Monday, October 18, 2010

On Reading a Classic Yorkshire Novel While in York

I had never picked up Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, nor did I ever realize that its setting is the moors of Yorkshire, until we moved to York.

While perusing the tiny, tiny (slightly larger than a walk-in closet, yet beautiful and filled with delightful librarians) Fulford Library that is a short ten minutes from our home, I spotted the Bloomsbury-reissued novel. I picked it up, read the back, and decided that I needed to read this one.

Now that Tyler's in the midst of today's nap, I have just managed to finish it. I'll be completely honest: for the first 150 pages or so, I found myself thinking, I can't quit, even though the book feels slow and tiresome, and even though Heathcliff is intriguing, he's just so cruel that I almost don't care to find out what happens to him.

And then, something happened to me. Bronte's book grabbed my heart at page 151 and wouldn't let go for the rest of the ride. Catherine Linton, the tragic Hareton Earnshaw, and even the sullen, bitter Heathcliff suddenlymesmerized me, and I had to find out the denoument of their lives.

And, when I reached what I'll call THE KISS--where Catherine Jr. arises from the state of despair at her enslaved fate to help Hareton, a young man destroyed by being despised, with a kiss on the cheek that would have seemed impossible to give--everything breaks loose.

I saw the power of a single act of love in the midst of pain, agony, and revenge. Wuthering Heights, the place itself, became thenceforth lit up with the light of redemption--found among two characters who had both been wronged beyond the rational soul's willingness to forgive or forge ahead.

And yet they do.

Catherine Linton and Hareton Earnshaw become a physical way of seeing the power in releasing the pain of the past--and all the bitterness that it always entails for us as humans--and instead embracing the power of the present.

Looking out upon the York where I now set my feet, pushing Tyler in a stroller to its local playgrounds, libraries, and fields, I see that the choice Catherine and Hareton make is also the choice that I must make--every day of my life that my eyes open to see the world yet agin.

It's a choice you probably need to make every day of your life, as well: to see the past for what it is, yes--to sift through its pain and residue--but to choose to no longer afford it rights to avenge itself of your present.

So speaks York (and Emily Bronte) to me today.