Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

         Anyone who reads Emily Brontë's 1847 book Wuthering Heights then watches William Wyler's 1939 adaptation of it can immediately notice the omission of a certain amount of resolution. In the novel, Brontë gives readers reason to hope for a positive future with the creation of Catherine and Edgar's and Hindley and Frances's children.

         In the film, these characters are left out; and, at the end of the movie, viewers are left to wonder if there is anything good in the future for Wuthering Heights. Only with the creation of Wyler's highly detested couple-going-off-to-eternity scene can viewers experience this much-needed resolution, which means that something had to be added to the film for it to satisfy two innate need humans have-a need for hope and a need for closure. In the novel, once Catherine and Heathcliff die, young Catherine and Hareton satisfy these needs.

         In the film, Catherine (Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) are the passionate couple that personifies Brontë's characters from the novel; although, knowing that both will die and a second generation will not follow, viewers must rely on a synthetic ending to somewhat resolve the turmoil that had followed Cathy and Heathcliff throughout their lives together. However, in the book, the presence of young Catherine and Hareton, knowing they will carry on a healthy romantic relationship gives readers enough resolution.

         It is natural for such a passionate, romantic novel to leave readers with two loving young adults who would life a happy life together that could begin to right the wrongs their relatives committed; but, in the film, the absence of the children requires additional material to compensate for the children's exclusion. Therefore, the film leaves a void in its viewers the novel had filled in its readers. The most positive action that comes from the omission of the second generation of Earnshaws in the film is that people who have read the novel come to appreciate the roles the children played in the plot Brontë laid out years ago.

Vanessa Childers

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