Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a classic story about two despicable creatures who are both the same parts of one dark soul, mirroring that which we all have within us. They are torn apart by stubbornness and circumstance, once they’ve inexplicably obtained your sympathy. Heathcliff, a product of the dark alleys of London, was brought as a young urchin to the home of Catherine Earnshaw. While she loved running as wild as the moors on which they both played as children, she one day realized her longing for acceptance into society, the allure of fine clothes, as well as what she could obtain from playing societies’ games of good manners. Followed ever after by her neighbor, Edgar Linton, an upper class boy with money whom she agrees to wed; she betrays her true feelings for Heathcliff only to the narrator, the children’s nurse maid, Nelly. This story is unusually written, told in the future from Nelly to Heathcliff’s neighbor, Mr. Lockwood. He has just had an angry interlude with the bitter, lonely Heathcliff, a man now living with his daughter-in-law and a few servants (but pay attention to their names). Lockwood is left to wonder, with the reader, what happened to the enigmatic Catherine, and why does Heathcliff react so strongly at the mere mention of her name? This mystery drives you to read this story and piece together their disturbed history, long after both protagonists have revealed themselves as selfish, stubborn children in adult form. Colored also by a self-righteous servant named Joseph who speaks in a difficult, but humorous, Scottish brogue, Wuthering Heights is an addicting indulgence for anyone who has loved a despicable character.
If you liked this book because of its delving into the darker side of human nature, try "The Lake of Dead Languages" by Carol Goodman.
If you liked its sense of mystery and secrecy that hang over the story until the final revelations, try "Rebecca"by Daphne du Maurier.
If you like this book because of the tragedy of two fatalist characters that want to be together but are torn apart and must keep themselves a secret, try "The House at Riverton" by Kate Morton.
An accompanying recipe:
In the first chapter of Wuthering Heights, Lockwood finds to eat there a table laid out with oatcakes and various meats. An oatcake is basically a very dense type of muffin, often unsweetened. Several pages later, gooseberry bushes are mentioned as something he must climb around and through to obtain entrance into the building. This recipe is less dense and tastier than an oatcake, and incorporates gooseberries. Most of the time, these can be found at your local farmer’s market or some large produce stands. A suggested adjustment is the incorporation of one tsp. of cinnamon, ½ tsp. of nutmeg, and ½ tsp. of cloves or allspice to make them spicier, in order to replicate the spicy aroma of peat moss on the moors (and the spicy unpredictability of Heathcliff’s nature).
1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup gooseberries*
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350. Line or grease and flour one 12 well muffin tin. In a large bowl, mix together the oatmeal, egg, oil, milk, and sugar. After it is thoroughly mixed, add in the flour, salt, ginger, and baking soda. Stir to combine. Fold in the gooseberries. Divide evenly amount 12 muffin wells. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the center muffin comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack, serve.
*A lot of gooseberries sold in the US are actually unripe. Ripe gooseberries, which are a lot less tart, are reddish, while the unripened ones are green. The author used a mixture of both for this recipe.
Recipe and photo by Rachel Rappaport
1. How do you feel about the narrative points of view in this story, first from Lockwood, then from Nelly? Do they make the story more interesting, or difficult to follow?
2. How much did you struggle understanding Joseph’s thick Irish brogue? Is there any other book, film, or tv character he reminds you of? Have you ever heard an accent like his before?
3. How despicable do you think Heathcliff in stating that it was a Herculean effort to get Isabella to hate him? Or is he defensible, since he never lied to her about his nature or that he didn’t love her? Was she just a fool who saw what she pleased?
4. Is Catherine so ill because she’s still in love with a man she couldn’t possibly have married (or else she would have faced financial ruin, and now she can financially sustain them both)? Or is she a brat who is never content with what she has, and is tormenting a good man who only wants her happiness?
5. Would you say that Heathcliff and Catherine really love each other? Or do they even know what love is? According to what definition do they or don’t they love?
6. Does Nelly seem as if she is ever selfish or self-serving? What about how she treated Catherine as a child, was that in her best interests? Or when she says staying with Cathy was the most despicable thing Heathcliff ever did, and that all three would be done for, was she mostly thinking of herself or her masters?
7. Whose love for Catherine was more selfish, Edgar’s or Heathcliff’s?
8. What do you think about Joseph’s passing the responsibility of Hareton’s soul to Heathcliff? Shouldn’t Joseph be partly responsible for never correcting Hareton?
9. Is Isabella a copycat of her mother, or do you see traces of her father in her?
10. What did you think of the ending of the story? Was it satisfactory and true to the entire theme? Or were you hoping for something else?