Wuthering Heights, a Second and Third Opinion

Catherine Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, 1847

Welcome to a brand new type of post.  When I review classic literature for this blog, I often feel the need to write “but, that’s just my opinion.” I know that while I think Robert Burns descended from heaven and Herman Melville is duller than an anvil, other people have different and equally valid opinions. My friends Sahra and Simone talk about Wuthering Heights a lot. They’re Wuthering Heights fangirls. I wanted to include their thoughts on the book, so we sat down and chatted about it. I recorded and transcribed the conversation. Let me know if you like this type of post. We three ladies have a lot to say about literature. We could just keep on talking.

This post is very long. Click the link below to read the entire post and see all the pictures. The pictures are a collaborative effort too. Simone and her husband Ike visited the Bronte home on their honeymoon and took some amazing pictures on the romantic moors. Moors!

Sydney’s comments are bold.

Sahra’s comments are in italics.

Simone’s comments are in the regular font.

Let’s Begin

What was first about this book? Why was it so popular immediately?

It actually had a mixed critical reception. It’s much more loved now than it was during its time, because people were shocked by. . .

It was sexual.

It made a big splash. It was controversial and controversial kind of equals popular, because everyone was talking about it. I remember when we went to the house, they had displays of the reviews from that time, saying that it would corrupt young women’s minds.

Did she write under a male penname?

The Bronte’s all did. The question of whether they would all be as popular today if they hadn’t written under male pseudonyms, we can never know.

There are a lot of books by Victorians authors that were embraced by Victorians as being examples of who they wanted to be as a society. Dickens, for example, had evil characters, but overall his work is a reflection of the morality of his times. But, I think that Emily Bronte certainly was not embraced in that way. People did not want to hear about the cruel behavior and twisted psychology of her characters. That was very forbidden.

Can you think of books written before this that have anti-heroes?

(pause)

Byron. Not novels, so much.

Certainly not many, and probably not any female authors.

(Although, now I am thinking that Charlotte Temple certainly qualifies as an anti-hero.)

Byron sort of started that dark, twisted hero deal. And I can see Byronic influence in Wuthering Heights.

heathcliff grief

 

Would you consider Heathcliff to be a Byronic hero?

I think he qualifies as Byronic, because he has a dark past. I don’t know though, because the Byronic hero tries to do the right thing, but is overcome by his dark mysterious past and his psychological issues and Heathcliff is trying really hard to do the wrong thing and mess up people’s lives.

Continue reading

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Visiting Green Gables

Green Gables

Green Gables. It’s real!

I didn’t include Anne of Green Gables in The Book List, because I have read the whole series. . .four times.  But, I just got back from a literary adventure on Prince Edward Island and I want you to know about it.

I am sure you know that Anne of Green Gables (1908) by L. M. Montgomery is the story of a plucky, red haired orphan raised on a farm on Prince Edward Island.  I grew up idolizing Anne Shirley and I never stopped.  I have a picture of one the book covers on my wall to remind me to work harder and be more wonderful.  Throughout the eight book series Montgomery describes the natural beauty of P.E.I. in vivid detail.  It turns out that the houses and scenery she described really exist on the Island.  You can go and visit them, and I did and it was amazing.

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The first view of P.E.I. from the ferry.

On the way from the ferry to Cavendish–the  town where Montgomery grew up and which she renamed Avonlea in the Anne series–we got a little turned around and ended up on this road.

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It looks exactly like the Avenue/White Way of Delight that Anne and Matthew take to Green Gables when she first arrives on the island!

“‘And what DOES make the roads red?’

‘Well now, I dunno,’ said Matthew.

‘Well that is one of the things to find out sometime.  Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about?'”

We did eventually get to Green Gables.  Montgomery didn’t actually grow up at Green Gables, it was the home of her aunt and uncle.  There are plenty of pictures of her at the farm and many descriptions of it in her journals.  Anne tourism is quite valuable to P.E.I, so they turned the site into a national park.  It is absolutely beautiful.  Perched on top of a hill that slopes down to a border of shrubs and flowers and beyond that the real, actual Haunted Woods.

