Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 3

Today, telling my daughter-in-law about the turning point at a novel’s centre, I picked up a book lying on her table, Wuthering Heights, to demonstrate.  I calculated the number of pages in the story, then halved it and turned to that page, ending up at p. 166, the early part of Volume Two where Heathcliff asks Nelly Dean how Catherine died.  Nelly replies:

‘Her life closed in a gentle dream – may she wake as kindly in the other world!’

And Heathcliff responds darkly, horrifying many of the readers in 1847 who were frightened by this unstable, devilish man and what he was going to do with this consuming love in the second half of the story:

‘May she wake in torment!’ he cried, with frightful vehemence, stamping his foot, and groaning in a sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion. ‘Why, she’s a liar to the end! Where is she? Not there – not in heaven – not perished – where? Oh! you said you cared nothing for my sufferings! And I pray one prayer – I repeat it till my tongue stiffens – Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers.’

*****

5 thoughts on “Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 3

    • The girls chose Brontë novels, the boys chose Dickens. And the teachers chose Dickens. Except in girls’ schools. It’s still the same these days: my teenage students who attend all-girls schools have to read Jane Austen, and those from mixed schools are given H.G. Wells.

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