A lot of these versions show the two main characters – Catherine and Heathcliff – as star-crossed lovers and misunderstood romantic heroes. If you read the book, however, they’re clearly just horrible, selfish, vindictive people who do absolutely deserve each other but I don’t mean that in a good way. Yes, they had a difficult upbringing after Mr Earnshaw died (Catherine’s father and Heathcliff’s foster father) but they weren’t particularly nice children even before that. When the book was first published in the mid 19th century, it shocked readers and was savaged by critics, partly because it was peopled by such immoral monsters.
I like the book though, don’t get me wrong, and that’s at least partly because the characters are so utterly unlikeable. Not just Catherine and Heathcliff either, I can make some pretty damning personal criticisms about most of the characters in the book.
There’s quite a lot of literary discussion about the negative personalities in the book so I thought I’d look at it another way – who’s the most likeable living creature in the novel? I reckon it’s this one:
Nothing was stirring except a brindled, grey cat, which crept from the ashes, and saluted me with a querulous mew. Two benches, shaped in sections of a circle, nearly enclosed the hearth; on one of these I stretched myself, and Grimalkin mounted the other.
When Heathcliff is in his 40s, there’s a cat in his house. It only turns up for a few sentences but it does nothing worse than meow in a bit of a petulant manner, which I think makes it the clear winner.
Do you agree? Do any of the human characters have enough redeeming features to compete?
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