at the time. 😛 But I figured I ought to update the blog at some point, before I evanesced into (further) obscurity.
Book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.
This book is one of the classics of English literature for a very good reason; frankly, I much prefer the writing style of Emily Brontë to many of her other counterparts. Her writing style has a greater (and more menacing) atmosphere and style than that of Austen; Charlotte Brontë evokes a similar melancholy air, but her characters are generally more lacking in passion, and deviousness. That is one of the most striking features of the character development throughout Wuthering Heights; the sheer malevolent manipulation shown by all of the characters. Indeed, throughout the novel, the reader is presented with the distinct impression that no-one really likes anyone else, even those who are “passionately in love.” Everyone is simply a means to a selfish end for another character (usually Heathcliff :P).
Unlike Austen, who deals primarily with the very parochial field of the gentry of Georgian England, Brontë incorporates far more universal concepts into her novel, perhaps placing it above Austens P&P, S&S, Emma and the like (heresy, I know), because when it is all said and done, the values, motives, characters and ideals portrayed in Wuthering Heights are more timelessly relevant than the idea of marrying as the only acceptable career of the wealthy.
Manipulation, greed (particularly avarice), jealousy, nature vs. nurture, and loyalty are some of the primary themes explored by the text. Social values are of a lesser concern; the women do not feel that they have to marry as a career, or at least, we are not told as such. What is particularly interesting about Wuthering Heights is that much of the story is presented from the perspective of Ellen/Nelly, a mere servant; when contrasted with Austen’s gentry-focused writings, this is a somewhat unusual feature of 19th century literature, particularly that written by a woman. Note that none of the aforementioned themes in the text are particularly light or cheery; in fact, you rarely feel any great fondness for any of the characters, and any brief affection tends to be destroyed by their cruel, manipulative actions. Some you pity (particularly young Hareton Earnshaw, I felt), others are purely devilish (*cough, Heathcliff, cough*), and others so woefully whining, puling and generally self pitying (ie, Linton Heathcliff) that you want to slap them.
I have two primary criticisms to make of Brontë’s writing; one being the manner by which Joseph’s speech is portrayed. True, the accurate transcription of his yokel accent does lend an air of verisimilitude, but still, when it reaches the extent where one has to read the sentence out loud in order to ascertain what he said does encourage the skimming of his lines. Second, she tends to switch back and forth between using the character’s first and last name; this can be confusing when referring to someone who shares a Christian or surname with another character. And, given that most of the characters are interrelated in some way or another, that is quite frequently. The “Earnshaw” references confused me for a while, until Hindley died. Hindley is particularly confusing, because it is easy to forget that that is a given name, not a surname.
In general, the tone of the book is dreary, foreboding, melancholy, and generally ominous; the relatively frequent occurrences of violence are understated to create a deliberate vagueness that does not detract from the realistic tone of the novel. Some parts are genuinely spooky; however, Brontë creates this feeling through understatement once more. The terse, almost tense style of the writing works well to create an aura of suspense throughout the story; the ending is somewhat anticlimatic, but the final imagery is hauntingly vivid in its understated simplicity. Overall, Wuthering Heights is a delightful read, perfect for a rainy, chilly afternoon. The novel has a strong propensity towards true Gothic literary style, and is quite easy to read, if rather heavy in mood, compared to some of her contemporaries.