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Monday, February 13, 2012
So this post may lose me some major lit-nerd cred and one or more of my woman cards, because I'm going to go up against some of the pillars of lady lit nerd-dom...The Brontes. I've alluded to these issues here and here, and thought it was time to address them head on, mainly because I haven't had any really hateful comments directed my way in a while.
My first Bronte issue shouldn't raise too much ire, since it's mostly an opinion on the overall reading experience. I have never enjoyed reading a novel by a Bronte. It took me six tries to make it past the first three chapters of Jane Eyre. And the only reason I made it the last time was because it was required reading for an English class. To me they always felt dense and forced in a way I don't respond to that well. And I read books like this for fun. However, the Brontes always felt like work.
The issue I have that's going to get me hate mail is that I do not understand, at all, how the books Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights are held up as romantic masterpieces. There is a major disconnect for me between those stories and any idea of romance or love.
Now, before everyone gets up in arms, I totally understand the appeal of the bad boy. A cursory glance at my dating history abundantly proves that. It's a laundry list of straight-up bad boys and, far worse in the long run, Eddie Haskell-type men. (I included the link for those under 30/ people not obsessed with Nick at Night in the late '80s.) This list, along with my Wench-y personality traits totally explain why I'm still single, but further exploration into that is material for a different blog that would reach Tolstoy-esque length.
Sorry...Back to the plot. For some reason these “bad boys” of literature really just piss me off. If it were just a moody, temperamental man with anger issues I would be on board, but Rochester and Heathcliff take it to a scary, abusive, borderline psychopathic place. And as much fun as I've had with bad boys if I had discovered one had an insane wife locked away in the attic while being engaged to me I think any sort of continued relationship would be out of the question. Even if the wife eventually died. Seriously Jane, he did it to one wife, the room's set up, who's to say he wouldn't eventually shove you up there.*
As for Heathcliff, he and Catherine together manage to ruin two families for multiple generations out of some very misguided views on love and revenge. And I understand the arguments that Catherine is a product of her time, and to some extent I respect that, but there is still a level of foolishly romantic child with little to no backbone that propels the story to it's fairly awful end.
And before the daggers appear at my throat, I do have a romantic side. I hide it under a lot of black clothing and attitude, but put in the movie Love, Actually and I'm a crying mess on the floor by the end. I just can not understand the idea of romance that involves such intense levels of lying and vengeance. And for women like the Brontes who were flouting social convention by being writers, I guess I've always been disappointed that the women in their novels seem to get the bad end of the deal.
So now between Team Edward and Team Bronte I'm popping on lit hit lists all over the place. At least with Team Bronte I expect well-written, correctly spelled death threats.
*Yes, I absolutely yell at fictional characters. They make well fleshed-out imaginary friends.