How Deep Is Your Love?

     Emily Brontė's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, moved me for one reason: the love between Cathy and Heathcliff. Unfortunately, the movie mutilated this to such a degree that I cannot enjoy the film or deem it a good adaptation. In regards to their love, perhaps one might argue that the changes are minor: just a few words removed or some scenes added, but upon closer analysis I hope to show that the nature of these delicate characters have been tainted by the hands of Hollywood's romanticism at the expense of one of the most profound loves to grace the pages of literature.

     In the film Wuthering Heights (1939), directed by William Wyler, there are two specific scenes that have been altered to such a degree that the love that Brontė intended is completely destroyed. The most obvious of all was the scene where Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) returns to Thrushcross Grange after his long absence. When Cathy (Merle Oberon) learns that he is waiting outside to see her, she is terrified and does not want to see him. In fact, much to Cathy's dismay, it is Linton (David Niven) who persuades her to see him. This is in complete contrast with the novel, where she practically explodes with excitement and sheer delight; this welcome reestablishes the important theme that Heathcliff is Cathy's life force. This change in the film gives implications that Cathy is perfectly content with Linton. and that the love she had for Heathcliff was so weak that a grudge was stronger than her desire to see him once more.

     The other scene that completely undermines Brontė's profound love was not an alteration from the novel; it was an addition. It was the scene in which Heathcliff, enraged by Cathy's haughty insults, slaps her, not once, but twice. This is absolutely preposterous. Perhaps the screenwriter added it to reinforce Heathcliff's brutish and tortured image, but this is absurd. I am not insinuating that Brontė's Heathcliff was a puppy dog, but to believe that he would physically harm Cathy is to misunderstand the nature of their love. Heathcliff was mentally and physically abused for much of his life. Cathy was the one person with whom he was an equal. Their love was so intense because it stemmed from an alliance made in childhood. Ultimately they were all each other had or wanted. To conceive that Heathcliff could physically harm the one person from whom he lived is senseless.

     With these two examples of alteration and addition from literature to film, I hope I have illustrated the disastrous effects it has on the fragile nature of an author's literary creation.

Maggie Dale

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