Illustration of a tree on a hill with a women's head in the background

Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë
Start Free Trial

How reliable is Nelly Dean as a narrator in Wuthering Heights?

Nelly Dean is a pretty reliable narrator, because she preserves a critical distance and is upfront about the gossipy nature of her story.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Nelly Dean could be considered a pretty reliable narrator because she maintains a critical distance. As a member of the Earnshaw household, one might presume that she’d be partial. However, Nelly’s position as a domestic worker doesn’t lead her to lose her objectivity when it comes to her employers.

In...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

Nelly Dean could be considered a pretty reliable narrator because she maintains a critical distance. As a member of the Earnshaw household, one might presume that she’d be partial. However, Nelly’s position as a domestic worker doesn’t lead her to lose her objectivity when it comes to her employers.

In chapter 9, Catherine famously announces, “Nelly, I am Heathcliff.” Nelly counters Catherine’s passionate declaration by calling it “nonsense.” With her willingness to push back against Catherine’s views, Nelly shows that the opinions of others don’t easily sway her or cloud her judgment. Although she’s a part of the dramatic events, she preserves a level perspective that makes it hard to argue that she’s unreliable.

Further evidence of Nelly’s reliability is in her awareness. Near the end of chapter 7, Nelly draws attention to the gossipy elements of her narrative. “If I am to follow my story in true gossip’s fashion, I had better go on,” Nelly informs Lockwood. It’s as if Nelly addresses the proverbial elephant in the room. By using the word gossip, Nelly acknowledges that her story could be portrayed as rumors or hearsay. She concedes that some might see her as unreliable, which demonstrates understanding and honestytraits that point to reliability.

Of course, Nelly isn’t the only narrator of Wuthering Heights. Lockwood narrates parts of the novel. As Lockwood’s depictions don’t drastically differ from Nelly’s, her narration is, in a sense, validated. Lockwood’s assessment of Nelly—she’s not “a regular gossip”—also reinforces her reliability.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on