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ClassicsOnline Home » BRONTE, E.: Wuthering Heights (Abridged)
When Mr Earnshaw brings a black-haired foundling child into his home on the Yorkshire moors, he little imagines the dramatic events which will follow. The passionate relationship between Cathy Earnshaw and the foundling, Heathcliff, is a story of love, hate, pity and retribution, the effects of which reverberate throughout the succeeding generations.
When Mr. Earnshaw brings a black-haired foundling child into
his home on the Yorkshire moors, he little imagines the dramatic events, which
will follow. The passionate relationship between Cathy Earnshaw and the
foundling Heathcliff, is a story of love, hate, pity and retribution, the
effects of which reverberate throughout the succeeding generations...
Emily Jane Brontë was born in 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire.
Two years later the family moved to Haworth, near Bradford, where her father
became curate. Emily was the fifth child of the family. The two eldest died in
infancy, the third was Charlotte, then came Patrick Branwell, and the youngest
child was Anne. Their mother died in 1821, leaving her sister, Elizabeth
Branwell, to look after the children.
Left very much to their own devices, the Brontë children
read avidly and would write their own poems, serials, and journals. Emily took
up a teaching post, but ill health forced her to give it up. Wuthering Heights,
her only novel, was published in 1847, only one year before her death from tuberculosis
It seems extraordinary that a young woman, who lived a
secluded life in a vicarage in Yorkshire, could have created Wuthering Heights,
a story that seethes with such passion and drama, and, above all, could have
conceived the character of Heathcliff, who has transcended the confines of the
novel and has become, in the popular imagination, a towering archetype. He has
become the symbol of wild, unconfined emotion; he is the dark mysterious
stranger who threatens, and yet mesmerizes with his irresistible power.
However, when we remember that the Brontë children were nurtured by their aunt,
an ardent Methodist, who encouraged them to read religious magazines full of
miracles, apparitions and ominous dreams, that they devoured the work of Scott,
Byron, Wordsworth, and were steeped in traditional folk tales and Aesop’s
Fables, we can begin to understand the sources of Emily Brontë’s awesome
This tragic, yet inherently powerful story of unconsummated
has spawned many imitators, yet Wuthering Heights has
endured, possibly because it contains elements that a lesser writer could not
possibly sustain: the supernatural, life after death, the symmetry of
repetition, the power of obsessive love. But above all, there lies at the heart
of the novel a troubling puzzle. Heathcliff becomes cruel and intolerable,
driven almost to madness by the loss of Catherine, yet the reader is loathe to
condemn him, in spite
of his barbarism and total lack of pity. Although, as a
child there is something ‘other’ about him, with his dark looks and uncertain
provenance, we feel that his ill treatment at the hands of ‘civilized’ society
compounds his wayward tendencies.
Catherine, of course, in spite of her very different up
his love of freedom on the untamed moors. Is it ‘nature’ or
‘nurture’, which makes them so? Emily Brontë avoids a trite answer, although
it is through reading, and the love of books that Cathy
finally ‘reaches’ Hareton. These are issues, which will no doubt, continue to exercise
literary commentators, but Wuthering Heights will continue to move and delight,
because it is, quite simply, the most memorable love story ever written.
Notes by Heather Godwin
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BRONTE, E.: Wuthering Heights (Abridged)