In what ways do Nelly Dean and Lockwood help us to understand the story and characters of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights? Essay
Emily Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights in 1847, and it was then published later the same year, during the gothic period of romantic tales. In the novel, there are two narrators, Mr. Lockwood, the new ‘misanthropic’ tenant at Thrushcross Grange, who has only recently met his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, and Nelly Dean, who is a servant at Wuthering Heights and has lived there almost all her life, she grew up with Cathy Earnshaw, Hindley Earnshaw and their adoptive brother Heathcliff, therefore she knows and understands the past of the moody character the best.
The two narrators are very different in many different aspects. For one, Mr. Lockwood is a male narrator from the South of England and a different social class to Nelly; this affects his use of language and tone of how he tells the story of Wuthering Heights. Nelly, on the other hand, is a Northern woman, who is very straight forward and practical which makes her story more realistic as she does not put as much detail in her words as Mr. Lockwood. Both the narrators however are unreliable.
This means that the story that they tell is from their point of view and most likely in their own opinion. For example, Nelly says that when she first met Heathcliff, he was a “dirty, ragged, black-haired child” but that was only judgement of his appearance and she would not have been able to tell of his personality. This technique that Bronte has used, gives the reader the information of the story and what has happened, leaving it to them to figure out the facts for themselves.
Mr. Lockwood is a middle class, descriptive person who is sensitive towards emotions. He is polite and conciliatory, unlike Heathcliff who is blunt, rude and unwelcoming. However this is only Mr. Lockwood’s opinion of him, and therefore may not be true of his character. By moving to Thrushcross Grange, Mr. Lockwood searched for a “perfect misanthropist heaven” inclining that he shares the hatred for society with Heathcliff. From the way Mr. Lockwood talks, we can tell that he has sarcasm and the slightest hint of humour in tone, Heathcliff does no appreciate this and tries to attack Mr. Lockwood’s excitement and stop him from making side comments about Wuthering Heights and it’s occupants, “‘Not bitten, are you?’, ‘If I had been, I would have set my signet on the biter.’, Heathcliff’s countenance relaxed in to a grin.”
Mr. Lockwood had not always been a person who hates society, he once loved a woman with passion, but he was too afraid to approach her and was distant and cold towards her. This made her uncertain and so she decamped with her mother, leaving her admirer heart-broken. However when he meets Cathy’s ghost, he acts very differently. When he saw her he was frightened of her and so scared that he panicked and started to hurt her, however he would not normally treat anyone like this. This tells us more about Mr. Lockwood’s character and that he has a thought for the supernatural, and most likely dislikes it.
Mr. Lockwood’s narration revels the theme of the novel by the way he talks and explains the goings on of the story. He use detail and meaningful words which inclines that the story it self has a deep meaning hidden inside the details.
Nelly Dean is a lower class, middle aged woman who knows the full story of the Earnshaws and Heathcliff himself. As she grew up with them all, she understands them the best and knows things and details that no one else would at the time, like the secrets that the children told her. When she first encounters Heathcliff, she dislikes him like Mrs. Earnshaw, and agrees with her calling him a “gipsy brat”. However, when she gets to know a little better she grows fond of him and thinks of what is best for him.
“‘Make haste, Heathcliff!’ I said, ‘the kitchen is so comfortable – and Joseph is upstairs; make haste, and let me dress you smart before Miss Cathy comes out – and then you can sit together, with the whole hearth to yourselves, and have a long chatter till bedtime.’ He proceeded with his task and never turned his head towards me.” This shows that even though Nelly is trying to do the best for Cathy and Heathcliff, her help is ignored and shunned aside due to the anger that writhes within Heathcliff, like a wild savagery. Nelly can be judged as a cold, harsh woman, but when you hear the story that she has to tell, you can understand why she acts this way.
The tone that she uses is a blunt and straight forward one that does not complicate things for the reader and does not confuse them with long, misunderstood metaphors or details unless they are vital to what she is saying. Her language is not simple, which shows that even of a low class, she is highly educated and well brought up.
Mr. Lockwood’s and Nelly Dean’s narrations differ greatly and help us to understand the story in many ways, the fact that they are both unreliable narrators gives us the opportunity to find out about characters and settings from two very different points of view, this allows us to try and piece the puzzle together so that we do not get a positive picture as such, but have a vague idea of what happened, who the characters and what they could be like and the way things were in general.