Love, as an illness


“But this is nothing;” she cried, “I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home, and I broke my heart weeping to come back to earth”

Above, is a passage from the much-revered text of Wuthering Heights, an explosive drama dedicated to telling the love stories of three different generations, crossing two families, the Lintons and the Heathcliffs.

When the novel was first published by Emily Bronte under the pen-name, Ellis Bell, initial reviews of the book were polarising. The novel challenged traditions broke cultural grounds and conventions for many, and was thus deeply controversial because of its depiction of religious and social hypocrisy.

But this novel has withstood the test of time and claimed its spot as a classic. Classics are books we come back and back to even after time has passed, and Bronte’s writing continues to deliver its message and awe diverse audiences. What, then, did Bronte really write about?

Let’s fast-forward a few years back before Bronte ever published her novel. It’s the end of the eighteenth century. Religion reigns supreme. The Anglican Church, though firm, has become much more complacent and conservative after the Wars of Religion in Europe. Extremism is now dangerous, but most English people have an interest in religion, either academically or spiritually.

Literary giants have been established. Think of John Milton, the voice of Paradise Lost. A voice that admired religion, and was admired by committed and religious poets such as William Blake and William Wordsworth. This was the time during which Bronte’s novel had to be published, and that presented a challenge.

Because the lovers in Bronte’s novel were lovers who challenged God himself. This was a huge no-no during her time. And Bronte’s hero would end up killing himself by the end of the novel, defying almost every Christian belief in the process.

So how did Bronte counter this? Bronte’s answer, to such religious desecration, was madness.

Bronte’s lovers were passionate, and quite mad.

“I’ve fought through a bitter life since I last heard your voice; and you must forgive me, since I struggled only for you!”

This is Heathcliff’s impassioned speech to a married Catherine Linton when he sees her after [] years, having run away from home years before to escape the miserable treatment of his step-brother.

Catherine is now married. But her passion for Heathcliff drives her to near insanity.

“If I were only sure it would kill him,” she says, in reference to her husband, as she’s on her deathbed, “I’d have killed myself directly.”

The book explores a sort of love that can be borderline obsessive. A poet of her time and the daughter of a literary family, Bronte saw no purpose in adhering to cultural limitations

The parts of her daring book can be summed up in just a few words, as said by the English painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rosetti, it is- “A friend of a book – an incredible monster […] The action is laid in hell, – only it seems places and people have English names there.”

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