Undependable Narration of Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is the story of two intertwined families from late 18th century England through the start of the 19th century. Residing on an isolated moor, the households engage almost solely with each other, consistently intermarrying and moving between the manors Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The reader hears the story from Lockwood, the tenant of Thrushcross Grange, through the house cleaner, Nelly Dean.
After he inquires about Heathcliff, his odd proprietor living at nearby Wuthering Heights, Nelly recounts her experiences with the Earnshaws, former owners of Wuthering Heights; the Lintons, previous owners of Thrushcross Grange; and Heathcliff, a gypsy urchin adopted by Mr. Earnshaw. Nelly tells the story incorrectly to minimize her own participation and responsibility for the awful events that take place in Wuthering Heights. Nelly is an unreliable narrator. Lockwood is a bad judge of character who believes Nelly’s every word, but upon conference Catherine Heathcliff (Heathcliff’s daughter-in-law), even he acknowledges Nelly’s inaccuracy.
Cathy “? does not seem so amiable,’ I believed,? as Mrs. Dean would encourage me to believe. She’s a charm, it holds true; but not an angel'” (327 ). Nelly understands the characters personally, and for that reason has a biased viewpoint of them, embellishing some qualities while minimizing others based upon her experiences with them and her intentions. She later prepares to combine Lockwood and Cathy, so she represents Cathy as a romantic and virtuous character to Lockwood in order to raise his opinion of her. Also, Nelly is more thinking about informing an entertaining story than the fact.
She confesses that her intent is “to follow my story in true chatter’s fashion?” (67 ). As such, we can presume that some of the harder to think events? such as Heathcliff tossing a knife into his partner’s neck? may have been added or embellished for interest’s sake. In between Nelly’s intents to shape Lockwood’s viewpoints of characters, her personal bias of the characters, and her desire to inform an engaging story, Nelly Dean acts as an undependable narrator. Nelly is more included with the households than she leads Lockwood to think.
She attempts to represent herself as a transparent eye? one who experiences, but does not influence. We learn, nevertheless, that she is indeed involved beyond the function of an observer. Since her mom works for the Earnshaws, Nelly, as a kid, enters into the Earnshaw family: “I got used to playing with the kids” (37 ). The master, Mr. Earnshaw, treated her like one of his own kids, and when he went to the city “he did not forget me; for he had a kind heart, though he was rather severe in some cases.
He promised to bring me a pocketful of apples and pears” (37 ). He uses to bring her a treat from the city as he does his other kids; although her gift is definitely more economical than those he buys for his own children, it however shows her addition in the household. With such a relationship to her companies, she can never be a common servant. From a young age she resists any presentation of superiority by Catherine. “I would not bear slapping and ordering; and so I let her understand” (44 ).
For a servant to decline being struck is understandable, however for a servant to decline to take orders from her employers demonstrates the unconventional relationship that Nelly has with the Earnshaw family. As Nelly is so enmeshed with the family, any story regarding it would impact her life and be shaped by her impact. Early in Lockwood’s narration, he says of Nelly, “She was not a chatter, I feared, unless about her own affairs” (34 ). As she goes on to inform the entire story, this line reveals that these occasions are her affairs? her life is tied irrevocably to the story she relates.
Nelly is less of an unbiased observer and more of a participant in the events she relates than she makes it appear. Nelly’s involvement with the household causes much of the tragic occasions of the book. While she tries to portray her function in the story as that of a transparent eye, she has emotions towards the characters that form her actions and affect their lives. “Hindley hated him [Heathcliff]: and to say the truth I did the very same; and we plagued and went on with him shamefully” (39 ). Her emotions towards Heathcliff lead her to be an accessory to, if not an individual in, his abuse.
When they are children, Hindley throws an iron weight at Heathcliff, “hitting him on the breast, and down he fell, but staggered up right away, breathless and white; and, had not I avoided it, he would have gone just so to the master, and got complete vengeance by letting his condition plead for him, intimating who had actually triggered it” (41 ). Heathcliff had threatened to and intended to inform Hindley’s father of his vicious treatment. This would have probably stopped his abuse, ending the chain of events that triggered nearly all the awful events of the novel.
It would have made him less likely to deteriorate to the point where he was not fit to marry Catherine, so they may have ended up together as they appear to have actually indicated to be, leaving him no requirement to seek revenge and ruin either the Lintons or the Earnshaws. With this one small action, Nelly brought all those events to pass. With others actions throughout the book, Nelly contributes even more to the misery of all around her. When Catherine confides to Nelly her ideas on marital relationship, Nelly realizes they are being overheard. “Ere this speech ended I ended up being practical of Heathcliff’s presence?
I turned my head, and saw him rise from the bench, and take out noiselessly. He had actually listened till he heard Catherine state it would deteriorate her to wed him, and then he remained to hear no additional” (87 ). Catherine goes on to state that she likes Heathcliff more than anything else, however he does not hear this. Nelly neither stops Catherine from stating the harmful words that Heathcliff overhears, nor corrects them to him, nor informs her that he has actually overheard till after he has actually fled. This action ties into the same chain of occasions that Nelly had actually currently set in motion, being the final occasion necessary to force Heathcliff to leave.
The characters are not unconcerned to her hand in their bad luck. Those Nelly has affected recognize that some of the blame lies on her. When Catherine Linton ends up being extremely ill, Nelly does not inform Edgar. When Edgar discovers of this, he rages; “? You understood your girlfriend’s nature, and you encouraged me to bother her. And not to provide me one hint of how she has been these 3 days! It was heartless! ‘” (141 ). Catherine almost dies because of Nelly’s actions; had actually Nelly notified Edgar earlier, it might have been much less severe.
When Nelly notifies Edgar that Heathcliff has been going to Catherine, she says, “? Ah! Nelly has played traitor? Nelly is my hidden opponent. You witch! So you do seek elf-bolts to hurt us! Let me go, and I’ll make her rue! I’ll make her shout a recantation! ‘” (141 ). Catherine, who for so long has actually relied on Nelly in whatever, recognizes that Nelly has acted in a way that has actually hurt her. Nelly herself understands at one point her responsibility for the regrettable occasions: “Passing extreme judgment on my lots of derelictions of duty; from which, it struck me then, all the bad luck of my employers sprang?
I thought Heathcliff himself less guilty than I” (302 ). A truer declaration was not provided by Nelly in the whole novel. Nelly attempts to minimize her participation to Lockwood, stating that her responsibility for the events “Was not the case, in truth, I understand; but it was, in my imagination” (302 ). However, her earlier declaration more properly reflects the fact; Nelly is responsible in part for almost all the terrible events of the book. Nelly Dean functions as an unreliable narrator in an attempt to get rid of blame from herself.
She relates the story as gossip instead of a factual narrative, allowing her opinion to control her depictions of characters. Nelly is far more associated with the Earnshaw household and the story she relates than she recommends to Lockwood. Her participation, a minimum of in part, causes the majority of the catastrophes that happen. On a number of occasions the affected characters recognize the blame she is worthy of. Nelly narrates the story so as to portray herself as an uninvolved spectator instead of as the awful driver.