One single book changed everything for me. This particular book taught me how to believe in myself and my own accomplishments when I was at a very low point in my life. The thing about me is that I have never been a very confident person nor would I categorize myself as someone who is smart.
At least not back then. I have a much healthier opinion of my intelligence these days thankfully; however, at the time I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, this was definitely not the case. My self-esteem was trashed.
There’s a lot of reasons I will dive into on why things were like that and how just one book really changed my perspective on my own abilities. I am a firm believer that readers never forget the stories that make an impact on their lives and as an avid bookworm there has been many that have left their mark on me. None however, can compare with Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
In order to understand why this was such a defining read, I should really give a bit of background of where I was at in life starting with one very embarrassing fact. When I was seventeen years old I didn’t finish my senior year of high school choosing to drop out instead. A very regretful mistake.
So at this point I was a twenty-five year old high school drop out that had to make the hours long drive back home to my parents after an extremely rough break up with someone I was very much in love with and had been with for years. Change was never needed more than in these moments.
Upon my return to San Diego, I didn’t want to just wallow in my own sad failures knowing full well I wasn’t happy with where my life was at. It was time to get it together and finish school. I needed something different.
When I went back to high school as a young adult to finally get that much desired diploma. The entire experience was very intimidating because school was never easy for me; however, I was taking an English class which naturally involved a lot of reading. This was more than okay with me.
I have always been a reader and very passionate about it. The joy a person can find from reading is beyond what words can describe. It was with this mindset that I looked forward to reading whatever was assigned. This no doubt would be the easiest part of it all. Unfortunately, that was a short-lived moment of confidence. This was going to be harder than I realized.
My teacher handed me a long list of books to choose for the course. They were going to be a hurdle. Two selections were mandatory to be picked and read for the class. The list was frightening and suddenly all the good feelings I had about going back for my education evaporated from my brain.
This was going to be one of the most daunting things I had ever done. As I looked through the list of books available for the class, I felt nothing but sheer terror. How was I going to manage to get through two of them? These books were boring, old, and had language not easily comprehended.
My horrible past struggles with the writings of Jane Austen ran through my mind. I didn’t want to relive my involvement with those books. To this day I’m not fond of the over-hyped Austen. I despise her illegible and complicated writing style. I will go as far as to say Jane Austen put me off classical literature for years. It stunted the broadening of my horizons.
Luckily because of this class, something changed. The world was once again reopened and given a second chance. I discovered that classics are loved for a very good reason. I had a great time being immersed in the world painted by Emily Bronte and this led me to other authors such as Victor Hugo.
Now there was definitely no way I was about to give up because I was being forced to read classical literature. My hatred for Jane Austen and the trauma I suffered from her books in my earlier reading days was not going to stop me. She was not going to win this one. I did make a choice and stuck with it. I tried to cheer myself up by thinking that a challenge was a good thing.
The book I chose was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. The reason I went with this one is rather simple. It was actually a book I had always fancied reading but had been too scared to approach on my own free will. We can thank Jane Austen for that! Now jokes aside, I don’t deny her talent.
Looking back I remember telling my teacher I picked it because it was one I had always wanted to read. My first reaction to the book was relief. I could actually understand the writing and language being used. There were no phrases, words, or long elaborate sentences to confuse me. It was fairly simple reading. I was happy that the sentences were not overly long winded.
The second I realized this all bets were off. I knew the task was manageable. I had a defining moment where I understood for the first time that I had judged all classical literature based on one author I personally couldn’t stomach. All classical literature had been deemed guilty by association.
My love for Wuthering Heights didn’t develop straight away. I was mildly put off by the story because the narration is told secondhand. The main character is being told about the life of Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw through his housekeeper. This instantly put a bad taste in my mouth. I am not highly fond of books told through this form and style of narration.
It is hard to develop love for the characters when their story is being told in the middle of a story. It can also be confusing when your jumping through time. An example of this would be that sometimes in Wuthering Heights your with the main character and the housekeeper; whereas, other times your in the past with Heathcliff and Catherine. Usually this drives me crazy.
