Wuthering Twi-Heights

“What were you reading?” I muttered, not really awake at all.
Wuthering Heights,” he said.
I frowned sleepily. “I thought you didn’t like that book.”
“You left it out,” he murmured, his soft voice lulling me toward unconsciousness. “Besides…the more time I spend with you, the more human emotions seem comprehensible to me. I’m discovering that I can sympathize with Heathcliff in ways I didn’t think possible before.”
- Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer, Chapter 11
            For those who know me, they can testify to my love for the Twilight novels. Picture me, decked out in my favorite Team Jacob gear, waiting in line at book launches, midnight movie premiers, DVD releases, and any other event you can think of. Now, having read all four novels many times, one thing that would often catch my attention was Bella Swan’s affinity for Wuthering Heights. Stephanie Meyer would often allude to this text and throw in passages from Brontë’s novel itself, which ultimately led to my decision to pick up Wuthering Heights for the first time. As a reader, if there is a word or a phrase that I haven’t heard before, I feel that I have to look it up to get the full meaning. With each allusion to Brontë’s novel, I felt this same urge; Meyer mentions this book so often within her own, that it must be integral to the storyline of Bella and Edward, right?
            Many lovers of the series equate Bella and Edward’s love to that of Romeo and Juliet, however, further inspection reveals parallels between Wuthering Heights as well. Bella herself even uses Brontë’s story within Eclipse to convey her range of emotions: “I was selfish. I was hurtful. I tortured the ones I loved. I was like Cathy, like Wuthering Heights, only my options were so much better than hers, neither one evil, neither weak.” As I began my journey into reading this novel for myself, I began to see the many similarities between the two books and I understood why Meyer felt it appropriate to reference such a classic within her own work. Although it was obvious that neither story were identical, there were elements of the two that intertwined and crossed paths – essentially, parts of it could be one story. Thanks, Thomas C. Foster. In his book How to Read Literature Like a Professor, he points out that, “What happens, if the writer is good, is usually not that the work seems derivative or trivial but just the opposite: the work actually acquires depth and resonance from the echoes and chimes it sets up with prior texts…” As all readers of Emily Brontë are aware, she is brilliant with crafting such raw emotion into eloquent diction; the humanity she conveys is not always kind, but it is honest. That being said, parallels can be drawn as Meyer creates a similar atmosphere with her characters. I think we can all agree that Twilight is not as eloquently worded as the 19th century novel, yet the effect is still there.
            Backtracking to Foster’s book, he makes another point that I felt applied to both of the aforementioned novels. He writes, “So vampirism isn’t just about vampires? Oh, it is. It is. But it’s also about things other than literal vampirism: selfishness, exploitation, a refusal to respect the autonomy of other people, just for starters.” He continues on with his point to add, “This principle also applies to other scary favorites, such as ghosts and doppelgängers (ghost doubles or evils twins).” Ghosts might sound familiar, perhaps because Wuthering Heights is crawling with them. While Meyer was jumping on the bandwagon with YA fiction and writing about vampires, Brontë was doing the same thing back in her day as she borrowed elements from the gothic novel and integrated them with romance. The way in which supernatural characters harbor underlying meaning creates another parallel between both Wuthering Heights and Twilight. In Wuthering Heights, Catherine says, "We've braved its ghosts often together, and dared each other to stand among the graves and ask them to come. But, Heathcliff, if I dare you now, will you venture? If you do, I'll keep you. I'll not lie there by myself: they may bury me twelve feet deep, and throw the church down over me, but I won't rest till you are with me.” Meyer borrows this idea of eternal love as Bella vies for Edward’s agreement to turn her into a vampire; she longs for this everlasting love so they can be together forever. Foster points out that many taboo subjects were often able to be discussed through the use of the supernatural, such as ghosts and vampires, and I believe it is fair to say that both authors write about such.

            Now that I have developed as a reader, I have come to realize the significant impact Brontë’s work has on us. As I sat down to write this post, I found myself pondering how this comparison is an example of how Wuthering Heights displays literary merit. Almost 170 years later, we can still find relevance within Emily Brontë’s writing, enough so that it served as inspiration for a more modernized adaptation. In all honesty, Wuthering Heights has become one of my favorites over the years, and being able to see the modern day connections that it bears is truly a fascinating experience.