The myth of the Brontë sisters, which mainly surrounds Charlotte and Emily’s childhood stories and poems, physical isolation from the rest of society, inexplicable talent for writing, and early deaths (Anne is mentioned always only briefly, having written novels that were not as popular as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights), has forever inspired and mystified fans of their writing. It is especially difficult to separate Emily Brontë’s novel, Wuthering Heights, from the girls’ background, with its windy moors and warm fireplaces; its vast, open landscapes and locked rooms.
As Charlotte states in her preface to the 1850 edition of her sister’s novel, “I have just read over Wuthering Heights, and … have gained a definite notion of how it appears to other people — to strangers who knew nothing of the author; who are unacquainted with the locality where the scenes of the story are laid; to whom the inhabitants, the customs, the natural characteristics of the outlying hills and hamlets in the West-Riding of Yorkshire are things alien and unfamiliar. To all such Wuthering Heights must appear a rude and strange production” (37).
Whether we presently live in “the West-Riding of Yorkshire” or not, we must all now admit that we are strangers to the Brontë sisters. Too much time has passed since they wrote. Their books will always remain, if not rude, definitely strange. Continue reading