Daily Scent Diary, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, and some thoughts on Wuthering Heights

Okay, another news flash: I am not enjoying the daily scent diary post, though it’s been helpful in returning to the habit of writing diary entries every day. Next week, back to daily updating of a Word document to be posted once a week.

Cold today, blowing snow but nothing sticking to the ground.  Prompted by Bookworm’s comments as she attempted to read Wuthering Heights recently (it’s one of the few fiction works she’s ever not managed to finish), I watched part of of a 2009 production of this classic piece of literature on Youtube today, a very gorgeous brooding thing starring Tom Hardy as the violently passionate, doomed, damned, damaged Heathcliff.  As far as the production goes, it seems to be a decent one, not straying far from the book. There are numerous film settings available, from the 1939 classic with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, to a 1970 production with Timothy Dalton in the Heathcliff role, to a 1998 BBC production featuring my favorite Matthew MacFadyen as Hareton, and others.

Wuthering Heights has never been on my favorites list. It’s convoluted, you get the main narrative piecemeal and secondhand, and some of the speech in it is very difficult for modern Americans to decipher. Also, I’ve always been rather inclined toward wanting to slap every single character in it at varying times, usually for their incredibly stupid decisions. While the use of peripheral characters such as Nelly Dean and Mr. Lockwood to tell the story, which stretches over thirty years, is an interesting device, I think it both removes us from the story and distorts it, because the story is seen from the outside. Neither Catherine nor Heathcliff are particularly reticent people, and I think we have to assume that people who have such low thresholds of inhibition are not in the least interested in writing down their thoughts, feelings, motives – but can Nelly’s narration be trusted? It can’t possibly be complete, and it’s certainly colored by her opinions.

Susan Howatch (ooh, go read some of her stuff, it’s masterful – my favorite might be The Wheel of Fortune, but she’s prolific) has one of her characters in Sins of the Fathers describe Wuthering Heights as “brutal,”  and wonder how it ever gained a reputation as being romantic, and she’s right.  Reading WH, I always think of Friar Lawrence’s caution to Romeo:

These violent delights have violent ends, and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, and, as they kiss, consume.

It’s a cautionary tale. It’s a portrait of ungovernable passions – hate and revenge as well as mad love. It is not, to modern readers, a romance. You go looking for a Hollywood ending, or even a Pride and Prejudice one, and you are going to be saaaadly disappointed.  Heathcliff is an anti-hero, someone as trapped in his unhappy past as it is possible to be. Does he put aside his feelings of unworthiness, his pride, his plans for revenge? No. He chooses to pursue them into destruction, not only of himself, but of those who eventually fall into his sphere of influence.  It’s hard to forgive him for that, for all the ill treatment he suffered as a child. And Cathy is no better – she’s willful, shallow, selfish, petty, and spiteful as well as wild and free-spirited and charming.

Yes, they love each other, but this love is not patient, is not kind, does not rejoice in truth. It is envious, proud, self-seeking, and keeps detailed record of wrongs.  Not one description of love found in the famous “love chapter” of the Bible is applicable to the love between Catherine and Heathcliff. But still, who can fail to be moved by Heathcliff’s heart-cry at Catherine’s death, “Oh, God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”?

Up until now, the only time I’d ever seen Tom Hardy in any film was in The Dark Knight Rises as the villain Bane, who boasts some fierce muscles and speaks through a strange mouthpiece. And let me just say this for his acting: HOLY. MOLY.  Very powerful.  Also, and I had NO IDEA, he’s gorgeous. Really.  I mean, look:char_lg_heathcliffSo, I expect that regular readers would like to know how my afternoon was scented… Maison Francis Kurkdjian Lumiere Noire pour femme, one of the darkest roses I know, a “bodice-ripper rose” if there ever was such a thing. Appropriate, don’t you think?


22 thoughts on “Daily Scent Diary, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, and some thoughts on Wuthering Heights”

  1. Tom Hardy is a hottie! Did you see Band of Brothers (if not, I highly recommend it!)? He has a teeny tiny part in one episode when he is not quite so muscled. And I enjoyed him in Inception as well – his lips are to die for. He was also in Lawless, where one reviewer noted he does more acting with the back of his neck than Shia LaBoeuf does (the movie itself is not very good, especially Shia, but Hardy is great in it, Guy Pearce plays evil and smarmy very well, and Jessica Chastain is lovely as well). Warrior is also another good movie with him. It’s a shame they covered up his lovely face in Dark Knight!

    I think I read Wuthering Heights back in high school – I went through a phase where I read a bunch of “classics” but didn’t quite get them at that time. I know I didn’t get Wuthering Heights, perhaps it was the language.

    1. OH MY GOSH. I had meant to rent Lawless, if that’s the one I’m thinking of – the Franklin County VA moonshiners, right? I grew up in Roanoke Co, just north of Franklin Co (they still run ‘shine down there, but it’s now legal. mostly, anyway), and the Bondurants are still local history. MUST rent it now! I already know I’ll be disappointed with the accent, so I might as well get used to that. Nobody in Hollywood ever ever gets a mountain accent right.

      I was impressed with Hardy’s acting as well as the beautiful mouth. I don’t know what it is with those Brits and their beautiful mouths and beautiful voices (see my earlier swoons over Matthew MacFadyen), but those boys can actually ACT, as opposed to “stand there and look pretty.”