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I can see why Montgomery chose this place for Anne’s home.  There is something romantic about the shape of the land.  Plenty of “scope for imagination.”  You can poke around the farm house, which is furnished with antiques or reproductions from turn of the century farms.  There are two short hiking paths, one goes to the real Lovers’ Lane and the other goes into the Haunted Woods.

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It really does look haunted doesn’t it?  All those pointing, reaching spruce fingers.  Fallen trees are allowed to rot where they are.  It is creepy and beautiful.

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Scenery by Max Ernst.

Apparently, the Japanese love Anne of Green Gables.  A lot.  They show up on tour buses and even get married where Montgomery got married.  However, the location itself is not too commercialized.  You can get silly things like raspberry cordial and Anne dolls, but the merchandising seemed fairly restrained to me.

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Seeing Green Gables absolutely made my heart sing.  I love the idea of literary tourism generally, but I particularly love that people get excited about Anne Shirley.  Apparently, people are going to Sweden to do Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tours.  That book is about sex, violence, crime, violent sexual crime, deceit, loss, failed human relationships, etc.  Not concepts I want to dwell on.  The Anne books are an ode to girlhood, innocence, friendship, imagination, pluck, nature, whimsy, hard work, being kind to people.  Concepts that warm the cockles of your heart.  It felt really wonderful to know that other people love Anne as much as I do and want to honor L. M. Montgomery and the concepts and characters she made so vivid.

And that was just day one.  On day two we set out to find the Lake of Shining Waters.  We made another delightful wrong turn and ended up at a house simply called Anne of Green Gables Heritage site.  Hands down the coolest historical site I have ever been to.  It is L.M. Montgomery’s paternal grandfather’s home and it rocks!

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The Pulpit Stone from The Story Girl.

This house has been continuously owned by the Montgomery family, which means that nothing has ever been sold, which means that it still contains items that L. M. herself played with as a child.  Seriously.

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Magog is real, y’all. Magog is real.

No joke, that is the actual Magog of Gog and Magog, described in  Anne of the Island.  I saw this little china dog and my heart nearly exploded from joy.  It felt like meeting one of Anne Shirley’s own friends.

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Anne’s rosebud tea set.

The actual, legit rosebud tea set that Anne ate off of.  (Shh, I know she didn’t really eat off of it, Montgomery did, but it’s super easy to suspend your disbelief and feel that Anne ate off of these very plates.  She did, guys.  Really, she did.)

The best thing about this little museum/house is the tour guide.  He is a tall, grizzled, old cousin of the author.  He grew up in the house and he is such a wonderful raconteur that even my grumpy-old-man of a father enjoyed visiting this place.  He tells delightful stories about the artifacts, which are just sitting out as they would have been when Montgomery visited her grandfather.  No ropes.  You can touch things.  The proprietor grabs the heirlooms with his big bear paws and waves them about in a way that makes your heart jump.  He has a nonchalant attitude toward the history of the place, probably because he grew up there. Visiting this house is one of the best things I have ever done in my life.  Really.

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Tea cup with mustache guard. Keeps your ‘stache dry when you’re sipping.

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Miniature complete Shakespeare.

Across the road lies another house that Montgomery loved and wrote about, Silver Bush, and the Lake of Shining Waters.

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The Lake of Shining Waters!

This is the spot where Montgomery was married.  Oh, and you can view her wedding dress in another location, the house where she was born.  Anyway, Silver Bush has some neat artifacts, including a quilt made by the author.  I was most thrilled by this one:

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The bookcase where Anne and Montgomery saw Katie Maurice.

Remember, Anne says that in one of her foster homes there was a bookcase filled with china.  It had two panels and in one of them she would talk to her reflection, which she named Katie Maurice.  Well, it turns out that Montgomery lifted that story right from her own life.  She would talk to an imaginary girl named Katie Maurice in this bookcase.  Don’t think for a second that I didn’t pause for a moment to talk to my reflection in this thing.

That was the end of my Anne tour.  It was wonderful.  A Bucket List event for me, for sure.  In conclusion, if you haven’t read Anne of Green Gables (we can’t be friends) you should.  You’re never too old.  Montgomery is witty, so you’ll get a laugh out of it at the least.  I cannot express the impact this series has on my life and personality.  Getting to know Anne Shirley makes you a better person.