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Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë

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Cover of Standard eBooks version of Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights: Spoiler-Free Synopsis

As a young man, Heathcliff, an orphaned gypsy, is adopted by the Earnshaws, who live at Wuthering Heights, an isolated farm on the moors, where he becomes devoted to the pretty but spoiled daughter Catherine Earnshaw. In her turn, Cathy claims to love Heathcliff, but she longs for the money, education, and culture she sees in the Lintons, their neighbors at Thrushcross Grange. In an attempt to escape her narrow, abusive home-life, Cathy encourages Edgar Linton’s love and a proposal, arousing Heathcliff’s violent jealousy. Meanwhile, Edgar’s sister Isabella, though she has a pampered and luxurious life, wants to escape Thrushcross Grange, and she finds Heathcliff desperately exciting, arousing Cathy’s angry possessiveness. In this violent yet engrossing revenge tale, Heathcliff and Cathy’s tempestuous relationship threatens the lives of everyone in both families, as well as those of their descendants and the story’s multiple narrators. Can anyone survive their destructive passions?

The only undisputed portrait of Emily, by her brother Branwell Brontë.

Author Emily Brontë

One of the famous Brontë sisters, all authors, Emily was noted for her shyness, her love of nature, and her tendency to befriend stray neighborhood dogs. When a typhoid epidemic swept her boarding school, she was sent home (where two of her sisters died soon after) and educated at home. Emily wrote from a young age, mostly poetry and world-building with her sister Anne, and became a teacher at age 20. When Emily’s health suffered from the strain of teaching, she returned home. In 1848, shortly after the sudden death of her beloved brother Branwell, she took ill with an inflammation of the lungs from (undiagnosed) tuberculosis. She died in December 1848, only one year following the publication of Wuthering Heights, the novel for which she is famed.

1847 edition title page of Wuthering Heights with author’s pseudonym Ellis Bell

Critical Reception of  Wuthering Heights

Contemporaneous reviews (1847-49) of Wuthering Heights were not kind. While a few critics remarked on the terrific story (New Monthly)  and powerful writing (Tait’s Edinburgh Review), most critics declared Wuthering Heights  a strange book (Examiner), a disagreeable story (Athenaeum), or a strange, inartistic story (Atlas). Comparing the novel with Jayne Eyre, critic James Lorimer was brutally dismissive:

Here all the faults of Jane Eyre (by Charlotte Brontë) are magnified a thousand fold, and the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read. (North British Review)

Contemporary critics sometimes still compare Wuthering Heights to Jane Eyre (Virginia Woolf, 1916), liken its protagonists to Shakespeare’s villains (Joyce Carol Oates, 1983), and confess to loving its “strange cruelty and enchantment” (Anne Rice, 2004).

Still, Wuthering Heights, though warped into a strangely violent love story by Hollywood and some readers, is now generally accepted as a classic. While acknowledging the novel’s structure as famously complex, critics have begun to more closely analyze the multiple, unreliable narrators, questioning the identity of the real villains of the story. Many critics now view Wuthering Heights as arising from yet altering the patterns of its Gothic predecessors, with their ghosts, isolated castles or fortresses, and captive heroines, creating a more complex and ambiguous world than that found in Gothic novels, and portraying females as more than persecuted Gothic heroines. Like Jane Eyre, written by Emily’s sister Charlotte, Wuthering Heights deals honestly and critically with social issues, especially those concerning women and children, causing both Wuthering Heights and its author to now be revered as feminist icons.

Standard eBooks cover for Wuthering Heights

Free Public Domain Versions of Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is available free online because it is in the public domain: the work was not originally copyrighted, the registered copyright has expired, or the author has been dead for more than 100 years; like the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, the book is considered to belong to the public. Since it is not possible to copyright a work already in the public domain,  some publishers provide a short author BIO, an Introduction, or footnotes to their edition of a public domain work; publishers  can then copyright only that particular edition of the public domain book.

Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks, and WikiSource  are all dedicated to keeping public domain books completely free of charge and available to all readers: you can search any of their sites by author or title of the book.

You can read Wuthering Heights online or legally download a free copy from the following sites:

• Standard Ebooks provides a quality edited version with an artwork cover, available in ePub, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony editions. Detailed instructions for which version to download and how to put the book on your portable e-reader are included.

• Gutenberg.org provides an HTML version  (which can be read online) as well as PDF, plain text, ePub, and Kindle versions, all of which can be downloaded to your devices.

• WikiSource provides a 3-volume version of the 1847 first edition of Wuthering Heights (in two volumes; volume 3 of this edition is sister Anne’s Agnes Gray), available 0nline, for any device. This edition, unfortunately, has typographical errors (via the publisher, who was renowned for his carelessness), and, at this time, WikiSource does not yet have the 1849 second edition, corrected (and editorially revised) by the author’s sister Charlotte after the author’s death. The WikiSource unsourced edition may be the one upon which the Gutenberg edition is based. Both the first and the unsourced editions are available to read online.

• Amazon has an Amazon Classics ebook version (with a very brief, 2-paragraph biography of the author), but this public domain version is free only to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. (The other “free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers” version of the novel has a warning that it contains quality issues, i.e., numerous errors.)

Though the book is also available on many other sites, I have not included any sites which have intrusive or misleading ads. The following sites offer Wuthering Heights free, but I have not examined these versions for typographical or editorial errors.

• ManyBooks provides the Gutenberg.org 1910 edition of Wuthering Heights, available online only, although you can change the font size.

• FullTextArchive has the novel, divided into 7 parts, available to read online or as a pdf to download to any device.

• Freeditorial offers an online, pdf, and epub versions. You can also send a copy of the file to your Kindle or Kindle app by providing your unique Kindle email address.

Other Free Wuthering Heights Information: Wikipedia’s Wuthering Heights has a plot summary, novel timeline, character list, and family relationships chart.

Audiobook: Although Amazon offers audio versions of many of the books in its classics series, the digital-mechanical voices “reading” the books are often stilted and distracting. The higher quality audiobooks are rarely free or even discounted. If you are not yet a member of Audible, however, you receive two free titles during your trial membership, one of which could be Audible’s exclusive version of Wuthering Heights, read by Joanne Froggart (of Downton Abbey fame). Additionally, both the Juliet Stevenson and Janet McTeer narrations of this novel are also excellent audiobooks, and you could choose one of those as your free title. Any free audiobooks acquired during the Audible trial remain in your library even if you cancel your membership.


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Looking for other classic poems, stories, novellas,
novels, or nonfiction books in the public domain?
See my Free Classics page

 


• Portrait of Emily Brontë, by Patrick Branwell Brontë. Photo @ Wikipedia

• 1847 (first edition) title page of Wuthering Heights with Brontë’s pseudonym “Ellis Bell.” Published by Thomas Cautley Newby. Photo @ Wikipedia

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Yet More Free Scary Stories, 22-31 October 2018

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All these classic stories are in the public domain,
available in their entirety online or as free ebooks
(22-31 October 2018)

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for Halloween (1-7 October)

More Free Scary Stories
for Halloween (8-14 October)

Even More Free Scary Stories
for Halloween (15-21 October)

Yet More Free Scary Stories
for Halloween (22-31 October)

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The Tragedy Doomed to Repeat Itself: The Devil’s Backbone, the Film

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What is a ghost?
A tragedy doomed to repeat itself time and time again?
An instant of pain, perhaps.
Something dead which still seems to be alive.
An emotion, suspended in time.
Like a blurred photograph.
Like an insect trapped in amber.

