The story: Mr Earnshaw adopts a young boy on the streets of Liverpool (Heathcliff) and brings him home. Son Hindley doesn’t like the new addition to the family and is mean to him. Daughter Catherine and Heathcliff hit it off well — too well. Forward a few years. Heathcliff and Catherine apparently love each other, so Catherine marries neighbour Edgar Linton. (That’s how they did it in those days. No, really.) Heathcliff marries Edgar’s sister Isabella to use and abuse her under the happy couple’s nose. Catherine has a daughter, Cathy, and dies just to spite Heathcliff. Isabella leaves Heathcliff and has their son named Linton. Heathcliff is so mean to everybody all the time that the only way they can survive is to live somewhere elese, so most die and a few move away. The central question is, can Heathcliff keep Catherine’s memory alive forever so that he can live miserably ever after just like Marvin the Paranoid Android?
The central characters —
Catherine: an irritating brat. She encourages Heathcliff to love her, and then marries the wimpy fop Edgar instead. Really. It’s all there in the names. It’s like Groucho Marx said, “Don’t you think that even though girls go out with boys like me they always marry the other kind?” Not long after, she has the infernal nerve to die. How’s that for taunting and torturing Heathcliff? Horrible woman.
Heathcliff: a very naughty boy. Way too possessive of Catherine when they were kids, practically glued at the hips. Runs away (understandably) when she announces her engagement, but then comes back three years later like the Terminator. He’s going to get revenge on Catherine for marrying the wrong guy, on Edgar for marrying the wrong gal, on Hindley for being a bad brother, on Isabella for being Edgar’s sister, on his son Linton for sharing a name with Edgar, and on the gardener for cutting the topiary into a pyramid rather that a dolphin. He just has no sense of humour.
It’s unfortunate that none of the characters can think of original names for their children. Heathcliff was named after Mr Earnshaw’s dead son. Cathy after her mother Catherine. Linton after his mum’s maiden name. Maybe if Heathcliff had been named Sunshine everything would have worked out better.
As it is, everything works out miserably. It could almost be a Doctor Who story from the seventies, because almost everybody dies. The gothic story almost fools you into thinking Heathcliff is Dracula, but instead of blood he feeds on suffering. Because there’s plenty of it.
If you want a depressing story about depressing people, look no further. I know I enjoyed it.
Yes, it’s miserable, but it’s really all down to a few unlucky chances that it all finished up so badly. The moral of the story is: Never adopt a homeless gypsy kid on the streets of Liverpool.