Essay on Nelly’s Importance in Wuthering Heights

Essay on Nelly’s Importance in Wuthering Heights

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In the 1847 novel of Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte brilliantly employs frame narrative in order to tell a story within a story. The character of Ellen Dean, known formally as Nelly, tells of the past and present from her first person perspective, to the visiting Mr. Lockwood. She depicts the events as she recalls them that transpired during her years at the respective houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. She talks of the past as she remembers it, and also from what she sees, hears or finds out through the other characters’ words and actions. Although Nelly is basing the characters solely on her own interpretation of them, she is a pretty reliable source, having grown up with the first generation of characters and cared for the second. She grew up on the moors and her life revolves around the Earnshaws and the Lintons, whom she serves in more ways than one. Nelly’s devotion as well as criticism allows her to be a faithful servant throughout the years, as well as a sounding board for the other character’s problems. This allows her to narrate with some credibility because she’s witnessed and been involved in private moments between these two intertwining families all her life. Without her account of the events that took place on the Yorkshire moors, it would all be a mystery. In Wuthering Heights, Bronte depicts Nelly as the servant, confidant and mother figure and without her narrative the story would not be as plausible.
Nelly Dean’s position as a longtime servant for both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange allow her easy access to the personal lives of these two dysfunctional families. Nelly was brought to Wuthering Heights by her mother, who was a nursemaid for Hindley Earnshaw. She grew up around the E...


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...he was able to interpret the events of her life, and for the first time tell a visitor of everything that has gone on. Since Nelly’s life was not personally haunted by regrets, like Catherine and Heathcliff’s, she is able to recite the past and present in a clear and rational way. Lockwood believes her story and is so intrigued by all the dreadful events that took place across a lifetime on these Yorkshire moors. From the outside looking in it may appear that the Earnshaws and Lintons were just a private family living their lives, but nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors, except for the help, our Nelly. This is why her narration is crucial and without it, the story of Wuthering Heights may still exist, but would not be as believable.




Works Cited

Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. Ed. Richard J. Dunn. 4th ed. New York: Norton, 2003.

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