      WH is not a particularly well-written book. And the characters are not likeable. I suppose the only reason we keep reading it is because we’re captivated by the firehose blast of emotion. If you can get your hands on Alice Hoffman’s Here On Earth, which is a modern/alternative setting of the basic story, I’d love to know what you think of it. (Warning: if it were a film, the book would get at least an R rating, for language, violence, and sex.)

      1. That’s the one! I’m not sure about the accents, but the movie overall was a bit disappointing. Shia’s acting and character were not good at all. Tom Hardy grunts more than talks, but somehow, it was charming. And it is a bit violent, so be prepared.

        1. I went over to Youtube in the meantime and pulled up a couple of clips. The accents aren’t as awful as I’d anticipated; Hardy does a much better job with the accent than Shia does (I suppose it helps somewhat if he doesn’t have that much dialogue?). Now that I’ve seen a clip or two, I remember that what stopped me going to see it in the first place is the violence. Looks like Al Capone’s Chicago rather than rural Virginia – and I KNOW they didn’t film on location. It doesn’t look a thing like Franklin County.

  2. I really hate Wuthering Heights. Just. Hate. It.

    I think Wuthering Heights is “Romantic” from the standpoint of the literary period and the 18th/19th century Romantic movement in art, but it’s not a romance in the twentieth-century narrative genre sense. (My daughter’s father is working on his Ph.D. on romantic poetry, specifically Byron, so I spent a LOT of time discussing what “Romantic” means for a few years there.)

    1. It’s not a fun read, no. Instructive, maybe, in terms of what happens to you when selfishness and revenge take over your life. I get what you’re saying about “Romantic” literature, though I think I might have said WH had some definite Gothic characteristics, what with all the gloom and the supernatural stuff. (Or is Gothic a subset of Romantic? I only took two college courses in literature, one being Shakespeare and one being the Modern Novel, and I just can’t remember.)

        1. Aha!

          I still wish, very much, that I could go back to college for the first time and tell my dad, when he informed me that he wouldn’t be paying any tuition if I decided to major in English, that I’d take care of it myself. I mean, to him, college was for preparing yourself to take a job, and he firmly believed that English majors had no shot whatsoever at a career.

          1. I had wanted to get into editing and publishing – and of course there’s no way to do that at this stage of my life. Especially lacking the correct degree for it. But this is the major reason why we are not telling our kids that they cannot study this, or that, or whatever. We have told them that there are trade-offs. If they choose a major like music or even history, the likelihood of making a high salary is ludicrously low, but if that is what they truly want to do, we will support the choice. (Not with cash. :))

  3. The Brontes are not favorites of mine, although I like them better when they go more gothic, as in Villette or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. But, BBC adaptations can usually make anything tolerable. 🙂 Lumiere Noire seems like a nice accompaniment.

    1. I rather like Jane Eyre, but couldn’t make it through Agnes Grey. Have never read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

      And Lumiere Noire pf was really gorgeous!

  4. “Brutal” is a good word to describe Wuthering Heights.

    In an off-topic – or at best wildly tangential aside – my obscure connection with the film The Dark Knight Rises is that my sofa was made by the same company as made a bunch of chairs for the film. I believe these chairs were actually in the movie, rather than the cast sitting in them in their trailers, but I can’t confirm the truth of this. : – )

    1. Yes, “brutal.” Indeed.

      Your sofa is, at least, a very interesting tangential aside! (I saw the film, but couldn’t tell you diddly-squat about the chairs in it.)

  5. I read your blog post title, got to the words “and some thoughts on Wuthering Heights” and said to myself: “Wuthering Heights? I always just want to slap the characters.” So pleased to not be alone in that thought! Yes, it’s not a romance in my view, more a story of brutal passions (marred by the fact that no matter how I categorize it, I still want to slap them).

    1. They really are repellent people, aren’t they? All of them. And you’re just sort of relieved at the end that almost everyone is dead.

      Except… Tom Hardy. OMG. I had NO IDEA. NO idea whatsoever. And then went to check out some clips of his other work and am even more impressed. As it happens, I *had* also seen him as Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but since the character is this pretty-boy agent with a love interest, slick but sort of dumb, I’d made the mistake of assuming that the actor playing him was one of those hired-because-he’s-pretty dudes. But: way wrong. (In my defense, I was sort of distracted by all the other impressive performances in that film, particularly that of Gary Oldman.)

  6. Hm. I have to admit to liking the Brontes. It’s not as though I’d invite them over for a barbeque or anything, but I sort of admire their toughness. You didn’t mess with those girls, “No coward soul is mine” isn’t that the frequent quote from Emily’s poetry? Yes, very tough indeed.

    1. I think I’d get on fine with Charlotte, I’m quite fond of her. Emily, though… despite that stirring poem, she sort of scares me.

  7. I’m with you. Everyone in Wuthering Heights is a completely repellent person. But I think the beauty of the book is that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE gets over it if somebody dies, no matter how much they loved them. And nobody wants to be forgotten. Heathcliff destroyed everything around him because he was apparently the only person who had ever existed who didn’t have that time gradation on love. So women can read it and imagine a partner never forgetting them. I think that Emily Bronte was using Heathcliff as a reflection of the desires women don’t want to face.

    Also, I hate every single person on Mad Men, but I still like the show.

    1. Ooh, a “reflection of the desires women don’t want to face”. Nice one there. But yeah, his emotions were so over the top, and while that everlasting love thing IS attractive, he also never ever ever forgot a grudge – he brooded on slights and kept them in the front of his mind. Deliberately. How warped…

      I’ve never seen one episode of Mad Men, not one.

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