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Often held up as the standard of the classic gothic novel, Wuthering Heights is, for the most part, a showcase of emotional savagery and a dismal portrayal of the human heart. Not well received when first published under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, Emily Bronte went to her grave believing that her one and only novel was a complete failure. A subsequent edition, edited by sister Charlotte, was released after Emily's death and became a worldwide success.

Everyone has heard the name Heathcliff, and that must be due to his being surely one of the vilest, most hateful literary characters to ever exist on a page. An unidentified foundling who is brought to the Earnshaw home as a young boy, Heathcliff is forever painfully aware of his lack of identity and culture and lashes out at everyone with whom he comes into contact. For awhile, his dearest childhood ally, Catherine, is his one sanctuary, but in time he begins to hate her almost as much as he loves her. From that hatred is born several generations of misery and pain, as Heathcliff devotes his entire existence to ruining Catherine, her family, and everything she ever held dear, and no one is immune from Heathcliff's wrath - not even his own children.


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Most of the story is told as a look-back by aging housekeeper Nelly Dean as she relates the whole sordid tale to Mr. Lockwood, a tenant who comes to Wuthering Heights to rent for a short time and becomes curious about his angry, tormented landlord. The past soon fuses into the present, as Heathcliff's revenge continues to plague both his and Catherine's hapless descendants.

As dark and depressing a story as it appears on the surface, Bronte's unfettered examination of the twin emotions of intense love and equally intense hatred is powerful, and stays with the reader long after the last page has been turned. It's nothing if not a poignant and eerie lesson in the damage one person's tortured soul can wreak on everyone around him. I found myself much more affected by it than I thought I would be. Recommended for any fan of classic literature, particularly the gothic era of the 19th century.