Today we shall look at Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights.
Spoilers (and also triggers for excessive swearing)
For those who aren't familiar with the story, Wuthering Heights is about an isolated town populated mostly by two major houses, the Earnshaws and the Lintons. A young waif named Heathcliff comes to stay with the Earnshaws. He and Cathy, the daughter of old Earnshaw, fall in love in a really twisted epic relationship based on cruelty to each other and everyone else they come into contact with, and everyone hates everyone. They traipse around the moors, being generally unsupervised and doing urchin shit, and it's all very creepy and Gothic.
Heathcliff is poor and without family, so Cathy ends up marrying Edgar Linton, the tepid heir to the other estate. Heathcliff gets all pissy, runs away and makes his fortune, comes back and marries Linton's sister, Isabella, as a giant FUCK YOU to Cathy and Linton, and everyone still hates everyone. Cathy gives birth to a daughter (also named Cathy, just to confuse the reader) and then she dies, and Heathcliff is haunted by her (probably just metaphorically, but it's kind of ambiguous) for the next several years, and even digs up her corpse to make out with it, and he takes his grief out on everyone by being really horrible to them, and everyone STILL hates everyone, but everyone hates Heathcliff the most, because even though he's always naturally been a douche-canoe, his grief has turned him into a douche . . . schooner. Douche-yatch? Douche-cruiseship?
I think Douche Schooner is the title of my biography of Thomas Edison.
All this bitchiness goes on into the next generation, where there is a similar love triange between baby Cathy, Heathcliff's son, and original-Cathy's brother's son, and then everyone goes, "Heathcliff, stop being such a giant fucker", and he goes, "Yeah, okay". Then Heathcliff has a vision of Cathy haunting him, so he does the only logical thing, which is to lock himself in Cathy's old room and starve himself to death. He is buried next to Cathy and everyone no longer hates everyone, but they probably still have a lot of therapy to go to.
Apparently most people absolutely hate this book, since the flashbacks and flashforwards can be difficult to read, and the two Cathys are easily confused. I, however, adored this book. It's creepy and messed up and, most importantly, it shows that while Cathy and Heathcliff are perfect for each other, their relationship is still really unhealthy and weird.
ON TO THE COVERS
Let's start off with something positive before we dive straight into the snark, yes? Here are some excellent covers:
While I'm not entirely convinced by the shoulder-baring Cathy, I love how this captures the ominous isolation of the setting. And also how Cathy's presence towers over everything there.
The story is all about shadows and ghosts. Well played, art department.
Again, shadows and ghosts. It's a little too respectable looking, considering how much everyone in the story wants to set each other on fire and maybe dunk each other in a vat full of bees, but still. Very nice.
In this book, everyone's feelings are intertwined and wild and messy. LOVE this one.
For those who don't know, there is a large critical mindset that Heathcliff is actually black. The most recent film adaptation actually cast a black actor as Heathcliff, to the cheering of many literary scholars the world over. Heathcliff is referred to as 'dark' in the text many times, and is often called a 'gypsy', which could very likely be a reference not to Romani or Irish traveler cultures, but actually Egypt, and therefore not white. What's difficult to discern is that in the Victorian era, racial labels weren't as clear as they are today. Anyone not white could be referred to as black, including people of African, Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Indian, and even Eastern Asian descent.
Shall we move on to the less well-considered covers? I THOUGHT YOU'D NEVER ASK.
Wuthering Heights: A Tale of Poor Planning.
In this version, Heathcliff tries to design some signs, doesn't have a ruler, and runs out of space. Cathy, an art student, is disgusted and leaves him.
Oh, Twilight covers, you can fuck right off.
Chuck Palaniuck's Wuthering Heights. Honestly, if you told me that Cathy was just a figment of Heathcliff's imagination, the whole book would still make sense. Maybe more.
This is the section I would like to call, "In Other News: Trees". None of these covers are bad in and of themselves, but it gets pretty boring seeing the same thing over and over.
Such tree, very foliage, wow.
BONUS ROUND: THERE'S A TREE ON MY FACE
Extra bonus round: WE STILL LOVE NATURE, BUT FUCK THE TREES
Now on to my favorite section that inevitably crops up with any nineteenth-century text republished in contemporary times: Wildly Inappropriate Costume Choices.
Cathy is ABSOLUTELY a deep, edgy girl in the mid-90s who listens to a lot of Alanis.
Why, Cathy, you're so fashion-forward. At least 30 years fashion-forward!
Nope, I lied: 40 years.
While I actually really like these covers I'm not entirely sure why Cathy is dressed as a flapper, or why Heathcliff is dressed like Cummerbund Bandersnatch.
Now let's get to one of my major rage sections: If It's Victorian, Slap Any Old-Timey Person On It, And Call It A Day.
Not sure if that's supposed to be Cathy or Heathcliff, which is even WORSE than the randomness of the face itself.
I actually kind of like this one. But only because she looks like she's in the middle of the Wuthering Heights dance.
This tells me precisely nothing about the book, except it likely happened in the nineteenth-century and there is presumably a chick in it.
So banal, I can't be bothered to think of anything to say.
Is that last one supposed to be Emily Brontë?
Oh, wait, I have a better one.
BONUS ROUND: Phoning it in so hard that you can't even be bothered to find a generic person to put on the cover. The author will have to do.
I have also discovered a new category: STOP USING THAT PAINTING FOR EVERY GODDAMNED COVER, REGARDLESS OF CONTENT.
These are all covers that contain, at least in part, a famous work of art that has no connection to the story itself, that I have seen on at least one other random piece of Victorian literature.
Of course we have some Pre-Raphaelite nonsense. Please note that in the second cover, she is wearing a medieval-style dress. Big ole nope.
In this one, they have blatantly ripped off John Singer Sergeant's "Portrait of Madam X", feebly attempting to disguise it by giving her sleeves and a lace collar. Bless.
Just to show you how mutable this cover is, please see below:
Now let's get ready for book covers designed by people who have never read the book: "YOU'RE IN WUTHERING HEIGHTS: YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE THIS CHEERFUL".
You know, Wuthering Heights, that uplifting tale of happy travelers watching sunsets and shit.
LIFE IS A STREAM OF ENDLESS DELIGHTS
AND THAT STREAM IS A STREAM OF ENDLESS DELIGHTS
'Sweetly ramshackle', instead of 'oppressive Gothic ghost hostel'.
Oh, those lovely scamps. They'll never grow up to be wife-beaters or manipulative pieces of shit. Not in this frolicking tale!
Mary Frigging Poppin in her younger, less buttoned-up days.
Wuthering Heights: a new MGM musical comedy, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Almost done: the next category is called "Face Smush, or Why Everyone Thinks This is a Story About Love, Instead of One About Some Deep Fucking Multi-Generational Loathing".
The Incipient Smush:
The Gentle Smush (please note that nothing in this book has ever been gentle. Not one damn thing):
The Dramatic Smush:
"Oh, Heathcliff! Linton never smushes me the way you do! What a fool I've been!"
And, finally, the Frantic Smush, or "Can my face actually climb inside of your face?"
Answer: Yes, but not without some difficulty.
A few straggling randoms:
Wuthering Heights: Or, Who Stuck That Poker Up Heathcliff's Ass?
Heathcliff. I don't know how many times we have to go over this. You need a wall or a sheet or something if you want to make shadow puppets.
Emily Brontë's How El Niño Ruined The Vicar's Croquet Party. Let me know if you guys find any covers that would be good for another one of these posts!