"Two hundred years after her birth Emily Brontë is still remembered as an oddball, a people-hater and the weirdest of three weird sisters"
I myself never thought of Emily Bronte as an oddball and the weirdest of three weird sisters. So I don't really need a book that rehabilitates the reputation of Emily Bronte. I am curieus what the #metoo movement is going to make of Heathcliff. I think this book about Emily Bronte fits into the spirit of the times. Read The Bronte Myth- Lucasta Miller/.theguardian and you understand what I mean.
Two hundred years after her birth Emily Brontë is still remembered as an oddball, a people-hater and the weirdest of three weird sisters. But a book published this week aims to rehabilitate the reputation of the author of Wuthering Heights, one of the greatest novels ever written: she may have been shy and reserved but she was not strange and should be seen as a woman ahead of her time, the academic Claire O’Callaghan argues. O’Callaghan said Brontë’s reputation was entirely carved out by others, a lot of it based on the writings of Charlotte, who was responding to criticism of her sisters Emily and Anne. “She adopted the strategy of appealing for pity by presenting her sisters as a bit weird and a bit strange, people who did not really know what they were doing,” said O’Callaghan. Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte embellished the stories even further. “Those founding images have been extended and reworked and dramatised and amplified, they have become mythic up until the present really.” O’Callaghan said Emily had been portrayed in many ways, usually negative. Sometimes she was “a staid, old-fashioned, people-hating spinster who roamed about the Yorkshire moors alone with her dog” or “a painfully shy and socially awkward girl-woman who was sick whenever she left home” or “she’s a stubborn and defiant woman who willingly withheld assorted physical and mental ailments, or an ethereal soul too fragile to endure the real world”.
She said the myths were damaging. “They perpetuate this idea she was weird and different and strange and other in a way that is quite hostile.” O’Callaghan said it was true Emily was shy, or reserved, and craved solitude and enjoyed getting out the house walking on the moors with her dog Keeper, a large mastiff. But this did not make her odd.“Today when we think about character traits and personality traits we take a different approach to things, we try to accommodate and understand differences or social awkwardness or anxieties or just different ways of being. We try not to stigmatise people.”
O’Callaghan’s book also explores how Emily might fit in today, arguing she would be more at home in a more accepting, tolerant, feminist society.Brontë’s only novel was Wuthering Heights, the violent and passionate story of the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff.O’Callaghan said the novel was still seen as a love story and that too needs re-examining. “I think it is about a lot more and I think that love story is quite a damaging one … I think it can be read as a cautionary tale against damaging romance and violent romance.”Heathcliff is clearly a horrible man “yet he is often read as the archetypal anti-hero. I really question that word hero. He is just vile from the outset.”In the era of Time’s Up and #MeToo, O’Callaghan, a lecturer in English at Loughborough University, said it was a good time to re-evaluate. “Maybe the time’s up on Heathcliff … we need to take off the romantic blinkers and we need to look at him more critically.”