Cutting out the Children

         Wuthering Heights was written by Emily Brontë in 1847 and adapted to film in 1939 by William Wyler. Wuthering Heights is a classic work of fiction, beloved by many, but it has one major flaw. Writers Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht deleted this flaw completely from their 1938 film script, which gave the movie a much stronger plot line and made it easier to stay interested.

        The biggest change they made in the film script was cutting the children entirely from the story, thus eliminating most of the latter half of the book. I understand that his reasoning may have been to shorten the book to movie length, but I think it did more than just shorten it. It made the movie more successful because it focused the story on what was really important: Catherine (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Olivier). Brontë’s story strays from her main concept and muddies the water by adding the inconsequential characters of their children.

        If Brontë were trying to publish in today’s society she would be told to rewrite and cut out a lot of unnecessary filler. Editors today stress that writers deliver a focused story, mostly because readers cannot stay attentive to a story that strays or lags, but also because, when one rewrites and edits and makes the hard decisions to cut parts of the story that are unnecessary, it strengthens the plot that is there. Cutting the latter half of Wuthering Heights allowed for the movie to develop the plot between Catherine and Heathcliff. Their story was thicker, and there was more tension in the movie than in the book because we followed them more closely, and we were not distracted by their children’s unnecessary subplots.

        In conclusion, Wuthering Heights was a strong and memorable classic novel, but the 1939 movie was stronger because it erased most of the latter half of the novel and focused more on Catherine and Heathcliff’s troublesome relationship.

Karah Russell