Friday, October 7, 2011

Wuthering Heights - by Emily Brontë.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. (US Edition) (UK Edition)  This 1847 novel is the only work by this celebrated author.  She joins a short list of famous authors with one novel -  Harper Lee and Margaret Mitchell come to mind.

An Amazon reviewer says it very well:

“Like most people I have read this book countless times over the years . . . If you have never read the book before and only ever seen tv and film adaptations, now is the time to sit back and enjoy this free kindle edition.”

So let us take a look inside this famous novel.

Heathcliff stood near the entrance, in his shirt and trousers; with a candle dripping over his fingers, and his face as white as the wall behind him.  The first creak of the oak startled him like an electric shock: the light leaped from his hold to a distance of some feet, and his agitation was so extreme, that he could hardly pick it up.

‘It is only your guest, sir,’ I called out, desirous to spare him the humiliation of exposing his cowardice further.  ‘I had the misfortune to scream in my sleep, owing to a frightful nightmare.  I’m sorry I disturbed you.’

‘Oh, God confound you, Mr. Lockwood!  I wish you were at the—’ commenced my host, setting the candle on a chair, because he found it impossible to hold it steady.  ‘And who showed you up into this room?’ he continued, crushing his nails into his palms, and grinding his teeth to subdue the maxillary convulsions.  ‘Who was it?  I’ve a good mind to turn them out of the house this moment?’ ‘It was your servant Zillah,’ I replied, flinging myself on to the floor, and rapidly resuming my garments.  ‘I should not care if you did, Mr. Heathcliff; she richly deserves it.  I suppose that she wanted to get another proof that the place was haunted, at my expense.  Well, it is—swarming with ghosts and goblins!  You have reason in shutting it up, I assure you.  No one will thank you for a doze in such a den!’

As with many early novels, it is told from the point of view of a narrator who is also a character.  I am not a big fan of this particular style, sometimes called "the viewpoint character."   The style can cause a novel to be forced at times.  But you overlook that when reading a masterpiece.

‘Sit down, sir,’ he said, at length.  ‘Mrs. Linton, recalling old times, would have me give you a cordial reception; and, of course, I am gratified when anything occurs to please her.’

‘And I also,’ answered Heathcliff, ‘especially if it be anything in which I have a part.  I shall stay an hour or two willingly.’

He took a seat opposite Catherine, who kept her gaze fixed on him as if she feared he would vanish were she to remove it.  He did not raise his to her often: a quick glance now and then sufficed; but it flashed back, each time more confidently, the undisguised delight he drank from hers.  They were too much absorbed in their mutual joy to suffer embarrassment.  Not so Mr. Edgar: he grew pale with pure annoyance: a feeling that reached its climax when his lady rose, and stepping across the rug, seized Heathcliff’s hands again, and laughed like one beside herself. ‘I shall think it a dream to-morrow!’ she cried.  ‘I shall not be able to believe that I have seen, and touched, and spoken to you once more.  And yet, cruel Heathcliff! you don’t deserve this welcome.  To be absent and silent for three years, and never to think of me!’

If the narrator can watch, then so can we.

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