Wuthering Heights (Bronte)

Wuthering Heights 
Emily Bronte, 1847
~400 pp. (varies by publisher)


Summary
In early nineteenth-century Yorkshire, the passionate attachment between a headstrong young girl and a foundling boy brought up by her father causes disaster for them and many others, even in the next generation.

More
Considered lurid and shocking by mid-19th-century standards, Wuthering Heights was initially thought to be such a publishing risk that its author, Emily Bronte, was asked to pay some of the publication costs. A somber tale of consuming passions and vengeance played out against the lonely moors of northern England, the book proved to be one of the most enduring classics of English literature.

The turbulent and tempestuous love story of Cathy and Heathcliff spans two generations—from the time Heathcliff, a strange, course young boy, is brought to live on the Earnshaw's windswept estate, through Cathy's marriage to Edgar Linton and Heathcliff's plans for revenge, to Cathy's death years later and the eventual union of the surviving Earnshaw and Linton heirs.

A masterpiece of imaginative fiction, Wuthering Heights remains as poignant and compelling today as it was when first published in 1847. (From Barnes and Noble.)



Author Bio
Birth—July 30, 1818 
Where—Thornton, Yorkshire, UK
 Death—December 19, 1848 
Where—Haworth, Yorkshire 
Education—Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in
   Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head; Pensionnat
   Heger (Belgium, to study French and German)


Emily Bronte was born on July 30, 1818, in Thornton, Yorkshire, in the north of England, the third child of the Reverend Patrick Bronte and Maria Branwell Bronte. In 1820 the family moved to neighboring Haworth, where Reverend Brontë was offered a lifetime curacy. The following year Mrs. Brontë died of cancer, and her sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved in to help raise the six children.

The four eldest sisters—Charlotte, Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth—attended Cowan Bridge School, until Maria and Elizabeth contracted what was probably tuberculosis and died within months of each other, at which point Charlotte and Emily returned home. The four remaining siblings—Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne—entertained themselves by reading Shakespeare, Milton, Virgil and the Bible. They played on the Yorkshire moors and dreamed up fanciful, fabled worlds, creating a constant stream of tales, such as the Young Men plays (1826) and Our Fellows (1827). It was at this time that young Emily began to write stories and poetry.

Emily spent a few years as governess at Law Hill Hall in West Yorkshire and later, with Charlotte and Anne, attended the Pensionnat Heger in Belgium Brussels to study French and German. Her studies were interrupted by the death of their Aunt Branwell, and Emily alone returned to Haworth, remaining with her father, where she continued writing and editing her poems.

When Charlotte and Anne returned home, the three published their poetry in 1846 under the psuedonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. A year later, in 1847, Emily published Wuthering Heights to (at first) mixed reviews. The novel, however, was soon hailed as an inventive and original work. Their brother Branwell died in 1848; at his funeral Emily caught cold and died soon after, on December 18, 1848. (Adapted from Penguin Classics edition of Jane Eyre.)



Book Reviews 
(Older works have few, if any, mainstream press reviews online. See Amazon and Barnes & Noble for helpful customer reviews.) 



Discussion Questions 
1. To what extent do you think the setting of the novel contributes to, or informs, what takes place? Do you think the moors are a character in their own right? How do you interpret Bronte's view of nature and the landscape?

2. Discuss Emily Bronte's careful attention to a rigid timeline and the role of the novel as a sober historical document. How is this significant, particularly in light of the turbulent action within? What other contrasts within the novel strike you, and why? How are these contrasts important, and how do they play out in the novel?

3. Do you think the novel is a tale of redemption, despair, or both? Discuss the novel's meaning to you. Do you think the novel's moral content dictates one choice over the other?

4. Do you think Bronte succeeds in creating three-dimensional figures in
Heathcliff and Cathy, particularly given their larger-than-life metaphysical passion? Why or why not?

5. Discuss Bronte's use of twos: Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange; two families, each with two children; two couples (Catherine and Edgar, and Heathcliff and Isabella); two narrators; the doubling-up of names. What is Bronte's intention here? Discuss.

6. How do Mr. Lockwood and Nelly Dean influence the story as narrators? Do you think they are completely reliable observers? What does Bronte want us to believe?

7. Discuss the role of women in Wuthering Heights. Is their depiction typical of Bronte's time, or not? Do you think Bronte's characterizations of women mark her as a pioneer ahead of her time or not?

8. Who or what does Heathcliff represent in the novel? Is he a force of evil or a victim of it? How important is the role of class in the novel, particularly as it relates to Heathcliff and his life?
(Questions issued by Penguin Classics edition—cover image, top right.)

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