Sunday, December 28, 2008

Wuthering Heights from an author's perspective

Wuthering Heights was the first book I read after I wrote my novel in November for NaNoWriMo. As I finished the story, I found myself thinking of the book through the eyes of someone who has written a story from beginning to end.

The biggest question I had was: Did Ms. Bronte begin the story already knowing the ending? I know there are many different styles for writing books, and some authors sit down to begin a story already knowing the different twists and turns it would take. I wonder if Ms. Bronte was one of those authors. Did Heathcliff and Cathy's obsessive and destructive love ALWAYS end up with Hareton and Catherine finding each other? Was that the entire purpose of it?

When I first began my book, all I had was a picture in my head of a scene at the end of the story. I didn't know how my main character got there, but slowly bits and pieces of ideas came into my head and I wrote the notes down as they came to mind. However, as I was writing, the story found its own path. I found myself becoming more of a storyTELLER in that I saw what was happening in the story (in my mind) and I just wrote down what I saw. There were a couple of twists and turns that I hadn't planned when I sat down to write my story. It was an incredibly interesting experience for me, as I tend to be a person who likes things to happen according to plan!

I wonder if Ms. Bronte had that experience as well. Did she set out to write a more traditional love story, and did Heathcliff and Cathy just take over? Was Ms. Bronte disturbed at the way they were destroying the lives of the people around them, and destroying each other, but she had to tell the story that they were giving her? If so, was she as relieved as I was at the end of the story when Catherine finally started letting Hareton in to her heart?

I think it would be hard for me to write a story knowing it was going to be so full of pain and hurt. But perhaps that is exactly what makes some stories appealing? Maybe I'll have to give it a try one day...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Twilight and Wuthering Heights

As I mentioned previously, I only wanted to read Wuthering Heights because it is mentioned in the 3rd book in the Twilight Saga, Eclipse. It's been several months now since I've read Eclipse, so this post will be mostly my reactions to Wuthering Heights from the perspective of a Twilight fan. I will post again later this month when I've re-read the Twilight Saga and Eclipse is fresh in my mind!

First of all, I can see strong parallels between Wuthering Heights and Eclipse. We have a love triangle - Cathy, Heathcliff, and Edgar in WH/Bella, Edward, Jacob in E. Here is where it gets a bit trickier for me. Of course, Cathy and Isabella parallel each other, being the female leads. However, the men are a little more complicated. Heathcliff is wilder, more dangerous, free spirit - like Jacob. But Bella refers to Edward as her soul, her life, that she cannot live without him - which is a Heathcliff thing for Cathy. Edgar is more refined, and gives in to Cathy's whims - and that's what Edward does. Cathy does admit to loving Edgar, but she describes that love as being changing and like the trees in the changing seasons - very similar to how Bella describes the love she feels for Jacob. Her love for Heathcliff is perfmanent and fixed. She says she IS Heathcliff. He is to her, and this is another of my favorite lines, necessary. This is how Bella describes Edward.

Another parallel between the two books came to me while I was watching the movie version last night with my book club. Heathcliff leaves, just like Edward does in New Moon. In WH, Heathcliff leaves for selfish reasons. He has heard part of a conversation between Cathy and Nelly where Cathy says she is marrying Edgar, and it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff. He leaves before he can hear what she has to say next - that she IS Heathcliff, he is necessary, her love for him is fixed and permanent. His pride takes him away. Edward, by contrast, leaves out of fear. He thinks he is bad for Bella, and that his presence in her life puts her in danger. The result is the same for both women - they are pushed into relationship with the other man. Cathy marries Edgar, and Bella becomes involved with Jacob. When Heathcliff and Edward return, their ladies are thrilled to see them, their new men are LESS than pleased, and neither woman is able to make a clean break. For Bella, and in my opinion as I realize there are Team Jacob folks out there, she needed to break with Jacob and be with Edward. For Cathy, she needed to break with Heathcliff as she was married to Edgar. Both women wanted to have it both ways - and that doesn't work. In the Twilight Saga, though, Bella was eventually able to break from Jacob, while in WH, Cathy dies (as do Heathcliff and Edgar finally).

As I was reading WH, I found myself aggravated with Cathy in the same way I was aggravated with Bella in Eclipse. Edward was back, and Jacob was acting the fool (like Heathcliff when he insisted he was going to kiss her again - though I can't remember if that line was only in the movie, or if it was in the book, too). She should have put a stop to it, and ended the relationship with Jacob once she realized he wasn't willing to accept her feelings for Edward. Cathy should not have made herself available to Heathcliff once she realized he did not respect her marriage to Edgar. I felt it was selfish of Bella and Cathy to put both men (Edward and Edgar) through this. And I was upset with Heathcliff and Jacob for making it harder on Cathy and Bella than it needed to be. They were both too selfish and prideful to think of what was best for the women they supposedly loved. I don't believe Jacob had the ulterior motives of ruining everyone's lives, like Heathcliff did, but he certainly treated it like a "game" when he was dealing with the happiness and stability of the woman he professed to love.

