Narrative Styles in the Openings of Wuthering Heights and Silas Marner

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Narrative Styles in the Openings of Wuthering Heights and Silas Marner

Silas Marner and Wuthering Heights are two novels in which the past is very important in an understanding of the circumstances of the present. Both novels deal with the thwarting of passions and their deformation into ugliness. Yet both novels are also concerned with ways in which evils and wrong choices can be made right as time passes. In both novels the past informs the present, and through actions of characters willing to address the past, the evils of the past can be alleviated or resolved in ways which suggest hope and spiritual progress.

In the opening of both of these novels the authors invite the readers into the strange worlds which are the location of the tales. George Eliot uses a storytelling form, in which she, as omniscient author appears as the guide towards understanding the action. In Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte employs a unique narrative style, allowing secondary characters to tell the story of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. In both novels the opening chapters prepare the reader for the intricate weaving of character, psychology, landscape and situation.

Although Wuthering Heights is about the love relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine, the story is told mainly form the perspective of Nelly Dean, a servant in the employ of Ernshaw's who makes it very clear from the outset of her narrative that she never like Heathcliff. One could wonder if her perspective is to be taken as truth, considering the problems of subjectivity of voice, if it were not for the introduction, at the very opening of the novel, in which the minor character, Mr. Lockwood, opens the novel with his observations on the chaos he finds at Wut...

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...ssion: either ruthless desire for revenge as in the case of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, who is seeking a way to gain control after loss of his relationship to Catherine, or in Silas Marner, the process of emerging from a state of lifelessness caused by an equally deep betrayal and displacement. Bronte presents her narrative in round about ways, through other voices and characters who witness the events of the past; Eliot presents her novel as a tale told by an omniscient narrator. Both forms serve the narrative development in each case very well, and contribute to the tone of the novel excellently, allowing theme and symbol to rise along with plot and story in intricate ways.


1. Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Penguin Books, London:


2. Eliot, George. Silas Marner. Penguin Books, London: 1967.
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