*Warning: This post contains spoilers about Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights. Read at your own risk if you are unfamiliar with the either book or the various adaptations.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Wuthering Heights to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
Not everyone can have their happy ending. Some of us, no matter how much we try, will never be able to walk into the proverbial sunset. In Wuthering Heights, Isabella Healthcliff (nee Linton) is Catherine Linton’s (nee Earnshaw) sister-in-law. When Heathcliff comes back into Catherine’s life a couple of years after she has married Edgar, Isabella develops a crush on Heathcliff. Why shouldn’t she? He is handsome, wealthy and in every sense of the word, eligible. Isabella is single, of age to marry and ready to marry.
The problem is that neither Catherine or Heathcliff have gotten over each other. Isabella becomes a pawn in their relationship. Running away with Heathcliff, they elope and Isabella is cut off from her brother. She will soon learn about the darker side of her husband. When she can no longer live with Heathcliff, she leaves hims and takes their young son, Linton to London. She dies young, hoping to leave her son in her brother’s care. But her husband wants his son back.
To sum it up: While we all wish for a happy ending, both on page with our characters and in our lives as human beings, we may not get that happy ending. Isabella is unfortunately a character whose happy ending is not what she envisioned. But she does one thing that makes her ending stand out: instead of staying with her abusive husband, she leaves him and takes their son with him.
In 19th century Victorian England, this was a brave choice that is a small, but pivotal change in the way happy endings are portrayed. So in a way, Isabella got her happy ending, but it was on her own terms. In that sense, Bronte flipped the standard happy ending narrative on its ear, creating a new happy ending. If a writer is looking to clear up the loose ends of their story with a happy ending, why not change that ending? Flip that happy ending on it’s ear, make the story even more memorable and leave the reader wanting more.