CLOSE

10 Things You May Not Know About Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was Emily Brontë’s only novel. The ill-fated (some would add, twisted) relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy shocked readers when the book came out. Today, the story about the lovers on the English moor is so well known, it’s iconic. 

1. Emily Brontë Grew Up On The Moors.

Emily spent most of her life in Haworth, Yorkshire with her siblings Charlotte, Anne, and Branwell. She was a recluse and had few friends other than her family. At the time, the back door of her father’s parsonage opened onto the moors. Emily, a nature-lover, was intimately familiar with this wild landscape, which she depicted in Wuthering Heights. Today you can walk many of the places mentioned in the novel. 

2. The Setting Might have been Inspired By A Real Farmhouse.

Emily may have based the farmhouse Wuthering Heights on a real place named Top Withens. Although Top Withens is now a ruin, when Emily was alive, it was a working farmhouse. Originally called “Top of th’Withens,” it's located on an isolated, windswept hill overlooking the valley. While some of Wuthering Heights’s architectural details are closer to nearby High Sunderland Hall, Top Withens is accepted as the inspiration for the house in the book. It's now a well-known tourist destination.

3. The Book Was Self-Published.

After being rejected by publishers, Emily and Anne paid the considerable sum of 50 pounds to publish Wuthering Heights and Agnes Gray together in one volume. Knowing that female writers weren’t respected, the sisters used male pseudonyms: Ellis Bell for Emily and Acton Bell for Anne. (Charlotte published Jane Eyre that same year with a traditional publisher under the name Currer Bell.)

4. Hindley Earnshaw Was Similar To Branwell.

While Emily was writing the novel, Branwell was living in the same house succumbing to alcohol and opium addiction, a situation that was accelerated by the end of his affair with a married woman named—we kid you not—Mrs. Robinson. In Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s brother Hindley Earnshaw descends into alcoholism after his wife Frances dies. “His sorrow was of that kind that will not lament,” the book says. “He neither wept, nor prayed; he cursed and defied; execrated God and man, and gave himself up to reckless dissipation.”

5. Wuthering Heights Is Not A Romance Novel.

People tend to think of Wuthering Heights as a romance. It was even voted the greatest love story of all time. But the book is closer to a gothic novel than a romance. For one thing, the love story between Heathcliff and Cathy only takes up half the book. The second half is about what happens after Cathy’s death, which involves her daughter, Hareton, and Linton. In addition, Heathcliff is not a romantic hero, but an obsessive abuser. His relationship with Cathy is sometimes disturbing—for example, he breaks the side of her coffin so that, when he dies, they can decompose together. Clearly, this guy has issues.

6. The Book Was Panned By Critics.

Wuthering Heights shocked Victorian critics with its violence, passionate characters, and amoral plot. While some reviewers admired its creativity, others downright hated it. Graham's Lady Magazine wrote: “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.”

7. Emily Died Thinking The Book Was A Failure.

Getty Images

Wuthering Heights came out in December 1847. A year later, in December 1848, Emily died at age 30 from tuberculosis. Her brother Branwell had died in September and Anne would soon follow in May 1849, leaving only Charlotte alive. Emily would never know that she’d written a book that would become a classic of English literature.

8. Charlotte Bronte Shaped How Emily Was Perceived.

In 1850, Charlotte put out a revised edition of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. Along with removing typos and altering the Yorkshire dialect, Charlotte wrote a preface that revealed all three of them to be women writers. She also tackled some of the criticisms of Emily. Among other things, she blamed the wild nature of the novel on Emily’s rural upbringing in Yorkshire, painting her as a "nursling of the moors." She also suggested that Emily didn’t know what she was doing when she was writing, for she had a creative gift that "strangely wills and works for itself." The new edition turned critical perception to the Brontes’s side, but also created myths about Emily that still persist.

9. Wuthering Heights Has Been Adapted Many Times.

Film adaptations range from a 1920 silent film—now lost—to the 1939 version starring Laurence Olivier to the 2011 version featuring black actor James Howson as Heathcliff. Since the novel is an international sensation, it has been adapted by other cultures as well, such as the 1966 Hindi film Dil Diya Dard Liya, (watch here) or the 1988 Japanese movie Arashi Ga Oka (watch here). Other recreations include musicals, ballet, opera, and the recent TV movie Wuthering High School.

And let’s not forget the 1992 film starring Sinead O’Connor as Emily Bronte:

10. Wuthering Heights Inspires Other Artists Too.

Many have used Wuthering Heights in their own work. Sylvia Plath wrote the poem “Wuthering Heights” about visiting Top Withens. In turn, her husband Ted Hughes wrote a poem about her writing that poem. The story of Wuthering Heights has been re-imagined in other novels, such as Windward Heights by Maryse Condé, which is set in Cuba and Guadaloupe. The book has also inspired paintings, graphic novels, and a Monty Python skit. There’s even a roleplaying game.

And of course, there's that Kate Bush Song:

nextArticle.image_alt|e
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Lists
15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images
MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
arrow
Design
China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios