1) Discuss the role of Nelly Dean in Wuthering Heights.
- In a novel the effect of a narrator gives the reader an intimate but subjective account of events. It removes
the omniscience of the author and the possibility of objectivity. We can take nothing for granted and
must be wary of forming judgements on the basis of what we are told and how we are told it.
- Why should Bronte choose Nelly Dean as the narrator of Wuthering Heights? As a respected, educated
servant, she is socially mobile. This enables her access to events and conversations. She is both a part
of and removed from the action.
- However, more importantly, she provides a contrast to the extreme emotions exhibited by Heathcliff
and Cathy, making them believable. Remark upon the episode depicting Heathcliffs grief after Cathys
death. "Her life closed in a gentle dream - may she wake as kindly in the other world" is Nellys word on
the death while Heathcliff responds in a "sudden paroxysm of ungovernable passion", "May she wake
do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you". The force of
Heathcliffs emotion affects the reader more because of Nellys sober, startled reaction that is juxtaposed
with it. Similar is the role of Nelly when Cathys declares her love for Edgar and Heathcliff. Catherine
speaks in metaphors and with the false certainty originating in passion: "Nelly, I am Heathcliff
speak of our separation again it is impracticable; and
". Nelly responds, "If I can make any sense of your
you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in marrying" and so on, in sober guidance.
Close attention to the text shows how the pitch of Heathcliff and Cathys language in relation to Nellys is
more taut and intense. Without her scepticism and baffled reactions, the reader would find it difficult to
maintain empathy for and belief in these characters.
- By making an ordinary woman relate extraordinary scenes, Bronte is also able to comment on conventional
expectations of behaviour. Bronte gives herself license to make observations about social behaviour and
their often rotten core with an ingenious vagueness and ambiguity. See also Mary Shelleys Frankenstein
(1818) for a similar technique of multiple narrative layers used partly to protect the unconventional views
of a woman writing novels when women could not openly challenge society and male dominance in
2) What is the significance of location for Wuthering Heights?
- What is the effect of the title of the novel? It elevates the importance of location and intimates that this
significantly affects the characters and events. Also gives greater significance to Wuthering Heights and
- Consider the depiction of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The former is representative of
nature, the latter of culture and sophistication. Show how this is achieved in the imagery with the use of
- Then detail the implications of location for the characters of the novel:
a) The nature that surrounds each place is echoed in the inhabitants natures.
b) Location is also a dynamic force, serving to affect and turn characters too: Isabella becomes bolder
and less refined when at the Heights; Heathcliff becomes a gentleman when away from the raw uncivilized
- Just as the erection of any boundary is undermined, so Bronte stresses the interplay between location
and character, and how places serve to affect and feed emotions and behaviour. But this interaction
is always under stress, and is epitomized in the title, with the openness and vagueness of the word
Wuthering opposing the remoteness implied by Heights.
3) Wuthering Heights has been described as irreligious. Do you agree?
- Joseph is the voice of conventional, organized religion, but he is portrayed as a pious and cruel man.
Therefore this may suggests that Bronte is critical of Christian teaching or at least the men who represent
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