I’ve never been able to get beyond the first page or two of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, yet I’ve always loved Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, especially the scene between Jane and Rochester in the garden, when Jane asks of Rochester:

“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you, — and full as much heart!. . . . I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; — it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”

This passage moves me every time I read it. Jane is speaking to Rochester from her mind and heart, her whole inner being. She talks to him with honesty and directness. She feels equal to him. Jane has found her voice!

Did Charlotte Bronte ever find her voice? Maybe with no one she knew was she brave enough to commune. Or no one she knew, knew how to respond in kind.

A year ago I tried, once again, to read Emily’s novel.

“I am Heathcliff!” Cathy says. “He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”

To Cathy, Heathcliff is “more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. . . . If all else perishes, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger: I should not seem part of it.”

After reading this passage a year ago, I said to myself: Oh, Cathy and Heathcliff are like Ernie and me! It’s I am you, and you are me, and we are the universe all over again. Quickly, I wrote a note to myself: “Don’t try to tell me Ernie and I were two separate people. We were not. He contained all that I was within him. He understood me because he understood himself.” And I thought at the time — as Cathy did, as perhaps Emily Bronte did — that this was a good thing, that this was love.

What garbage! What rot! As Charlotte’s Jane says: “You think wrong!”

Doesn’t Cathy live a miserable life and die a miserable death? Doesn’t Wuthering Heights end tragically?

It must because all co-dependents live a life that contains far more misery than peace and joy. Maybe no peace and joy. That’s the misery of it.



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My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.