Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wuthering Heights vs. Fried Green Tomatoes

Even though I had read this novel before in high school, I found it difficult to keep track of all the characters. I had to write them all down and look them up in my notes when I would come across them in the book a second time. I was very pleased and excited to apply something I had learned about in another class to this novel. Two things that I wanted to write about were the narration style, and the relationships in the book. The narration style of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was interesting for me to rediscover. I had forgotten about the two narrators from the last time I had read this book a few years ago but remembered as soon as Mr. Lockwood started asking Nelly about Heathcliff's past. Coincidently I found this style of narration to be very similar to a movie I had screened in a film class last week, Fried Green Tomatoes, which is an adaptation of the book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. I found the two narrators from Wuthering Heights to be comparable to two of the main characters in Fried Green Tomatoes. I believe Mr. Lockwood to be similar to Evelyn Couch, who's stories both take place in present time. The second narrator, Nelly and the film's Mrs. Threadgoode's both take place in the past. Mr. Lockwood and Evelyn Couch represent the 'real world'; they are from present times telling their experiences through their eyes as they see it unfolding in front of them. Nelly and Mrs. Threadgoode are the storytellers in both cases. They are telling a story of something they experienced at one time but not in the present. They both are giving sort of a history lesson to the other narrator while at the same time filling us, the audience, in as well. Both works go back and forth between the past and the present. The relationships in both the book and the film were similar as well. Each story told in the past focuses on the relationship between two people, in Wuthering Heights its Cathy and Heathcliff, and in Fried Green Tomatoes its Idgie and Ruth. Each pair is introduced to each other at a young age although they react differently. In Tomatoes, Idgie liked Ruth upon meeting her only to dislike her years later and then ultimately end up together. In Heights, Cathy did not like Heathcliff when she met him for the first time. In fact when “[Cathy] learnt the master had lost her whip” as he was taking care of Heathcliff, she “spit[] at the stupid little thing” and “refused to have it in bed with [her]” (Bronte 34). They eventually carry on a love affair only to break up and marry other people even though they still loved each other. Even after her death, Heathcliff still longs for “[his] heart's darling” and wishes for her, Cathy, to come “once more” (Bronte 26).


  1. I liked your comparison to of Wuthering Heights to Fried Green Tomatoes. I think that the narration style is a good parallel. Mrs. Threadgoode and Nelly are both engaging storytellers that make what starts out as a not horribly entertaining story, much more interesting. In the beginning of Wuthering Heights it's mostly about the buildings and setting and less about the people. When the focus goes from setting to relationships of the characters the story gets more entertaining.

    I think that another reason Mrs.Threadgoode and Nelly are more interesting is that they are telling stories, versus just reporting what's going on in the present. It's much easier to like a story than it is to like a report of what's happening. We're used to hearing stories in our day-to-day lives, which I think makes the style one we recognize and relate to easier.

  2. "They are telling a story of something they experienced at one time but not in the present. They both are giving sort of a history lesson to the other narrator while at the same time filling us, the audience, in as well."

    Something you might want to consider with this style of narration is the way in which both narrators put their "spin" on the story of WH. How would the novel be different if it wasn't Nelly telling the story, but Heathcliff? or even Catherine's ghost? Oftentimes when WH is adapted for film the filmmakers completely take out Lockwood and Nelly Dean and just focus on the main love story. Why is it important that Lockwood and Nelly narrate this novel? What do these characters represent?

    For next week, consider watching one or two of the film adaptations of WH and explore how the film changes the novel and perhaps our opinions about the lovers Heathcliff and Cathy.