As I turned the pages of Emily Brontë's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, filmed in 1939 by William Wyler, I could not seem to get over how incredibly modern this work seems. Published in 1847, a year before Brontë's death, the novel is overflowing with modern thought and observances dwelling into the dark realms of the human psyche and passion itself. Wyler's 1939 film seems very modern, as it was filmed some seventy years later.
The further I delve into this "love story," the more my expectations of a love story are completely disheveled. The lovers are quite possibly the worst characters in the entire work. Does that make them the best? Heathcliff and Catherine's own immoralities kept me reading this novel. I found the story to be extremely realistic simply because I could not stand either of the characters (played by Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon).
Heathcliff is a character, like so many other classics, that is completely doomed by fate. He is very intriguing because of how little we know of him. He is reserved, yet wild, and almost unknowable. In the beginning, we only get enough information about Heathcliff to know him as a legend. Only a character such as this would be able to hate his own son and raise someone else's child in hatred. I began to be urged by the topic of necrophilia at certain points in the story due to his undying obsessions. This ugliness is not in the movie. This allows more sympathy for Heathcliff; but, having read the book, I was not fooled.
While Heathcliff grew up and developed a more devious mind than he possessed as a child, Catherine, it seems, never grows up. Her selfishness is all too child-like. Even her love for Heathcliff has been based on how she had felt about him as a child. Although she may have been wildly obsessed with him, she marries Edgar Linton (David Niven in the movie). This is where her real selfishness is revealed. Her motive for marrying him was purely for social advancement, almost like dating the first-string quarterback.
These characters were the cause of their own misfortunes. Heathcliff should have left after he "lost" Catherine. Catherine should have followed her heart, not her social life. They have thus destroyed themselves in many ways, but that is what makes this work of literature and film such a classic.