Project 365 – Through my lens..Light in darkness


These are some pics that I took a couple of days ago. I particularly love the play of colours: light against dark. It is symbolic of summer and winter, sun and moon, day and night. I enjoy pictures of contradiction. Sometimes dark is needed to truly understand light. I think that can be true in writing too.

Characters need to be believable. To be believable they need to invoke sympathy in the reader. For me the most interesting characters are the  characters that have to battle their own darkness, their own character flaws. One of the best examples of these types of characters are Heathcliff and Catherine from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights is my favourite book. It is a story I have read countless times and will continue to read countless more. What is is about this story that makes it one of the best written stories of all time? I believe it is the true portrayal of human nature in all its ugliness and beauty, its light and shadow.

The principal characters, Heathcliff and Catherine are two of the least sympathetic characters ever written. Then why do they continue to enthrall readers? I say they are the least sympathetic but they are the most real characters on a written page. They are full of flaws and strengths. Both of them have an unswerving loyalty to one another. This loyalty is stretched to extremes and twists their characters into obsession and darkness. But somehow readers identify with these two characters.

What I love about Wuthering Heights is this: the characterization of human flaws. It is far easier to want to write characters that are good and kind, characters that readers can like. Then why did Emily Bronte write and create characters that most people would find abhorrent? I believe she did it because she was not a writer who shied from the truth of the world. Emily Bronte did not shy from the truth of human emotion. The fact that at its most extreme love can become possessive and obsessive. The fact that love can change people for either good or bad. The fact that passion can drive people to conquer even the cords of life and death.

To many readers Wuthering Heights is a tragedy. To me I see it in another light. In the end not even death could separate Heathcliff and Cathy. In the end their love outweighed their petty humanity and overshadowed their flaws. Wuthering Heights is a love story of the ages. But unlike most stories it tells the truth of love. It tells that love can be brutal and painful. It tells the reader that sometimes love does not have all the answers. It tells the reader that sometimes true love is more than the human condition can contain. This is all told through the views of Heathcliff, the “villain” in the story.

Another key element of her writing that Miss Bronte uses is the setting. The setting is as dark as the characters. It sets the scene beautifully. This story could not be set in a city nor could it be set in a farming village. It needed to be set somewhere without borders, somewhere dark and wild, somewhere where nature rules over people. To me this is symbolic of the love and passion that rules and overrules both Heathcliff and Cathy.

Emily Bronte shows us that it you can write about flawed characters and still have readers be enthralled by them. No matter how many times I read the story of Wuthering Heights, I want the ending to change. I want their love and their passion to bring them together in life. I want the story to lighten. But I also understand if the story was different it would not have the power it still has so many years later after it was first published. This was a book that was written under a male pseudonym because publishers of that day could not believe that a woman could write about such a dark subject or create such dark characters.

Emily Bronte was a writer and a woman who did not shy away from the darker things in life and the darker facets of human nature. She was a visionary before her time. She was someone who understood human love and the flip side of that human emotion. Wuthering Heights is an embodiment of human nature. Her characters, Heathcliff and Cathy, are complete 3d people. They are not perfect cut-out characters. They are people who feel passionately. The writing is so flawless that instead of remaining characters in a book, they are people. That is something every writer should seek after: creating characters that are so believable as human beings that they cease just becoming characters. They become people we love and hate. That is why I love Wuthering Heights and why I believe Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are two of the best characters from literature.

3 Comments

  1. I like the way the light falls on those leaves … lovely.
    As per Wuthering Heights, I actually grew to understand Heathcliff and his shortcomings as the novel unfolded. Catherine was easy to like but he wasn’t. At the end, I felt compassion for him because, like all of us, he was flawed and his flaws humanized him.
    Interestingly, in my youth, I liked dark novels and stories… not so much now; that’s the joy of reading across genres – we can choose what we read and vary them if we want. At this point in life, laughter is my healing balm. 🙂
    E

    1. Thanks for commenting Eliz 🙂 Interesting that you say you found Cathy easy to like. For me I disliked her from the beginning of the story. She always seemed the selfish one in the story. She also tends to treat people like objects or hobbies…dropping them at random when they no longer interest her or offer her any advantages. I preferred Heathcliff because he was always the more honest of the two. What you see is what you got with Heathcliff and he made no excuses for his behaviour. He was who he was and he made no apologies for that. That is what I love about this story: its gets people thinking and feeling and questioning. All good stories should do that.

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