Passion Without Reason is Only Madness

Two months since my last post. My, how time flies. I’ve been so busy, I hardly ever even know what day it is, only what time my shifts start. I mean, for someone who reads as much and as rapidly as I do, the fact that I’ve been monogamously reading my current off-the-list book for the last two months is pretty unbelievable. Granted, the Game of Thrones series is not known for its brevity, but still. But my trip to Africa is fast approaching and I want to supplement what is sure to be an unforgettable trip with a novel written by an African author, and do my food portion whilst sojourning in the cradle of the world. But in order to do that, I have to get another book out of the way, one that I read two months ago and not only failed to impress me but even more terrible, was so unimpressive that I don’t really have anything interesting to say about it. But, what the hell, I can’t very well consider my blog successful if I only did 1000 of the 1001, can I?

So, Wuthering Heights. Being an English Literature major (and lifelong enthusiast), there are certain books that you are expected to have read, and if you haven’t, people tend to lose confidence in your professed knowledge of the classics. Thus the fact that it took me 23 years to read this book (just f.y.i. I also have yet to read Catcher in the Rye and Great Expectations ((do you realize how many books there are in the world?))) is kind of flabbergasting to some snobs. The ridicule I’ve received from my mother alone for not having read one of her MOST FAVORITE BOOKS EVER! is enough to cause anyone to tuck tail and just read it already. Of course, my mom has nowhere near the penchant for literary ridicule that my dad has, due to how often I get slack for reading all of Ulysses, and then arriving at the last chapter, seeing that there were no punctuation marks for fifty pages, and throwing my hands up and saying “I’m nowhere near mentally fit enough to tackle this mother.” Any conversation my Dad and I have usually includes, “so, did you finish that chapter yet?” But back to Ms. Brontë.  I remember being much younger (probably 7 0r 8) and flipping through my mom’s hardbound, illustrated copy and being entranced by the pictures of a man with chiseled, wild features standing on a hill with his hair blowing back from his face. Unfortunately, I think I should have stuck with the pictures, as they turned out to be much more interesting than the words they accompanied. With all the hype my mom has been spewing over the years, I was hoping for another Pride and Prejudice or at least an Emma (my least favorite Austen), but what I got was a seething mess of overgrown passions and mewling star-crossed lovers. Bleh.

What bothers me about this book, however, aren’t the overreaching and not-so-believable romances or the undiluted inhumanity of Heathcliff, but rather the lack of character and plot development. I mean, who the hell is the protagonist in this book? It couldn’t be Catherine, with her spoiled temper and desire to hurt people just for the fun of it. It sure as hell couldn’t be Heathcliff, whose love for Catherine travels deep into obsession and even toys with necrophilia. The only person who I think could have any chance of being considered the heroine here would be Mrs. Dean, the lackluster housemaid. True, she narrates the majority of the story from her point of view, since she was party to most of it, but her reasonability is lost on Catherine and Heathcliff, which in my opinion makes her nothing short of impotent.

I just didn’t get it. Why were these people the way they were? Was it the isolation of the moors, the lack of external civilization to help keep them in line, the general weakness of the other characters, either through impotence or cruelty? Was the purpose of the novel to expose the monstrosity human beings are capable of? For Heathcliff is nothing short of a monster, and Catherine is at the least some kind of demi-demon. Not just Heathcliff’s behavior but his appearance aids this picture of him:

The light flashed on his features as I spoke. Oh, Mr. Lockwood, I cannot express what a terrible start I got by the momentary view! Those deep black eyes! That smile, and ghastly paleness! It appeared to me, not Mr. Heathcliff, but a goblin; and, in my terror, I let the candle bend towards the wall, and it left me in darkness (315).

If I were to to be given the authority to decide exactly what the theme of this book was, I think I would say that it is the consequences of unbridled passions paired with madness, or perhaps the similarities between the two. Maybe the reason I find it hard to sympathize with any of these characters is because I personally don’t feel passions to the extent that these characters do. They allow their passions to be the catalyst for everything they do and think. It becomes the ends and the means for everything. Reason and temperance have no sway over them. For me, passion is better described by Edgar Allan Poe in his story “Berenice”: “In the strange anomaly of my existence, feelings, with me, had never been of the heart, and my passions always were of the mind.” That kind of passion has no part in Wuthering Heights.

I just couldn’t get into this book. And I found it hard to find something interesting or intelligent to write about it, so excuse me if this post is more scatterbrained than usual. Hopefully the dinner will be more satisfying than the literature itself. Thanks for keeping with me in these hectic times.

 

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2 comments

  1. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing26 your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again soon!…

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