Friday, 4 February 2011

Cathy

Wuthering Heights is the first Victorian novel I ever read and I'm always moved by its final poetic paragraph:

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass and wondered how anyone could imagine unquiet slumbers, for the sleepers in that quiet earth.
The complex and sophisticated structure of the novel means that our first impressions of Cathy are pieced together by Lockwood when he spends the night in her old bed. The three versions of her name - Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Linton and Catherine Heathcliff scratched into the ledge represent the identities that she will inhabit or may inhabit.

Her old text books with a diary scrawled as marginalia is the only time in the novel we hear Cathy's own voice, without it being represented through a narrator and even the nervous Lockwood is drawn to her when he sees the wickedly funny caricature of the curmudgeonly old servant Joseph that she has sketched on a blank page.
Each time I re-read Wuthering Heights it becomes more apparent to me that Catherine dominates the novel and is by far the most interesting character. As Lockwood observes ' the air swarmed with Catherines.'

11 comments:

Inês G. said...

I've never read anything by the Bronte sisters, which is something I hope to change soon. The final paragraph and your thoughts on Wuthering Heights make it sound like a good place to start!

Anbolyn (Cousins Read) said...

I've been feeling a need to re-read this as the last time I tried I really didn't like it. I almost checked it out at work yesterday (but I didn't like either of the editions we had on the shelf) so it will be soon, very soon. Now I will definitely be thinking of Cathy when I read it again.

Laura McDonald said...

This is definitely a book that grows with re-reads. First time around was in high school, and I remember only disappointment that it wasn't anything like Jane Eyre. Second time around, I remember thinking it was way too long. Only by third time did I start enjoying the bleak atmosphere and originality of the story. How she pulled this story out of her head I'll never know!

callmemadam said...

I 'did' Wuthering Heights for A-Level, so spent some time analysing the narrative. For me, it's still the best book by any of the Brontë sisters. Having said that, I love the Monty Python semaphore version.

Darlene said...

I ran out and bought Wuthering Heights the day after watching the Masterpiece Classics version with Tom Hardy. A reading experience I will never forget.

Mae said...

SPOILERS!!!






Cathy dominates the novel and yet she dies only halfway through the book. What a powerful character to continue to resonate so strongly.

Barbara C. said...

It's amazing how this new art work on the classics just grab you!

Vintage Reading said...

Ines G, hi, I would start with either Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre or Agnes Grey. Three wonderful novels - one by each sister!

Anbolyn, if you do decide to read it, I hope you post on it, because I'd be interested in your thoughts about Cathy - both Cathy's in fact!

Laura, I've always loved the novel, but I do understand that it's not to everyone's taste. If only we knew more about Emily Bronte ...

callmemadam, I think Kate Bush was also responsible for a revival of interest in WH in the late 70's!

Darlene, Look forward to a WH post very shortly!

Mae, yes, I like the younger Cathy, too but she is more Linton's child than Cathy's. I like the idea that 'the unquiet sleepers in that quiet earth are the ghosts of Cathy & Heathcliff.'

Barbara, yes, that artist has also produced a beautiful edition of Pride and Prejudice which is sorely tempting ...

Karenlibrarian said...

I hadn't read this in my youth and when I read it as an adult I really disliked it. However, my perception may have been skewed by the audio version, in which Cathy was horribly whiny. I just got a copy of the Penguin Classics Graphic editions so I may give it another try. I did love Jane Eyre and I'm quite liking Villette so I feel like I should like all the Brontes!

potterjotter said...

Have always loved that paragraph - Cathy is one of my favourite heroines, a bit more 'difficult' than the usual ones - and of course I like the name - spelled my way!

kissacloud said...

Ahh.. my fave Brontë book. I never really thought that Cathy dominated it, but I think you might be right. My focus has always been locked on Heathcliff, I guess. High time to reread with an older mind.