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Wuthering Heights was first published in 1847, a year before Emily Bronte?s death; it received a hostile reception. It was her only novel. Treated shabbily by her publishers, who allowed it to be printed uncorrected, she also suffered scorn. Although the critics praised its power and originality, they remained remarkably unperceptive about the book as a whole. The Victorian readership sought novels with a moral purpose and so it is hardly surprising that they objected savagely to its brutal and savage characters, the coarseness of the language and its perceived lack of recognisable moral purpose.
Emily's sister Charlotte, who herself shocked readers with 'Jane Eyre', felt compelled to defend her sister in the preface to the 1850 edition, stating that many calm people would find the novel 'shocking' and the language 'profane'.
Her achievement is to have written a brooding, fascinating, even disturbing and highly original novel - a product of her own intense imagination, her poetic genius and her deep attachment to the moors, which she used to breathe life into every page. The novel resonates with the sound of the elements and draws on the gothic traditions, which Emily read in the periodicals as well as her love for the charismatic and extravagant Lord Byron.
There are a number of ways to view Wuthering Heights. It is a love story of immense emotional and imaginative force. It is a powerful evocation of place - the moors come to life on every page. It is an exploration of two contrasting worlds and moral orders, represented by Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. It is a tale of revenge, which knows no bounds. Above all it is a one off novel, transgressing conventional moral and sexual codes, ranging over the history of two families and their eventual union, brilliantly structured, energetically written and deeply moving.
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