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Note: the image of the ghost of Catherine trying to get through a window to find her love Heathcliff has figuratively been ‘haunting me’ (pun intended) I decided to write this entry. I hope it will scare away the ghost via a little (Spo) reflection. Spo

“You had a temper like my jealousy
Too hot, too greedy

How could you leave me

When I needed to possess you?
I hated you, I loved you too. ”

– Wuthering Heights, by Kate Bush.

The Muses (or someone like them) keeps poking me in the ribs to write about ‘Wuthering Heights’. I’ve been meaning to reread this book for some time, so I picked it up a month ago and I am reading one chapter a week, in a leisurely fashion. For thems unfamiliar with this Penguin Classic, WH was written by an Emily Bronte, a reclusive spinster, who apparently had no history of romance of any sort. She managed to write a lurid dramatic tale of a passionate dysfunctional relationship between two mismatched characters, Catherine and Heathcliff. The story begins when a Mr. Lockwood, who is renting lodgings from his landlord, the aged Heathcliff, encounters the ghost of Catherine trying to get in through a window. Naturally he is very perturbed and he demands an explanation for these sorts of shenanigans. The novel is the narration of a Mrs. Dean the housekeeper, who tells Mr. Lockwood the story of Wuthering Heights and how it all happened.

I like to reread the same books from time to time, for I get different things from them at different stages of my life.* I was in my 20s when I first read ‘Wuthering Heights’. I saw it then as a tragic tale of two star-crossed lovers, forever doomed, thwarted by society and public opinion. What a sad tale! Now at sixty I am less empathetic and patient with the characters. As a young man, I felt sorry for them. Could I not see then that there is no one likeable in the novel? Catherine isn’t a victim, but a dimwit who chooses to marry the colorless Edgar rather than her love Heathcliff. True, the two would have destroyed each other but it would have been fun while it hanged together.

I suppose my present disenchantment with the novel comes from me getting older while the characters in the book remain fixed in their twenties. I’ve grown wiser but they still have all the emotional storms folks have at that age. The age of Mrs. Dean isn’t revealed, but there is a sense she is older than they are. She tries to slap some sense into the impetuous Catherine to not marry for security and vanity sake. Alas it is to no avail. Ah youth.

I admit there is a bit of envy. I never had an intense love connection like Catherine and Heathcliff have. I have never loved someone with such intensity of feeling nor has anyone loved me that way. Miss Bronte seems to ask the reader: they screw up big time but in the end, wasn’t it worth it to feel such depth of feeling?

I confess I like the notion of Catherine’s ghost hanging about the place. There is something delicious about a person thwarted all their life still trying to pursue someone even from the grave. I suppose it touches on the universal desire we have to have someone so intense for us not even death can stop their love.

I am about halfway through the novel. Since I know what is coming I am curious to see how I feel at the end when it all comes crashing down. Will I feel pity, upset, or a sense of closure? That’s the beauty of rereading a book. You know what will happen but you don’t know. Reading is wonderful this way.

*A good example is ‘Oliver Twist”. When I first read it (in my teens) it shocked me these sorts of things actually happened; it read like a sci-fi novel. In my 20s it was almost funny, a very dark comedy. In my 40s I appreciated its pathos. The last time I read it, which was in my early 50s, it was a bit cheesy, a penny dreadful. I don’t plan on reading it again in my 60s.

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May 2022

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