What is the narrative technique used in Wuthering Heights?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Much has been written about the narrative technique of this outstanding novel, and in particular the Gothic characteristics that it employs. Firstly, let us note that a framing narrative is used, where the main story, that of Heathcliff and Catherine, is framed by another story, which is Lockwood's sojourn in the Yorkshire moors. Let us also realise that the main narrator, Lockwood, is one that is shown to be completely unreliable from almost his opening words. Note the way he misinterprets Heathcliff as a character:

A perfect misanthropist's heaven: and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us. A capital fellow! He little imagined how my heart warmed towards him when I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows, as I rode up, and when his fingers sheltered themselves, with a jealous resolution, still further in his waistcoat, when I announced my name.

As we go on to discover, Heathcliff is anything but a "capital fellow," and thus the vague indistinctness of this Gothic narrative is established, as not only are we narrated the tale overall by an unreliable narrator who does not come from Yorkshire and knows nothing of the manners and culture of the place, but the story also involves multiple narrators, creating different layers of narrative that add to the nebulous nature of the narrative. We have Lockwood telling us what Nelly tells him, but at times, Nelly only reports what others tell her, such as when Isabella flees Wuthering Heights. We need to penetrate through three or so layers of narration to try and discern the "truth" of what happened.

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Wuthering Heights

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