Tuesday, 15 July 2008

It's me, it's Cathy, I've come home now...

So Gordon Brown has been compared to Heathcliff, and the press has done its usual Rabid Dog Grabbing the Wrong End of the Stick And Not Letting Go thing, which it does so very well. And this has made me very cross, the particular type of crossness when the Wider Public have got a fact wrong (superiority complex? Moi?). Like ... well, like an example which I can't think of right now. But in this instance, like the Heathcliff thing. I feel like writing a letter to everyone in the world, debunking all these myths which people just won't let go of.

DEAR EVERYONE.

HEATHCLIFF IS NOT A ROMANTIC HERO. HE IS A SPOLT, VIOLENT, WHINY, VICIOUS, MERCILESS, PETTY, SOCIOPATHIC PSYCHOPATHIC TYRANT BULLY WANKER ARSEHOLE. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH WORDS TO DESCRIBE WHAT HE IS. HE IS, IN SHORT, YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE. NOT YOUR DREAM MAN.

YOURS SINCERELY,

SEMAPHORE.


For as long as I can remember, my mum has been urging me to read Wuthering Heights. "It's brilliant," she said, "It's magical, it's the most romantic story ever written." At Easter, I read it. And I was horrified. There I was, for YEARS, thinking Heathcliff was a sort of Mr Darcy figure, Misunderstood basically, when NO. He's NOT. I'm not saying the book isn't a masterpiece, and that he isn't a brilliantly depicted character. What I'm saying is that he's a brilliantly depicted villain. That we are holding up this man as a paragon of romantic love is at best ridiculous, at worst scary. His love for Cathy is complex and fascinating, but it is destructive, selfish, overly possessive, and in no way humanises him - or her, for that matter, by whom I was almost as horrified. Their love story is towering and magnificent but in the way that the sea is, or a thunderstorm - something out of control, dangerous. Romantic? Less so.

Or maybe it is? Maybe my definition of romantic is too narrow. Thoughts?

4 comments:

  1. Only if your definition of "romantic" is "mutually abusive". Your rant made me very happy, I've always loathed Heathcliff, and consequently the novel, with a deep and passionate loathing. I want to slap them both and tell them to grow up and stop being narcissistic. This is odd, as otherwise the classic brooding, intense, inaccessible male figure in lit tends to press all my obsessive crush buttons. Clearly even an obsessive crush has to have its limits.

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  2. Depends what you want from your romantic I guess. Some people think much heartache = much love and romance (probably from too many years mis-reading Heathcliff), but really, NOT HEALTHY FOLKS.
    I like Wuthering Heights, and never bothered loathing Heathcliff, 'cos he's needed to make the story work, but the only one of the characters I'd ever wanted to spend time with is young Hareton Earnshaw.

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  3. The obsessive stuff is fine in fiction and in theory I can see the attraction, but I agree with you that in Wuthering Heights it stops being something that I could define as romantic and becomes just nasty and destructive. Even if I did find it romantic though, it certainly isn't something I'd want in my politicians.

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  4. Hmmm. I haven't read Wuthering Heights yet (I rebel against the Brontes), but your argument had me utterly convinced until you equated their love to a dangerous, out of control thunderstorm. Then it started to sound kind of hot.

    Obviously I need to read this book. It's time to abandon my silent, ineffective and irrational rebellion.

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