Sunday, November 1, 2009

Wuthering Heights : An Introduction

It all started with a song I found to be appalling. Certainly, in my high school days, I had heard of Wuthering Heights. As a wannabe romance novelist, I was aware of the classics; the works of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters. But I lacked the desire to read them since they skewed so far from the current romance novel formula. So, some time in high school, I thought watching one of the film versions (the Ralph Fiennes one) was good enough. I was confused and disinterested at best. When I began my Oscar phase, I viewed the Laurence Olivier version. Again, I thought it was nothing special.

While in college, one late night in the summer of 2007, I was sweeping the Wikipedia pages of English classics. I discovered there was a song about Wuthering Heights by some British woman named Kate Bush. I checked it out on Youtube…and I hated it. At first, at least. The chorus would not leave me and I grew to love the song. Then I began studying the story. Then I read the novel. Then I collected 8 film adaptations. I am a woman possessed.

I love movies and I love writing. It was a logical step to adapt my own rendering. After all there have been a staggering 34 film and television adaptations (according to IMDb) and one in the works. It’s likely another one will made in the not so distant future. Before writing it, I watched all my DVD’s and took note of what I did and did not like about plot points and characterization.

In upcoming blogs, I will do the same. However, I feel it is my duty to give a proper plot summary and character introduction so my following blogs are not bogged down with superfluous information.

Plot Summary
In the year 1801, a man named Lockwood arrives at the house of Wuthering Heights. He has recently become the tenant of the nearby house Thrushcross Grange which is owned by Heathcliff. Lockwood is detained for the night and while sleeping in an unused room, the ghost of a young woman cries to be let in. Later on, Lockwood enquires about the ghost and the strange inhabitants of Wuthering Heights to the current housekeeper of the Grange, Nelly Dean.

Nelly tells a story that began 30 years prior. Mr. Earnshaw, the owner of Wuthering Heights, brings home an orphan boy and christens him Heathcliff. Earnshaw’s daughter, Cathy befriends him and the two have a childhood romance. However, Cathy’s older brother Hindley, hates him and resents his place among the family. After Earnshaw’s death, Hindley returns from college with his wife, Frances. Heathcliff and Cathy visit the Grange, then owned by the well-to-do Linton family. Cathy is bitten by a dog and forced to stay at the Grange in the company of the children, Edgar and Isabella. Upon her return, Cathy is proud and changed and finds much fault in Heathcliff. Meanwhile, Hindley’s wife dies shortly after giving birth to his son, Hareton, and he begins to drink heavily. When Heathcliff overhears Cathy telling Nelly that Edgar has proposed marriage and she has accepted, he leaves and does not return for three years.

Comfortable at the Grange, Cathy is surprised when Heathcliff returns considerably wealthy with the appearance of a gentleman. Heathcliff means to take revenge on everyone at the Heights and the Grange. Through his fortune, Heathcliff becomes the owner of Wuthering Heights since Hindley has lost everything to his gambling debts and later drinks himself to death. He also woos and marries Isabella and treats her appallingly. So appallingly, in fact, that she runs off to London and is disowned by her brother. Cathy dies shortly after giving birth to her and Edgar’s daughter, Catherine. Heathcliff curses her to “not rest as long as he is living.” Nelly continues to work at the Grange, being a nurse to the baby while Heathcliff treats Hareton as Hindley treated him.

Several years later, Edgar has raised his daughter in the confines of Thrushcross Grange. Isabella has recently died and so, her and Heathcliff’s son, Linton, comes to live with his uncle. However, Heathcliff insists his son live with him at the Heights. Through manipulation and the exchange of letters, Heathcliff creates a romance between Catherine and Linton. While she is over for a visit, he forces her to marry his son before she can return to her dying father. After Edgar’s death, and eventually the sickly Linton’s, Heathcliff becomes the owner of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Catherine and Hareton fall in love despite their situation. Although Heathcliff has worked his entire life to revenge himself on the Earnshaws and the Lintons, he is dissatisfied and eventually starves himself to death.

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