Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was first published in 1847, during the Victorian Era. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was first published as a complete novel in 1902, beginning what is referred to as the Modernist Era in literature. Each of these compelling stories is narrated by an uninvolved character who is quoting a story told to them by a character who actually participated in the story being told. There are both differences and similarities in these effective methods of narration that reflect the styles and expectations of those times.
In Bronte's Wuthering Heights, the character of Lockwood begins the tale, and then moves into recounting the oration of the history of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange as seen through the eyes of Nelly Dean. Lockwood's additions to the story are limited to the beginning of the novel and to the end, and to one occasion when he pleads with Nelly Dean, "Draw your knitting out of your pocket-that will do-now continue the history of Mr. Heathcliff, from where you left off, to the present day"(WH 70). Nelly Dean, who was an active participant in some of the episodes she tells of (but not all of them) tells the bulk of the story to the reader.
In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, an unnamed seaman is recounting a tale told to him by Captain Marlow. The unnamed narrator's appearance is interspersed throughout the story, reminding the reader that it is a story being told to a group of sailors. "I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the he...
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...the same type of narrative frame, each is indicative of the time when it was written.
Emily Bronte wrote Nelly Dean's narrative to fit with the times and the audience of 1847. Fifty-five years later Joseph Conrad began the Modernist Era with his narrative by Marlow, and captured the attention of a new audience. As things changed and time moved on, so did the audiences for British Literature.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism. New Jersey. Prentice Hall, 1999.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. W.W. Norton: New York, 1990.
Conrad, Joseph. "Heart of Darkness" The Longman Anthology British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch. Longman. New York. 2000. 2190-2246.
Damrosch, David, et al., ed. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Vol. B. Compact ed. New York: Longman - Addison Wesley Longman, 2000.
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