Often, it’s too easy for us to turn a blind eye to the flaws in our favourite books or series. Although there is no such thing as an objectively perfect work of fiction, it’s difficult to confront issues in the things we love. While it may be uncomfortable, or at times painful, I think it’s essential to point out lack of representation or perpetuation of harmful tropes and themes – no matter what kind of media you consume.
The #CritYourFave blog event encourages you to post discussion throughout the month of October, analysing your favourite book or series through a more critical lens.
Wuthering Heights: Is It Really ‘Romantic’?
This post contains spoilers.
Wuthering Heights is my favourite classic English literature book. Published in 1847 under Emily Bronte’s pseudonym Ellis Bell, it was Bronte’s only novel, as she was to pass away the next year, aged 30. It has been republished a billion times and adapted into plays, radio drama, TV shows, movies, ballets, operas, songs, and even a role-playing game. It’s generally seen as this windswept forbidden romance between a gypsy boy (Heathcliff) and his adopted sister (Cathy).
But I don’t think Wuthering Heights is romantic, not in the least.
Heathcliff is an abusive bully, both emotionally and physically. Cathy is a demented nitwit who trades her wildling life for domesticity and marries for prestige. The two share a bond and think they are soul mates yet they take turns swiping at each other, tearing each other apart while claiming they are unable to live without each other. The whole book is like watching an angry tornado tear across the pages leaving havoc in its wake. The two are passionate, but they do not love each other, not in the least. They are co-dependent and are the epitome of ‘a fine line between love and hate.’
So why do we idolise this love the way we idolise Romeo and Juliet, who were just a couple of dumb kids at the mercy of their hormones?
I think a lot of people mistake the destructive passion Heathcliff and Cathy have for each other as true love. Heathcliff and Cathy’s passion ultimately destroys them both. They don’t learn from their actions and Heathcliff especially, as the one who lives longer, holds an almost supernatural grudge. Their love doesn’t heal, it doesn’t bond, and it doesn’t save either of them. Their love only destroys and casts pain into the next generation with their selfish attitudes and actions.
To me, that’s not love.
Contrasting Heathcliff and Cathy’s ‘love’ with the love of the next generation, Hareton and young Catherine, it is much easier to see how although the latter pair lack the intense passion of the former pair, they do have a calmer and more respectful relationship that grows into mutual love and admiration. They don’t seek to hurt each other, and they try to better themselves for the sake of the other. In contrast, no wonder Cathy’s ghost haunts the moors, begging Heathcliff to let her in. With a love that never changed, they were both cursed to remain the same long after their flames went out.
PS feel free to ship Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy, they actually got married and recently had a baby.