Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Updating a Classic (1)

When I took on the task of writing modern version of Wuthering Heights, there were several things I had to come to terms with before I began. This biggest of these issues was my hatred of Heathcliff's character. 

There are few characters in literature that I've encountered with the power to make me physically angry, Heathcliff is one of them. I clearly remember at one point wanting to throw the book across the room because I found him so despicable. 

My sympathy for him and his plight had been exhausted by the second third of the book. I couldn't believe that this was the character that I'd seen so frequently show up on online threads about "The character I would want to fall in love with." Frankly, it appalled me how romantic he was considered. For most of the book, meaning the last two thirds, I saw him as nothing more than the typical abusive boyfriend. 

I struggled with this conflict for quite some time as I was thinking about The Heights. I realized that the reader's sympathies for Heathcliff would have gone much farther with his contemporaries. A lot of the things he did which I would consider abusive, were more accepted practice in Victorian times. (It still doesn't explain why anyone today wouldn't find him repulsive, but hey, to each their own).

I concluded that the intent was for him to be that romantic character and decided that was the character I was going to create. In my opinion, his character was certainly the major component of the book that needed updating. Sympathy for Heathcliff's character need to run deeply throughout the book. This is the key to his and Catherine's love story, to any love story really. If you don't want the two characters to be together, then you don't have much interest in whether they are or aren't. 

My Heathcliff is named Henry in the book. His actions and situations are strongly related to the original, but his motivations and intentions are softened in a way as to fit our expectations of somebody in that situation today. I hope he can be seen as a more acceptable suitor...though don't expect Hindley to see it that way. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi there,

    I am one of the editors of BrontëBlog, a blog devoted to the Brontës. We have actually posted about your book before (http://bronteblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/happy-2009.html) and it has been a nice surprise to find your blog too.

    Do feel free to send us an email providing us with further details on your book or any information which you might like us to publish. Our email is bronteblog (AT) gmail (DOT) com.

    The best of luck with it!