Essay on Is 'Wuthering Heights' a Love Story

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The film begins with, who we can assume is, Emily Bronte, walking through the moors toward the house that inspired her story. The following scene, and where the story begins, is Mr. Lockwood’s arrival at Wuthering Heights, who is seeking shelter from the storm. He is Heathcliff's new tenant at Thrushcross Grange, a newly acquired property, which will be discussed later on- this scene is repeated twice in the movie, as well. After Lockwood is reluctantly accepted to stay the night, young Cathy shows him to a room in the house that is vacant and where he shortly after encounters the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw.

Next, the storyline retreats to the beginning, where Mr. Earnshaw brings Heathcliff home after finding the little boy in the streets with nothing. Quickly, Catherine and Heathcliff become friends, while Hindley, her brother, absolutely despises his new brother for no good apparent reason. Hindley continues his abuse towards Heathcliff, and when their father dies, Heathcliff is made to be a servant and barn boy, doing the dirty work around the property and not allowed at any civilized gathering or in any way publicly associated as part of the family in which Hindley’s father adopted him into. Perhaps the fact that Mr. Earnshaw enjoyed Heathcliff more than Hindley is a reason for his hatred towards Heathcliff, but we will see the tables turn later in the film.

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Catherine and Heathcliff fall in love and share many romantic moments out in the moors of Wuthering Heights enjoying each other's company. During one of these romantic scenes, Heathcliff exposes his “supernatural abilities” which allow him to manipulate the birds calling Cathy’s name, then asks a higher power to foreshadow the outcome of Catherine’s life through the skies. At first, Catherine and Heathcliff looked up at a clear, beautiful sky, but all of a sudden, that clear sky turned into a dark, violent storm.

Later, Heathcliff and Catherine run off and are caught sneaking around Linton’s property at the Grange during a party. Upon being spotted, they take off through the trees only to be caught up by their dog who bit Cathy badly. Edgar Linton carries Catherine inside where a team of caretakers get to work on Cathy’s wounds. Heathcliff fights his way into the house to check on Cathy but is pushed out with force by several men. This is where Cathy remains during the entirety of her recovery, where she befriends Isabella, Edgar’s sister, and gives Edgar the chance to make advances on Catherine. By the time Catherine is healthy and returns to Wuthering Heights, she has changed and now appears in a beautiful dress and acts as if she has just married into an aristocracy; which she then goes on to do just that by marrying Edgar Linton. Upon this heartbreaking news, in the heart of Heathcliff, he leaves town for two years and comes back a man of significant wealth acquired, presumably, by unethical means.

In continuation of Heathcliff’s return, he gets in a fight with Edgar, buys Wuthering Heights, has Hindley living there as a tenant with his son Hareton (after his wife, Frances, died giving birth to him), and Heathcliff marries Isabella. Their marriage is nothing but a relationship between an aspiring fighter and his punching bag. Catherine and Isabella are pregnant at the same time; Catherine dies shortly after giving birth to Edgar’s daughter (also named Catherine) and Isabella runs away pregnant with Heathcliff’s son, Linton Heathcliff. Hindley, mourning the death of his wife, dies from his alcohol addiction, leaving his son Hareton to be looked after by Heathcliff. Heathcliff takes this opportunity to avenge Hindley for all of his wrongdoings against him and makes Hareton the barn boy and servant of Wuthering Heights, just as he once was.

As time passes in the story, Linton shows up in Wuthering Heights after the passing of his mother, Isabella. Linton is a weak young man, oftentimes very sick and soft-spoken. One day, young Cathy is found in the woods nearby, looking for birds' nests, by Heathcliff and his son, Linton. They take her back to Wuthering Heights, where Heathcliff is very charming towards her, and Cathy gets a glance at Hareton for the first time, as well. Cathy returns home to tell her father about her time at Wuthering Heights, and that is when Cathy finds out more about the history between the two of them. Meanwhile, Linton writes a letter to Cathy, but in the words of his father, Heathcliff. It entices her to return to Wuthering Heights again, where Heathcliff then attacks her, locks her up in a room, and forces her to marry Linton while her father, Edgar is on his deathbed waiting for her return. Linton and Cathy get married, Edgar dies, then Linton dies, and Heathcliff is now the owner of Thrushcross Grange.

Finally, Heathcliff begins to encounter Catherine’s ghost more frequently. Hareton and young Cathy have a growing love for each other and Heathcliff just lets it happen. One day, Catherine’s ghost appears in child form and leads Heathcliff into the dresser door, where he is later found dead inside by Nelly. The last scene of the movie closes as Hareton and young Cathy run off into the moors of Wuthering Heights, leaving the viewer to speculate that they fall in love with each other and get married.

Peter Kosminsky is the director of this 1992 film adapted from Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1874). The movie’s soundtrack was produced by Ryuichi Sakamoto and the screenplay by Anne Devlin. Heathcliff was played by English film star, Ralph Fiennes, who played in multiple blockbuster movies including the Harry Potter series, Schindler’s List, Skyfall, Quiz Show, and many other popular films. Both Catherine and young Cathy were played by French actress, dancer, and artist, Juliette Binoche, who has appeared in more than sixty feature films throughout her career. Nelly was played by Tony Award Winner Janet McTeer and Isabella was played by Sophie Ward who starred in Young Sherlock Homes. The film featured many more accomplished actors and actresses.

I enjoyed this movie because of the great acting performances by Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff, and Juliette Binoche as Catherine, as well as the movie’s soundtrack and music composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The only thing I found a bit odd and sort of unfitting if I’m being frank, is Juliette Binoche being cast as Catherine and her daughter. It is blatantly obvious that they just put a blonde wig on her to play the role of her daughter, but I can see where they were going with it. It makes the scene where Lockwood saw the ghost of Catherine in his room better because when he came rushing out to Heathcliff and young Cathy, he was stunned to find that young Cathy resembled the ghost almost identically (because that was her).

I was also surprised to find that Heathcliff didn’t treat his son, Linton, with more disdain as depicted in the novel. In the book, Linton is ridiculed by his father, who tells him that he is to be killed if he doesn’t marry young Cathy and constantly assures him of his worthlessness. In the movie, Heathcliff doesn’t disrespect his son badly and takes the marriage fully into his own hands. Lastly, Nelly played a more central role than in the book. She is seen as more involved with the lives of Catherine and Heathcliff and is present in a lot of crucial scenes.

All in all, I think the 1992 film, directed by Peter Kosminsky, is an enjoyable adaption of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. The significance of the story is quite relevant, even today (minus some outdated details), in the sense that history does tend to repeat itself, and love is strongly affiliated with revenge. Furthermore, the themes of love, revenge, and nature are played out in a meaningful way, and I believe that a lot of books, music, artworks, and films thereafter have used Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1874) as a point of reference.

    1. Wuthering Heights. Directed by William Wyler, performances by Lawrence Olivier, Merle Oberon, David Niven, and Geraldine Fitzgerald, Samual Goldwyn, 1939.
    2. Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. United Kingdom, Penguin Books, 2003. 

 

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