I'm glad I read Wuthering Heights, both as a Twilight fan and as a reader interested in classic literature. I didn't necessarily enjoy the story, but I found it to be a compelling story nonetheless. And I can now understand why Edward is shocked that Bella keeps wanting to re-read it, and why he calls it a "hate story" instead of a "love story". I am very anxious to re-read Eclipse now that I have read this book! I'll be sure to post my thoughts after I have done so.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My thoughts on Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was a book that I was most anxious to read, and I won't hide the reason - I wanted to read it because of Eclipse, the third book in the Twilight Saga. Bella and Edward discuss Wuthering Heights a number of times, and even quote directly from the book. I felt like I was missing out on a huge piece of the story!

But this post won't be about Twilight and Wuthering Heights. I'm going to save that for another post. This post is going to be my thoughts on the book and my experience in reading it.

As with Pride and Prejudice, I found this book quite difficult when I began it. The hardest part for me was in understanding who was narrating the book, and trying to keep all the character's names straight! I found out, too late, that my book contains a family tree in the beginning. That would have been most helpful, though it would have given away the plot, so I'm not sure it would have been good to look at that first. Maybe I should have written my own family tree as I was reading? Then once I figured out who was narrating --- Ms. Bronte decides to shift and have someone else narrate!! Classic literature keeps you on your toes.

My second difficulty came with one of the character's dialect. Ms. Bronte wrote the dialogue for Joseph, the caretaker/preacher at Wuthering Heights, in such a dialect that I never could make heads or tails of it. I hope he didn't say anything incredibly important to the story. I could make out through the course of the story that he pretty much didn't like anybody, and he thought they were all going to H***.

I will admit to not liking the story one bit as I was reading through it. In fact, it wasn't until almost the end that I even began to enjoy it. Looking for quotes from Eclipse kept me going, as well as a deep desire to know the story for the sake of understanding Bella and Edward better. I did accomplish that, and I will get into the details in my next post. Suffice it to say that Catherine Earnshaw aggravated me in much the same way that Isabella Swan did!

Initially, the only character that I thought positively about was Nelly (Ellen), who served as narrator for the majority of the book. But then, the story is coming from her perspective, so she would naturally present herself in a good light. Also, her inability to stand firm in her beliefs, and her desire to make her young charges happy ended up contributing to the strife and discord in both families.

The ending was my absolute favorite. And if you haven't finished reading Wuthering Heights, you should stop reading here! I don't know if it was the characters themselves and their qualities which endeared me to them, or rather that it was the first bit of happiness that I came across in the entire book! And since I absolutely NEED a "Happily Ever After", I latched on to the two characters who seemed like they have a chance for it!

Here is one of my favorite parts, narrated by Mr. Lockwood:

"Con-trary!" said a voice as sweet as a silver bell - "That for the third time, you dunce! I'm not going to tell you again. Recollect, or I'll pull your hair!"
"Contrary, then," answered another, in deep but softened tones. "And now, kiss me for minding so well."
"No; read it over first correctly, without a single mistake."
The male speaker began to read: he was a young man respectably dressed and seated at a table, having a book before him. His handsome features glowed with pleasure, and his eyes kept impatiently wandering from the page to a small white hand over his shoulder, which recalled him by a smart slap on the cheek, whenever its owner detected such signs of inattention. Its owner stood behind; her light, shining ringlets blending, at intervals, with his brown locks, as she bent to superintend his studies; and her face - it was lucky he could not see her face, or he would never have been so steady. I could; and I bit my lip in spite, at having thrown away the chance I might have had of doing something besides staring at its smiting beauty.

OK, I should note here that I totally missed this reference to Mr. Lockwood having regretted missing an opportunity for love with Cathy!! I guess when I first read it, I was just so happy that SOMEONE was happy, I skimmed right over poor Mr. Lockwood's laments. But back to my favorite part:

The task was done, not free from further blunders; but the pupil claimed a reward, and received at least five kisses: which, however, he generously returned.

As a reader, my heart rejoiced to see some love and happiness amidst all the pain and suffering and anger and heartbreak seemed to envelope both of these families. I would like to think that they live Happily Ever After and break the cycle of hurt they grew up around. That they will have babies one day and those children will grow up around the Heights and frolick in the trees and the other places that Cathy loves so well to visit.

As a new writer, this book provoked many questions for me, which I will cover in another post as well.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed reading Wuthering Heights! I think it will be easier to re-read it another time because I know that there is happiness to be found at the end of the story. It was hard to read through the constant pain and anger, not knowing if this is all that this book has to offer.

And I'm very much looking forward to re-reading Eclipse at the end of the month, with this new perspective of having read Wuthering Heights and knowing all of the references Bella and Edward make about it!

I'd love to read your comments about this book! Please don't hesitate to leave a comment to my blog... I have them set to require approval, but I'm checking 2-3 times a day for replies!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wuthering Heights - A Summary

The discussion of Wuthering Heights begins! I'll start as I did last time, with my summary of the book in a few sentences.

Wuthering Heights
by Emily Bronte
first published 1847

The Linton Family and the Earnshaw family are changed forever when Mr. Linton brings home a young orphan named Heathcliff. Heathcliff and Mr. Linton's daughter, Catherine, grow up together and develop an obsessive relationship. The choices and actions of both Catherine and Heathcliff dramatically affect both families.

Ok, that was a bit easier this time, to make a summary. I've had experience now doing the one for Pride and Prejudice, as well as the one for the novel I wrote. It gets easier with practice!

Please share your own summary of Wuthering Heights in the comments!