Cats, Heathcliff, And American Pie

Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

This week's throwback is one of my favorites, Wuthering Heights—hence Tracy’s gift for my unborn (years out) grandchild.

Those Brontë girls knew how to write a wicked tale, didn't they? Charlotte was a bit more subdued; she kept her crazy in the attic. But Emily. Ah, Emily. She hurled it about with reckless abandon. You want a love story, she asked? I'll give you one so twisted and heartbreaking and haunting that you'll weep at the wonder and the ugliness of it all. Happy endings be damned! Turns out love is a many tortured, rather than splendored, thing.

No Mr. Rochester here. And most especially, no Darcy or Captain Elliott. I can hear Heathcliff's dismissive scoff now: "If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn't love as much in eighty years as I could in a day." And love his Catherine he did—albeit with a brooding, obsessive, downright dangerous kind of love that unleashed a quest for revenge so ruthless and cold-blooded it would have given even Edmond Dantès pause.

From what I've read of Emily's life, of all the tales of love she could have written, this is the one that rings most true. Preferring solitude and wondering to social society, she appeared to care little for convention. Her one novel, much like herself, was vastly misunderstood and underappreciated at the time of its publishing. Charlotte said of her: "an interpreter ought always to have stood between her and the world."

Spend a little time on the moors near the Brontë home in Haworth, where Emily was said to roam for hours on end, and you'll understand even more why conjuring up a Heathcliff would be more doable than a Darcy. While Tracy and I were studying in London we did just that, staying with our group in a large, eerie hostel smack dab in the middle of the moors. It was a late winter evening when we arrived, making the scene all the more foreboding as we headed out in search of Catherine's ghost and her haunted Heathcliff. What we found instead were hundreds of cats combing the moors, and worse, our hostel, and a local band playing "American Pie." Now that's the stuff literary dreams are made of.

Posted by Rachel