Reading 'Wuthering Heights'

Pamela Law


How shall we read Wuthering Heights? Is it a symbolic tale of a transcendent love which far surpasses the dreariness of ordinary domestic experience, in the manner of the lines at the end of Emily Bronte's poem "R. Alcona to J. Brenzaida"-
Once drinking deep of that divinest anguish,
How could I seek the empty world again?
Is it a novel whose realistic framing comments on and "places" such emotional extravagance and celebrates common sense, human community and the civilized values of eighteenth-century life-what Isabella calls in her post-honeymoon letter to Nelly, "the common sympathies of human nature"? Is it what most of its first nineteenth-century readers thought it, "a powerful but imperfect book" which can't decide what kind of thing it wants to be?

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