“Do not leave me in this abyss” ~ Heathcliff
I recently returned to one of the first classic novels that I ever read. I certainly don’t remember disliking it in the early 1990s as much as I dislike it now, but apparently age and wisdom affect the manner of books we enjoy!
The book is Wuthering Heights by a clearly disturbed Emily Bronte. I returned to this novel because I have a book called The Bronte Plot by the wonderful Katherine Reay on my “to read” shelf and I thought brushing up on my Bronte knowledge might be a good idea.
It was not a good idea.
The more classics I read and the older I get, the more I appreciate enduring themes that convey Christian principles in fictional settings. I am looking for themes like love, faith, hope, sacrifice, and redemption. These themes are mostly absent in Wuthering Heights. Catherine and Heathcliff, I grant you, shared an innocent sort of love in their young years, but there were always darker shadows around them even then.
As they advance into their adult years, the main themes are regret, anger, hatred, jealousy, revenge, and even murder. Catherine seeks her own comfort by marrying Edgar. Heathcliff hurts everyone in his path because of his own anger and revenge including, but not limited to Edgar Linton, Edgar’s sister Isabella Linton, and Hindley Earnshaw.
As a homeschool mom, trying to raise daughters to be like Jesus, I love to look for Godly characters in literature that demonstrate the themes I mentioned earlier. Then as a family we can read the novels and discuss the characters and the roles they play in the story. It has actually become something of a hobby for me as I have found so many lovely characters throughout Dickens, Gaskell, and even Austen novels. My husband asked me, after I recently went on a little tirade slamming Wuthering Heights, if there were any redeeming characters? I hastily said that this novel has no redeeming value whatsoever. But then after I thought about it, I realized there was one tiny glimpse of a character with love in his heart. That was Catherine and Hindley’s father, Mr. Earnshaw. When he discovered poor Heathcliff in the streets of London, and learned that he was all alone in the world, he brought the young boy home, gave him new clothes to wear, and tried to make him part of the family.
It’s a pity Mr. Earnshaw’s great love and generous nature did not transfer to his children.
My final assessment is 0.001 stars out of 5, and a strange sort of curiosity for the poor and seemingly hopeless life of Emily Bronte that I not inclined to look into. My girls won’t have this novel on any of their reading lists, but I am now armed with greater understanding to begin reading The Bronte Plot, which is what I was after in the first place. Katherine Reay’s first novel was such a delight that I’m hopeful to find another. But how can she take the themes of anger, death, and destruction and create a redeeming plot? I will soon know the answer.
So what about you, dear reader? Are there any “classic novels” which you would strip of the honor of being considered “classic”?