— Narrator, The Devil’s Backbone

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#NoSpoilers

Whether as writer, director, or producer, Guillermo del Toro is known for films which mesh fairy tales and horror, among them Pan’s Labyrinth, The Orphanage, and Julia’s Eyes. Many of his films are classified as  “dark Spanish fantasy” or “gothic horror,”  and his films are, indeed, full of horror. Del Toro has called The Devil’s Backbone (2001) his “most personal film.” Like many of his others, this film features ghosts, orphans, and abandoned children, all tangled together, trying desperately to survive and to figure out what has happened to their previously happy lives. Ghosts and murder, betrayal and tragedy, pain and destiny and loneliness: these are the themes of The Devil’s Backbone, where evil is not so much supernatural as it is a daily human reality. In The Devil’s Backbone, the most terrifying evil is not external but, instead, within the humans themselves.

Marisa Paredes as Carmen, The Devil’s Backbone ©

At an isolated orphanage in 1939, during the Spanish Civil War, Headmistress Carmen (Marisa Paredes), who is an amputee, secretly supports partisans, and has a stash of gold intended to aid their cause.

Federico Luppi as Casares, The Devil’s Backbone ©

The co-director of the orphanage is Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi), who has long been in love with Carmen, and who is helping her hide gold for the Resistance.

Fernando Tielve as Carlos, The Devil’s Backbone ©

A young boy, Carlos (Fernando Tielve), is left at the Home by his tutor, who neglects to tell the boy that his father is dead, killed in the War. Before Carlos even realizes that he will be permanently staying at the orphanage, he sees the ghost of a boy his own age.

The Devil’s Backbone ©

Though the other orphans speak in whispers in the dark of night of “the one who sighs,” the adults do not even discuss the War with the children, though it has affected all the boys’ lives, let alone talk about a ghost or anything else supernatural with them. The orphans make up their own stories about the ghost and why it may be haunting the orphanage. The orphans do not know the ghost’s “secret,” so they make up reasons for its haunting the Home.

The Devil’s Backbone ©

The adults don’t seem to know about the ghost, but all the adults at the Home have secrets, none more so than the violent and angry caretaker Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega). He was once an orphan at the Home himself and has returned only to get at the hidden stash of partisan-gold.

Eduardo Noriega as Jacinto, The Devil’s Backbone ©

Jacinto terrorizes and abuses the orphan boys. He steals keys at night to secretly search for the hidden gold. He ruthlessly manipulates the women at the school by having sexual relations with several of them, pretending to be emotionally attached to each of them, including Headmistress Carmen and young Conchita (Irene Visedo, below L), who is herself in love with Jacinto.

Irene Visedo as Conchita, and Eduardo Noriega as Jacinto, The Devil’s Backbone ©

And this is the place where young Carlos is now trapped, like the ghost that he keeps seeing. Unfortunately for Carlos, Jacinto is not the only person at the Home who bullies the boys. One of the orphans, Jaime (Íñigo Garcés, below L), is just as ferocious and tyrannical as Jacinto.

Íñigo Garcés as Jaime, and Irene Visedo as Conchita, The Devil’s Backbone ©

Jaime, who is in love with the pretty Conchita, takes out his frustrated, unrequited love on the younger boys, especially on the ten-year-old, fellow orphan Carlos.

To deal with his own emotional pain, abandonment, and loss, Carlos decides to overcome his terror of the ghost. He begins to investigate the boy-ghost, hoping to discover the ghost’s secret. How did a mere boy, after all, become a ghost trapped for eternity at the Home? Did the boy die in the War, or did he die in the orphanage itself? If the boy did, in fact, die at the Home — which would explain why the ghost is still there, haunting the other orphans — how did the young boy die? Was he a victim of illness, accident, or murder?

Carlos is desperate to discover the ghost’s secret before he himself is killed — by Jacinto, by Jaime, or by another wayward bomb like the unexploded one in the Home’s courtyard — and becomes a ghost forever trapped in the place Carlos hates most in all the world.

