If The Book Works, Don't Fix It

         Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights is a story of two people intensely in love. Wuthering Heights is also a story about social class, family, lifestyles, and jealousy. It is the story of a manor in England that makes the audience feel as though life begins and ends in Wuthering Heights.

         Brontë's novel is a very tediously formed structure of characters. All the lives wrap around each other from the time the characters were youngsters. They all exist seemingly isolated from the world. This isolation makes the reader center on the two characters of Heathcliff and Catherine as though nothing else is happening. As the children grow, the intensity of their relationship grows. But more importantly, the realization that the two of them can never be together comes to light. Heathcliff will always be the stable boy, and Catherine will always want more than what she has.

         Wuthering Heights is more than a story about this love, however. Heathcliff and Catherine are never even together. The book describes an explosion of tension, jealousy, and deception. Heathcliff wants Catherine. Catherine wants Heathcliff. But, Catherine wants money. Therefore, Catherine wants Edgar. Isabella wants Heathcliff. Heathcliff wants revenge. The book is 100% intensity.

         The 1939 film Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, is a wonderful movie. However, the intensity just is not there. Heathcliff and Catherine (Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon) are both great in their respective roles. But without the carefully crafted, often minute details by Brontë, the movie just is not the same firestorm of emotion.

         Also, the film omitted the second generation of Heathcliffs and Lintons. The whole notion of these families continually existing at odds is suddenly not there. It was Brontë's intention to show that this anger and resentment was to trickle down into generations to come. The movie also took the fun out of seeing Heathcliff deteriorate after Catherine's death.

         Wuthering Heights was wonderful as a novel and on the silver screen. However, the movie may have been too much of an undertaking. Half of the story was cut out. It was as disappointing as those movies shown on television with the warning: "This movie has been edited for time and content." I would have enjoyed the extra time and content.

Casey McMillen

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