I don’t think I had actually read this before about 2013, just seen the Olivier/Oberon movie, and that first time I kind of hated it. It’s the Great Books selection for June, and this time through I appreciated it much more. Firstly because the humor in the initial section really jumped out this time:
[Lockwood trying to flirt with Cathy] “Ah, your favorites are among these!” I continued, turning to an obscure cushion full of something like cats. … Unluckily, it was a heap of dead rabbits.
[Cathy desisted only to] push away a dog, now and then, that snoozled its nose over-forwardly into her face.
[Heathcliff describes Isabella and Edgar fighting over a little dog] ‘The idiots! That was their pleasure! to quarrel who should hold a heap of warm hair, and each begin to cry because both, after struggling to get it, refused to take it.’
and secondly in thinking of hygge, the coziness that’s heightened by a blizzard outside–Heathcliff and Catherine as the awful storm, the people we can feel happy not to know or be. As a Gothic ghost story instead of a Gothic romance, it makes much more sense to me. On my previous reading, I thought it would be more like Jane Eyre (one of my all-time favorites) and expected Catherine to be the Jane and Heathcliff the Rochester, but they have only superficial similarities and are really both horrible, violent, cruel people through and through. Then Lockwood and Nelly Dean make more sense as the true protagonists in a way, who survive the awfulness of everything else. I had also forgotten there’s a happy ending for Cathy and Hareton.
Some more quotes, this one from sensible Nelly Dean:
‘You shouldn’t lie till ten. There’s the very prime of the morning gone long before that time. A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.’
I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me forever, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.
…the fool’s craving to hear evil of self that haunts some people like a demon!
[to Nelly] But I begin to fancy you don’t like me. How strange! I thought, though everybody hated and despised each other, they could not avoid loving me.
Cathy and Linton quarrel over their ideas of happiness (both sound pretty good to me!):
He said the pleasantest manner of spending a hot July day was lying from morning till evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moors, with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom, and the larks singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly. That was his most perfect idea of heaven’s happiness: mine was rocking in a rustling green tree, with a west wind blowing, and bright white clouds flitting rapidly above; and not only larks, but throstles, and blackbirds, and linnets, and cuckoos pouring out music on every side, and the moors seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells; but close by great swells of long grass undulating in waves to the breeze; and woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild with joy. He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle and dance in a glorious jubilee. I said his heaven would be only half alive; and he said mine would be drunk: I said I should fall asleep in his; and he said he could not breathe in mine, and began to grow very snappish.
A parting note: Nelly Dean must be the least effective servant ever. Any time somebody asks her to keep X away from Y, or prevent Z from happening, exactly the opposite occurs! She even confesses as much, before retracting it:
I seated myself in a chair, and rocked to and fro, passing harsh judgment on my many derelictions of duty; from which, it struck me then, all the misfortunes of my employers sprang. It was not the case, in reality, I am aware; but it was, in my imagination, that dismal night; and I thought Heathcliff himself less guilty than I.