When I was nearly fourteen years old, I tried a couple of times to read WUTHERING HEIGHTS but always fell asleep. Maybe it had to do with how I read the novel: in my grandmother’s room, my hand propped up to my ear for support, as I lay (too comfortably) on her bed which was bedecked in an old pink chenille bedspread. I’d begin to slog through old Joseph the manservant’s Yorkshire dialect, faithfully rendered by Emily Bronte, and that drone as he said, “Owd Nick” would send me into dreamland. Maybe it had to do with the darkness I innately and intuitively sensed in the novel, of the moors at night, as inky, awesome, impenetrable a darkness as Heathcliff’s mind at the end.
One day, I had to read this peculiar work, for we were to write a critique/paper for my ninth grade English class. I resolved to read past Joseph and his brass pans, into the world of Emily’s dreams. For two days—one weekend—I was in the novel’s thrall. I quietly read much, as I kept to myself in my room. Since then, I have read WUTHERING HEIGHTS—a perfect Gothic novel, I think—once a year, each year that’s elapsed.
This experience with WUTHERING HEIGHTS illustrates that reading is an activity, an exercise—neither passive, nor effortless.
If you’re willing to be won over by a novel’s irrepressible beauty or by its luminous other-worldly darkness, then the task is well worth it.