In Spanish with subtitles, The Devil’s Backbone is as much about the perils of war as about ghosts, and as much about man’s cruelty to each other as it is about the things that haunt us, whether they be the pain of abandonment, ghosts that roam the corridors at night, or our own secret pasts.

The Devil’s Backbone is available for about $2.99 for rent from Amazon,  YouTube, and iTunes.

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Not For Children: The Horror Film The Orphanage

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Not For Children: The Horror Film The Orphanage

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Of all the horror films I have ever watched or blogged about, The Orphanage (2007) — written by Sergio G. Sánchez, directed by  JA Bayona, and produced by Guillermo del Toro (The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth) — is the only one that I would caution adults not to allow children to watch. As in many of del Toro’s other films, there is a strong connection between fairy tales and horror, but I’m not talking about the sanitized versions of fairy tales that most children are now familiar with. If children, especially those under age 10, watch this film with you, they may be quite distressed. By the time you discover why young children should not watch The Orphanage, it’ll be too late: they’ll probably be seriously upset by this film, if not actually traumatized, so be warned. The Orphanage is R-rated for a reason, and there are no special effects, bad language,  or graphic violence to warrant the rating: the mature rating comes purely in the content of the story itself.

Belén Rueda as Laura, The Orphanage ©

Laura (Belén Rueda) spent many of her formative years in an orphanage, where she loved, and was loved by, the other children. Despite her having grown up without parents, Laura she remembers being happy in that orphanage.

The Orphanage ©

In an attempt to “pay back” society for her secure and relatively happy childhood, she purchases the old home and decides to take in special needs children.

Belén Ruedo as Laura, and Fernando Cayo as Carlos, The Orphanage ©

With Laura are her husband Carlos (Fernando Cayo), who’s an MD, and their son Simón (Roger Princep), who doesn’t know that he’s adopted nor that he’s seriously ill (he’s HIV-positive).

Roger Princep as Simón, The Orphanage ©

Simón already has a couple of imaginary friends, but he makes a few new imaginary friends at the orphanage-now-home. This starts to disturb his parents, who aren’t sure that he’s not just trying to get more attention at a time when their focus is going to be divided among the new resident children, all of whom will have special needs.

Roger Princep as Simón, and Belén Rueda as Laura, The Orphanage ©

On the day of the party to welcome the special needs children who will be living at the orphanage,  Mama Laura sees a strange, hooded figure, and she thinks it is Simón, trying to get attention.

The Orphanage ©

When the strange figure then attacks her, Laura is frightened, not only for herself but for Simón, who goes missing on the same day.

The Orphanage ©

And Laura’s life deteriorates from there.

Belén Rueda as Laura, The Orphanage ©

Laura becomes a sort of detective, trying to discover what might have happened to her son. She also invites a psychic (Geraldine Chaplin) to visit the orphanage in an attempt to locate the missing Simón.

Geraldine Chaplin, The Orphanage ©

Though her husband and other grieving parents who have lost children attempt to convince Laura that Simón is dead, rather than merely missing, she refuses to give up hope. She travels all around the area looking for her son. When husband Carlos suggests they leave the scene of their tragic loss, Laura insists they remain at the orphanage, if only because it was the last place anyone saw her son.

The Orphanage ©

Laura then decides that the mysterious hooded figure she saw on the day Simón disappeared must have been a ghost. She is determined to make contact with any ghosts who might be at the orphanage, to ask them for help locating her son.

The Orphanage ©

Some reviewers of the film complained that the ghosts were a minor part of the story, and I have to admit that they are, but I found that a strength of the film rather than a weakness. The Orphanage is about loss and grieving, about guilt and hope. It’s about parents and children, husbands and wives. It’s about how tragedy can forever change everything in our lives, and how some people simply cannot live with the devastating pain of irreparable loss.

It is not a film for young children: you will just have to trust me on this.