That has always been my feelings on such narration until this book. Emily Bronte smoothly transitions between the housekeepers tale and present time. There was not a moment where I did not know where I was and what was going on. I adored the style of this story and how it was being told.
I have never seen it so beautifully done; however, it is so much more than that. Bronte makes you love every single thing about everything. I walked away truly believing in my core there was no other way this book could have been told except in this style. The book would not be the same without the housekeeper named Nelly Dean and the main narrator Mr. Lockwood.
These two people are narrating the book throughout. As a reader I felt every emotion they were experiencing as the story unfolds; furthermore, I was just as captivated as they both were by Heathcliff and Catherine. I openly will say that this book needed secondhand narration. The only reason you have any devotion for Heathcliff and Catherine is because of Nelly Dean.
Readers only love Catherine and Heathcliff because Nelly truly does. At least that is how I felt personally. I loved Nelly Dean quite a lot and became deeply engrossed in how she felt about these two very messed up individuals. Mr. Lockwood is equally vital to the story and I really cannot express why. He is just an onlooker that is late to the game.
Lockwood is not even around until everything has already been said and done; however, there is just something about him that completes this book. As a reader I think his dying curiosity gave way to mine. Me and Mr. Lockwood are one in the same. That’s the truth and only way to describe it.
We are two people eager to know about the dysfunctional yet irrevocable love between Heathcliff and Catherine. Mr. Lockwood is everything that we readers are. There is a Camaraderie with him that just completes Bronte’s tale. He feels like a long time friend that you trust to just be there. He is the steadfast rock keeping the book forever balanced and down to earth.
Wuthering Heights is centered around the love and friendship of two very different children put together in a cruelly unfair world. Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are the meat of the book while the narrators are the bone. They both are equally valued. Emily Bronte pierced and shredded every emotion I have in my being when it comes to this couple.
At times while reading I wanted to scream with anger and slap Heathcliff for his actions all while wanting to give him a hug for all he endures in this very haunting book. Catherine on the other hand probably frustrated me the most. You really want to like her because of her fondness for Heathcliff.
Everyone around the boy treats him like he is absolutely nothing especially after Mr. Earnshaw passes away and can no longer protect him. Catherine and Nelly Dean are the only two to ever show him an ounce of kindness once his benefactor perishes. This is probably the only thing I truly liked about Catherine at the beginning of the story. It was something pure.
Catherine’s selfishness definitely gets to me. How could she love someone so much and yet turn on them the way she does. Playing with the emotions of both Heathcliff and Edgar Linton is beyond the pale.
She twist everything to make it work for her without regard to the feelings of the people who supposedly matter to her. It was difficult to not hate such a character; although, I have to admit Heathcliff really never helps the situation or does anything to improve his own happiness. He eventually becomes a person that is dark, cruel, and evil.
I am reminded of a discussion that takes place in one of the books from the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. The conversation between Edward and Bella about Wuthering Heights really sums it all up for me.
Edward says “The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others lives… It isn’t a love story, it’s a hate story”. Bella, however, feels attracted to the inevitability of Cathy and Heathcliff’s love and believes that the whole point of the story is that their love is their only redeeming characteristic. “How nothing can keep them apart – not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end…”
I shall leave it at this. Catherine and Heathcliff’s only redeeming quality is the devotion and love they have for each other. It is the only turning point and difference between the tale being a love story versus a hate story.
In the long run this book taught me that I am capable of reading material I deem as hard and that I can achieve anything. Going back to school, starting this blog, and getting my life back to moving forward was exactly what I needed. This book gave me confidence and reassurance that I am smarter than I give myself credit for. The power is always our to wield.
Fast forward to today and here I sit, a high school graduate who just finished their stint at community college and will be starting a master’s program at San Diego State University to get a masters in History. Each and every one of us can achieve our goals with hard work and determination. For me, reading Wuthering Heights was just the confidence boost I needed to begin my goals and boy how far I have come and will be going!
Does anyone have any books that changed their perspective and taught them something about life? I would love to hear all about them! Please leave a comment below to share your experiences. Thank you for reading!
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