Jason: There are hundreds of great books in here ranging from the classics - Wuthering Heights - to the real classics, Valley of the Dolls.
Lorelai: Nice taste.
—Season 4, Episode 10
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in The Nanny and the Professor (i.e. season four, episode 10) as Jason gives Lorelei a tour of his amenity-laden guest room ... where he expects her to stay after they’ve, ahem, consummated their relationship. While the title itself is only referenced once, themes from Bronte’s novel are woven through the episode.
Consider other notable events in The Nanny and the Professor: Paris makes the best paper hat in the history of paper hats in between sneaking around with a much older professor at Yale, where she is A Student. Lorelei convinces Jason to keep their new relationship a secret from her parents, against his better judgment. And perhaps most disturbing of all: Richard and Emily return from Switzerland with premium marzipan for Rory and Lorelai, and they spit it into their napkins. What kind of boor dislikes marzipan?! (If you hate marzipan...I don't mean you.)
First published in 1847, Wuthering Heights also features forbidden romances, toxic secrets, and horrible choices (which are, admittedly, far more devastating that wasted marzipan, even if it is the most delectable sweet ever invented). It's about love, but not in the way we might expect in a novel that’s often referred to as a gothic romance. The story does feature moors, mood-evoking weather, and supernatural elements. But it’s not about romance, really. It’s about Heathcliff’s relentless quest for revenge and how the desire for vengeance can become an endless cycle of destruction. And that includes the destruction of the person exacting the revenge.
Heathcliff is an abandoned little boy rescued from the streets of Liverpool by Mr. Earnshaw, head of a manor called Wuthering Heights. Earnshaw brings Heathcliff home and treats him like a favored son, to the consternation of his biological son, Hindley. After Earnshaw’s death, Hindley reneges on his father’s wishes for Heathcliff. Hindley prevents Heathcliff from continuing his education and his relationship with Catherine, Hindley’s sister. In response, Heathcliff conceives an elaborate plan for revenge, and we watch that plan unfold across more than 20 years, two generations, and hundreds of pages. This isn't a spoiler so much as a warning: If you haven't read it, be prepared to stomach much emotional and physical abuse.
In one telling scene, one character victimized by Heathcliff tries to turn another character who has also been victimized by Heathcliff against him. Only the second character doesn’t realize what Heathcliff has done to him. He stands up for Heathcliff and reprimands the first character for speaking ill of him. In that moment, she realizes that her bitterness and desire for vengeance might poison someone else’s innocence with the result being that no one wins, including herself.
Heathcliff has forcibly taken from these characters the typical trappings of value in Victorian society—status, wealth, property. Unlike status, wealth, and property, though, these characters’ capacity to love can’t be taken from them by force. It can be relinquished, but only by consent.
Readers who like a tidy, unambiguous – especially morally unambiguous – ending may find Wuthering Heights vaguely unsettling. The key gem I keep returning to, the one I can’t stop thinking about, is what this novel says about love: It is not a zero sum game. It is not meant to be doled out as a reward after a long (metaphorical) night of suffering. It is not meant to be reserved only for the righteous.
Love is an irrational, unconditional force and a core need of every human. It may not be able to *fix* us, but maybe it can save us from ourselves.
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