Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wuthering Wednesday: Chapters 1-8

Book Club of Two presents Wuthering Heights.
The Librarian and I decided to do a re-read of Emily Brontë's only novel for the month of November. The Journalist (LindszerWest)  decided to join us and has become an honorary member of Book Club of Two, swelling our numbers temporarily to three. The Librarian and I each posed three questions to the group about Chapters 1-8. Go here if you'd like to see the full reading schedule. It's not too late to join us on the moors!

The Librarian Asks and I answer:

In this section we see explanation for Heathcliff's personality...But what about Cathy? How was her mean girl attitude formed? Does the lack of explanation point toward Joseph's religious belief of women's innate wickedness? Or do you see circumstances that caused Cathy to be such a b*tch?

Madame Librarian, I'm shocked. Such language! Truthfully, there is no other word for Cathy. It's the word that pops into my head everytime she appears on the page. Brontë hasn't given any reason why she's so mean. Joseph certainly thinks that women are naturally wicked, but I don't think that Cathy's behavior is meant to illustrate his whacky views. I think that it is innate wickedness, perhaps. But maybe just of the Earnshaw family, because Hindley was a royal jerk, too... maybe it's a genetic mutation of meanness. ;) Also, I can't help but think that the Brontë sisters were feminists and would not want to enforce the idea that women as a whole are crazy like Catherine.

The names, woe is me...the names! Lockwood being stuck in that medieval torture chamber of a bed surrounded by all those names *shiver* You'd think out alone on the moors they'd want some variety in their names! Are we supposed to be confused? To see them all as one person? Too early to tell? 

Hmmm. Too early to tell, for me. But maybe the next generation is doing what the first generation couldn't/wouldn't/didn't do? I think we need to wait to see, cause I can't remember details. But we know Heathcliff2 and Catherine2 marry. That seems to be a bust. Let's check back in on that question later...

How do you feel about the narrator within the narrator Ellen? Like her? Trust her? Wonder how long this woman has been talking? Thoughts...

I like her and trust her, but I'm reserving total judgement. She's motherly and has the inside scoop. But... I can't remember much of the story except for a few crucial moments, so I'm not totally sold on Nelly Dean yet. You can't live in the tainted air of these moors your whole life and retain complete control over your sanity.

I ask (and answer!):

Why do you think Brontë uses Lockwood as the narrator of the story and then Nelly Dean as a narrator-within-a-narrator instead of Heathcliff or Catherine? 

I can think of a couple reasons for this device:
  • To give the story credibility. Everybody up at Wuthering Heights is CRAZY. And we ain't seen nothing yet. Having third-party narrators lend the story credibility. Lockwood, though a bumbling buffoon, is from the outside world and is a sane voice. And Nelly Dean is a stable motherly figure that you are inclined to trust. If Heathcliff or Catherine told the story, we would have an unreliable narrator issue going... you wouldn't know what to believe and the story would be tainted by their emotions (and psychosis!).
  • Because H & C's points-of-view are limited. Nelly is an omniscient narrator. She can present an in-depth and accurate history of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights because she grew up with them, served them and listened to their woes. And who knows more about what's going on than a servant? Servants know everything!  
At this point--through Chapter 8--what are your feelings toward Heathcliff? We already see him as the haughty and gruff man he has become, but we also see him as the bedraggled and abandoned boy he once was.

There aren't any excuses for being a mean and cruel person. But heck, I'll attempt to make excuses for Heathcliff. So far, I feel nothing but sympathy and compassion for him. Here's why:
-he was abandoned as a little boy
-his adoptive father--the only man who ever loved him--died quickly and left him to the evil, jealous Hindley
-he was abused and neglected
-his best friend turns on him when better (cleaner) playmates come around

And we can't forget the saddest scene of all: the heart-wrenching image of this masculine, gruff, moody man crying and begging for Catherine's ghost to appear in the window of Lockwood's room. How desperate are you if you are trying to summon a ghost? And I mean, he was CRYING! And it's HEATHCLIFF!

Lockwood is a bumbling idiot! I never realized that until this read. Heathcliff clearly doesn't want him to come back after his first visit, but he does! As Heathcliff's tenant, would you have ventured back to Wuthering Heights after his initial chilly reception? Out of curiosity? Fascination with your dark and stormy landlord? Social ineptitude?

That's a toughie. I would have an internal conflict raging in my mind if this happened to me. First of all, I would be miffed by his rudeness. Second, I would feel curiosity and fascination with this darkly handsome man. Third, I would hate to invade someone's privacy when I was so clearly unwelcome. So I think I would give it a week or so and then concoct a scheme to get up to Wuthering Heights again to investigate my dark and brooding landlord further. Perhaps deliver a nice apple pie?


Anonymous said...

Hmm, you and LinderWest seen Nelly as a motherly figure...I'm not sure I get that. I've always felt like she was inserting herself into Catherine and Heathcliff's childhood. Like if you asked H and C about their childhood they'd never mention Nelly...

And I'll second the H. Crying's the only thing saving his character for me at moment.

Ok, still in shock that you didn't always realize Lockwood was a bumbling idiot?! Where were you the first time around ;) I think Bronte put him in the story for comic relief, lol.

Anonymous said...


I love that you note Catherine found "cleaner" friends hahahahahahahahaha

rachelkiwi said...

i was consumed with Heathcliff the first time around! i couldn't notice anything but his dark and stormy handsomeness!

haha, yes, Lockwood adds much needed comic relief.

LindszerWest said...

I loved The Librarian's apple pie technique - very anti-Lockwood style! And while I guess he IS comic relief, I have trouble not wanting to just hit him over the head with a hairbrush or something.

And RachelKiwi, having gone back through your archives and read more about your literary men (heloooo Rhett Butler), I'm not surprised that you were consumed by Heathcliff! Does the depiction of his childhood increase that fascination, or detract from it, when we learn that he was picked on and too-easily banished to the moors without a real fight?

rachelkiwi said...

I wouldn’t mind giving Lockwood a little right hook myself. He’s such a wuss and that’s probably all it would take to take him down. And yes, I’m a hopeless bad-boy lover with no inclination to change. Heathcliff’s childhood adds to my love/obsession/fascination with him, because not only is he Bad, he has a good reason for it. He just wanted to be loved and that didn’t work out so he had to adapt. Badness works for him. (I mean, he COULD use a dose of Rhett’s self-deprecating humor, sarcasm and honesty.)