This book was given to me as a parting gift when I left Yorkshire. I had been to Haworth to see the Brontë parsonage and I’d walked the moors behind the house and I had lived in and understood the sweet melodic dialect of West Yorkshire.
All this lent the book a certain sweetness that the two horrible main characters did everything in their power to disrupt. I mean, I knew this wasn’t going to be a love story, but like ooohhhh booyy is it not a love story.
“He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
Heathcliff is stolen off the streets of Liverpool* and brought to live with the Earnshaw family. The father dotes on Heathcliff who becomes fast friends with the daughter of the family, Catherine, and mortal enemies with the brother.
Then stuff happens, Heathcliff leaves, Catherine marries Linton, Heathcliff comes back and is abusive and horrible and Catherine still loves him in a cool, incestous way. There’s a weak love triangle in the way that a love triangle is only weak when the two main characters love each other back.
“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary.”
Then Catherine dies, but she also has a baby and that baby then grows up in this festering turd of an environment. Heathcliff is despondent that Catherine is dead.
“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”
Her husband is also upset, but pulls himself together enough to be a decent human being and raise his daughter. There are loads more characters in this book and all of them are examined by the same question: “What does love do to a human?”
Catherine’s brother’s wife dies and leaves behind a son. Catherine’s brother (no I’m not gonna go look up his name, deal with it) responds by turning to drinking and gambling. When Catherine dies Linton in turn stays a good, loving man trying to raise his daughter as best he can. Heathcliff is spoiled by the love of the man who “adopted” him. Linton’s sister ruins her life to love Heathcliff despite everyone being like “He’s a fucking psycho, stay away”. Then there’s what love does to Catherine and Heathcliff. These people are horrible, love makes them even worse. It takes all the cruelty in their hearts and makes it righteous in their minds. And when Heathcliff loses his loves he lives out some pretty extreme things, like digging up the corpse of his love TWICE. I mean. Come for the gravedigging and stay for the gravedigging.
Brontë is extra AF and clearly very fascinated by anger, death and bleakness. She does, towards the end include a nice little vignette of love’s saving grace, but I’m like too late, Emily. Love makes people horrible and the only way out is the sweet release of death. But also, visit Yorkshire. It’s really nice, got some great moors.
*I mean rescued, because it was a white man who did the stealing