[DWJ] Book recommendations

Charles Butler charlescbutler at btinternet.com
Thu Nov 16 04:26:12 EST 2006

Elizabeth Evans <er.evans at auckland.ac.nz> wrote:
  >Cerebrally (as it were), I understand what you mean, but I think there
is more to WH than the storyline, which, as you say, might not stand up
to sustained analysis. My take on why its popularity has lasted so long
is that there is something about the emotional intensity depicted in the
story which makes it extraordinarily moving. As you say, the
protagonists themselves are totally selfish and worse, but their
obsession with themselves has a kind of grandeur to it. I think it's an
extraordinary book for the very excess of emotion depicted. 

>This all looks very meagre on the page and doesn't express well what I
was trying to say, but I'll let it stand.
  That pretty much sums up my feelings too. I was blown away by WH when I read it as a teen, about the same time (and in the same way) I was blown away by Beethoven's 5th. I've been kind of afraid to go back to WH ever since in case I liked it less. But I loved the obsessions and violence, and the feeling of entrapment - in whose hands but E Bronte's could a moor induce claustrophobia? Mr Rochester seemed so pallid afterwards, with his cowardly secret and his silly gypsy costume. As for D H Lawrence, whose characters are just as self-obsessed and lacking any sense of proportion, I never could stand him - perhaps because DHL seemed inclined to take them at their own estimate, and I don't think EB did.
  I'm not absolutely sure about that last point. There's a lack of self-consciousness, in one sense, which means the book is pretty humour free (though this can be cured in serious cases by an immediate injection of Stella Gibbons). Having said that, I don't think EB was any stranger to irony - something her multiple narrators give her a lot of scope for - and I'd *like* to think that the novel's final lines (for instance) are deeply ironic, coming from dim Mr Lockwood. And in another sense the book anticipates its own misreading very cleverly, in having Isabella fall for Heathcliff as if he were just the kind of romantic figure that he has since popularly been taken to be, only to regret her mistake at leisure. (What's the opposite of a Mary Sue?) So, while this narrative isn't sophisticated in the way that, say, Austen or Henry James are sophisticated, it's not just an adolescent splurge either.

Website: www.charlesbutler.co.uk

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