Tuesday, February 3, 2009

catherine & heathcliff

I read Wuthering Heights as a teenager and loved it and have re-read it five to six times since. It is an eerily romantic and unforgettably cathartic love story. And it was only until a few years back when I was talking with my cousin Cheryl (a french comparative literature PhD) when I realized that the author, Miss Emily, plays a trick on us female readers.

In the beginning and throughout the first half of the book we are swept away in the idea of Heathcliff pining away for Catherine and arranging everything in his life around his desire to have her. We all want someone to love us that much, right? We all want a strong, handsome man to live and die solely for us- that is the romanticized ideal that we grow up with in Western culture.

So Heathcliff never falters in his love for her- even when Catherine has married another and having pregnancy complications- he imposes himself upon her and her husband- stressing her out and causing all sorts of problems. His relentless persual of her actually destroys her happiness and ultimately her life. For the remainder of the book, Heathcliff bleeds with his obsession with for Catherine, causing his own life to become one of hate and sin.

The author paints a scenario for young starry-eyed girls (like the teenager me) who have it in their minds that they want someone to love them beyond the point of all reason and sanity. She is saying, "would you really want that? What if this were the outcome of a man's unyielding desire?" Emily Bronte is a clever and wickedly sharp writer. I will have to go read this book again. And watch it too! My vote is for the British 1995 version with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. 'Tis the month for undying love...