Movie Balls Make the Difference

         There are many differences between the movie Wuthering Heights, directed in 1939 by William Wyler, and the book Wuthering Heights, written in 1847 by Emily Brontë. I personally liked the movie better than I did the book. I thought that the book was very hard to understand and was very boring.

         First of all a noticeable difference between the book and the movie was that Heathcliff was the hero of the movie, as played by Rex Downing and Laurence Olivier. This was not true with the book at all. The book was kind of a different story. Heathcliff is not turned cold by love, but by the way that he was treated as a child. Heathcliff as a child was neglected, and he was left out on the streets of Liverpool for almost dead, with no parents to care for him. Wyler creates sympathy for Heathcliff by showing the ways he was treated during the two ball scenes in the movie.

         Although there are no balls in the book, Wyler's movie shows two of them presumably because Hollywood audiences of that time tended to expect the upper-class aristocrats to have balls. However, Emily Brontë was not the least interested in appealing to her reading audience in that way. It would have made the book a little more interesting if there had been balls filled with music. Also, descriptions of the women in their nice ball gowns and the men in their tuxedos walking down a spiral staircase would have been nice to have read about.

         I know that there were at least two balls that happened in the movie that did not happen in the book. There were more that I am sure were talked about, and more that happened that just were not shown. In the book, when Cathy and Heathcliff first see Thrushcross Grange, they see the Linton children fighting over a dog. In the movie, Cathy (Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff see a ball in full swing. They see the women and men swing dancing all throughout the night, the crystal balls hanging from the ceiling. They and the viewers could see the joy on people's faces as they were enjoying themselves. They were laughing and giggling as they swung around and danced the night away. When the dog grabbed Cathy's ankle, she was invited in to stay, while Heathcliff was chased out after he had spit on the floor. The audience can see how Edgar Linton (David Niven) moves right in on her to sweep her away into his world away from Heathcliff's.

         The next ball in the movie occurs after Cathy and Edgar were married. The smitten Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) invites Heathcliff over, and he uses the opportunity to try to woo back Cathy, but to no avail. Unlike the Cathy in the book, the movie Cathy is snooty to Heathcliff and pulls away from what he calls "his vile love."

         In conclusion, I hope that I have been able to show you some of the differences between the book Wuthering Heights and the movie Wuthering Heights. In my own opinion, I liked the movie better than the book. The movie was just more interesting than the book. The book was quite boring to me.

Michelle Loveridge

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