In Spanish with English subtitles, The Orphanage is an intense and excruciating psychological drama, masking itself as a ghost story. Yes, there are some ghosts, but that is not why this is a powerful and memorable film.

Winner of 14 Goya Awards (Spanish Academy Awards) and winner of 8, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, The Orphanage is available for rent for $2.99 from Amazon, from iTunes, and from Vudu.

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The Demons Within Us: The Innocents, the Film

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I first read The Turn of the Screw when I was ten years old after I learned it was about ghosts, and much of what I loved about the book was what I still love: are there really ghosts or are they figments of troubled people’s imagination? Last year, I saw the original British film adaptation of Henry James’ classic ghost story, The Turn of the Screw, and was completely spooked by the great performances and the cinematography. I don’t know how I missed the film before, given my obsession with scary movies and my complete worship of Deborah Kerr, who plays the spooked governess. With a screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, The Turn of the Screw has fantastic acting, and the performances are plenty scary without any special effects.

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Deborah Kerr as governess Miss Giddens, The Innocents (C)

Deborah Kerr stars as the Governess, Miss Giddens, who comes to an isolated estate to care for two orphans, Flora (Pamela Franklin) and Miles (Martin Stephens),

Pamela Franklin as Flora, and Martin Stephens as Miles, The Innocents ©

who are just too beautiful and too-too perfect to be believed.

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Still, Miss Giddens is happy enough with her lovely charges and with the gorgeous house, despite all its creakity-creaks and spookity-shadows and creepity closed-off rooms. She’s happy with the beautiful gardens and the beautiful lake and the outdoor picnics with the ever-so-beautiful children and… oh, all of it.

Even if she occasionally does think she sees something out of place and inexplicable…

The Innocents ©

Oh, it’s just her imagination, isn’t it, because she’s happy with the house, the garden, the lake, and she’s so incredibly happy with the sweet, innocent, beautiful, orphan children. Most of all, she’s happy with those sweet children.

Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddens, The Innocents ©

Until she begins to be unhappy with them.

Why? Maybe they’re too beautiful. Maybe they’re too perfect. Maybe they’re too mature. Maybe…

Martin Stephens as Miles and Deborah Kerr as Miss Giddens, The Innocents ©

Well, it’s bad enough that Miss Giddens thinks the two siblings are keeping secrets from her and lying about it. Even worse when they two of them go off on the grounds by themselves without her permission or knowledge. And it’s really not very proper at all when she says “goodnight” to Miles and he kisses her in a totally inappropriate way.

The Ghost and Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr), The Innocents ©

When Miss Giddens begins to see ghosts, she gets scared. When she begins to suspect that the children know all about the ghosts, who seem to be the ghosts of people that the children actually knew, she gets worried. But when Miss Giddens begins to suspect that the lovely orphan children may, in fact, be possessed by the ghosts’ evil spirits, well, that’s an entirely different story. Miss Giddens feels morally responsible for the children’s welfare, so she simply must do something drastic to protect them from physical, psychological, and spiritual danger.

The film stays close to the source material in never revealing whether or not the children can also see the ghosts, leading us to question the Governess’ sanity as she attempts to free her charges of the evil that she believes possesses them. Are the ghosts merely a figment of her imagination? Are the children possessed?   Is Miss Giddens dangerously crazy? You’ll have to decide those for yourself in this scary classic.

If you’ve read the Henry James novella, you’ll really appreciate the film’s subtlety. If you’ve seen the later remake of the same work, The Others, there’s no comparison: both films are great though they are completely different from each other.  The Others is one of my top 7 Wonders of the Horror World.

Whatever version of The Innocents you find — dated 1956 or 1961 — make sure you have the black & white film, not the colorized one: the stark cinematography helps create the scares in this completely non-CGI horror classic.  The Innocents is available for rent or purchase from Amazon.

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Scarier Than Scary Because It Could Actually Happen:
The Bad Seed, the Film

 

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