Synopses & Reviews
Introduction by Diane Johnson
Commentary by George Henry Lewes, Virginia Woolf, and E. M. Forster
Wuthering Heights, first published in 1847, the year before the author’s death at the age of thirty, endures today as perhaps the most powerful and intensely original novel in the English language. The epic story of Catherine and Heathcliff plays out against the dramatic backdrop of the wild English moors, and presents an astonishing metaphysical vision of fate and obsession, passion and revenge. “Only Emily Brontë,” V. S. Pritchett said, “exposes her imagination to the dark spirit.” And Virginia Woolf wrote, “Hers . . . is the rarest of all powers. She could free life from its dependence on facts . . . by speaking of the moor make the wind blow and the thunder roar.” This edition also includes Charlotte Brontë’s original Introduction.
INCLUDES A MODERN LIBRARY READING GROUP GUIDE
The strikingly original and intensely romantic "Wuthering Heights" was one of the forerunners of today's romance novels, but this is a novel that transcends genre. The epic story of Catherine, the daughter of the house, and the foundling Heathcliff whom her father brings home, played out against the equally dramatic backdrop of the wild English moors, presents an astonishing, metaphysical vision of fate and obsession, passion and revenge.
About the Author
Emily Jane Brontë was the most solitary member of a unique, tightly-knit, English provincial family. Born in 1818, she shared the parsonage of the town of Haworth, Yorkshire, with her older sister, Charlotte, her brother, Branwell, her younger sister, Anne, and her father, The Reverend Patrick Brontë. All five were poets and writers; all but Branwell would publish at least one book.
Fantasy was the Brontë childrens one relief from the rigors of religion and the bleakness of life in an impoverished region. They invented a series of imaginary kingdoms and constructed a whole library of journals, stories, poems, and plays around their inhabitants. Emilys special province was a kingdom she called Gondal, whose romantic heroes and exiles owed much to the poems of Byron.
Brief stays at several boarding schools were the sum of her experiences outside Haworth until 1842, when she entered a school in Brussels with her sister Charlotte. After a year of study and teaching there, they felt qualified to announce the opening of a school in their own home, but could not attract a single pupil.
In 1845 Charlotte Brontë came across a manuscript volume of her sisters poems. She knew at once, she later wrote, that they were “not at all like poetry women generally write…they had a peculiar music-wild, melancholy, and elevating.” At her sisters urging, Emilys poems, along with Annes and Charlottes, were published pseudonymously in 1846. An almost complete silence greeted this volume, but the three sisters, buoyed by the fact of publication, immediately began to write novels. Emilys effort was Wuthering Heights; appearing in 1847 it was treated at first as a lesser work by Charlotte, whose Jane Eyre had already been published to great acclaim. Emily Brontës name did not emerge from behind her pseudonym of Ellis Bell until the second edition of her novel appeared in 1850.
In the meantime, tragedy had struck the Brontë family. In September of 1848 Branwell had succumbed to a life of dissipation. By December, after a brief illness, Emily too was dead; her sister Anne would die the next year. Wuthering Heights, Emilys only novel, was just beginning to be understood as the wild and singular work of genius that it is. “Stronger than a man,” wrote Charlotte, “Simpler than a child, her nature stood alone.”
From the Paperback edition.
Reading Group Guide
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?