A Musing: Dear Emily

October 25, 2012

Emily Bronte
The Great Beyond
Heaven, HL *(&@#
GONDAL

Dear Emily,

I though I would write, having just finished reading Wuthering Heights yet once again. To think that I didn’t like you back in High School, when I didn’t understand you! Please know that you are now one of my most treasured friends, and I value our exchanges greatly.

I won’t rehash all of our previous correspondence, but I did want to ask if you are still not speaking with Charlotte after she made you sound like a simpleton in the preface to the second edition!? I knew you would love the Gilbert and Gubar I sent with the last letter. I felt like they really “got” you. I just read another neat scholarly article about WH! What do you think of what Eric Levy says about loneliness, the Unloved, and the Overloved? Here are a few choice sentences in case you don’t have access to it in Gondal:

Some force, as inexorable as the wind sweeping over the moors, seems to have bent their lives into a pattern of frustration that their own struggle for relief only aggravates. Their need for love is expressed, not through loving, but through the anguish of loneliness. Paradoxically, though they do not know it, this loneliness is the one condition necessary for the fulfillment of their most profound fantasy concerning perfect love: a love, that is, perfectly protected against the threat of abandonment that in childhood these sufferers learned that love entails.

As a result of the Unlove that they were made to suffer, both Heathcliff and Catherine, by opposite means and in distinct circumstances, turn loneliness into a community of rejection over which they wield absolute control. Heathcliff does this by persecuting those he hates; Catherine, by persecuting those she loves. Yet, by thus avenging the pain of rejection, they simultaneously increase it; the more each mistreats others, the more estranged from them each becomes. Hence, cruelty to others ultimately becomes cruelty to themselves. But the meaning of their loneliness is transformed by this antagonism. Instead of suffering as the helpless victim of rejection, each now suffers as its unassailable source.

The Overloved…shows the same tendency to manipulate loneliness, but the loneliness manipulated is founded on a principle of exclusion contrary to that underpinning the isolation of the Unloved. Whereas the Unloved tries through cruelty to universalize rejection in order to exalt himself above it, the Overloved tries through the need for pity to monopolize rejection so that in his mind he becomes its most helpless victim.

I’m finding it really fruitful to think about your book with the terms of the Unloved and Overloved. We think of Cathy, Isabella, Linton etc. as being cared for but oh, what brats! What mean streaks! This concept of Overlove really works for me for these characters. The idea of being too cared for, too indulged, which then brings out a victim mentality when challenged. Thinking about Edgar, and how he let Catherine get away with murder, and how he overprotected Cathy…  The Unloved also explains much about why Heathcliff and Catherine just wouldn’t quit, and why Healthcliff continues to pine for Catherine for years and years. I also love how Levy writes about loneliness almost like a force of nature. It’s THERE, like the wind or any other natural phenomenon, only inside of us all. Maybe this is why we have such strong reactions to your book, Emily.

No need to write me — every time I reread Wuthering Heights it is like receiving a long letter back from you, filled with new wonders.

Much, much, much love,

jackiemania

P.S. Here is the citation for the Levy article: Levy, Eric P. “The psychology of loneliness in ‘Wuthering Heights.’.” Studies in the Novel 28.2 (1996): 158+.

P.P.S. They are making yet another movie of WH! This one looks really beautiful. I’ll tell you what I think after I see it.

P.P.P.S Tom Hardy is still the hottest Heathcliff.

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9 comments

  1. claire

    Unloved and Overloved. Love that. Wuthering Heights is my favourite Brontë and I owe it to Nancy Drew because that was her favourite book, which made me seek it out. It’s the only book I have several editions of. I’m so looking forward to the new film, it looks very atmospheric and so wuthering! Looking forward to your thoughts on it as well. 🙂

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  3. joon*ann

    Oh, I really like that — and I can see how both could make cruelty and manipulation rise up in a person. That makes so much sense!

  4. The Classics Club

    I’ll admit that I didn’t love Wuthering Heights the first time I read it (only a couple years ago)… but I already know that I’ll be reading it again – and we’ll see what I think the next time! -Sarah

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