When I was in high school, they made us read Wuthering Heights over summer break. For one, assigning a sad, epic love story to a happy-go-lucky kid during the happiest-go-luckiest holiday ever was just poor planning. Also, I have to admit, my tastes weren’t as well-developed then as they are now.
Long story short, I hated it.
I didn’t understand why on earth I was reading about a jerk who falls in love with a jerk and they go around acting like jerks and everyone is supposed to be, what? Impressed? I read halfway through, then promptly found a cliff-notes version and managed to write my paper that way.
Skip forward to my sophomore year of college. Something prompts me to check Wuthering Heights out from the library—perhaps because a lot of people in college are jerks that go around acting like jerks and I wanted a greater understanding of them.
Naturally, I loved it. Every page, every scene, every coarse, anguished conversation between Heathcliff and his true love, Cathy. Sure, it can be over the top at times, but you can just feel the passion through the ink. I even have that one, desperate speech of Heathcliff’s memorized. Really.
I also think that Wuthering Heights, though not exactly a how-to on successful relationships, gives a definition of love that feels closest to what I believe. When Catherine is describing her love for Heathcliff to Nelly, she says simply, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
So, it’s not just about two jerks. It’s about two jerks who find this impossible, perfect kind of love, only they destroy it because—well, they’re jerks. They can’t help it. Kind of sounds like the entire human race, right?
“Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” – Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights