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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë
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Why did Emily Bronte choose the narrators she did? Why do you think that Emily Bronte narrated the story through Nelly and Lockwood, when she could have narrated it in a more direct way?

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We have no record as to why Emily Bronte chose the narrators she did. If we work backwards, however, it is clear she needed narrators to fulfill two functions: first, to show how different the society of Wuthering Heights is from ordinary society, and second, as a witness to all...

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We have no record as to why Emily Bronte chose the narrators she did. If we work backwards, however, it is clear she needed narrators to fulfill two functions: first, to show how different the society of Wuthering Heights is from ordinary society, and second, as a witness to all the major events that occurred over a long period of time. In other words, she needed a complete outsider and a complete insider.

Lockwood—coming to the Grange as an affable, clueless, typical English gentleman—is the perfect outsider. He is from the south of England, and he is soft rather than rugged. When he ends up sick and curious about the mysterious Heathcliff and the diary entries he finds from the young Cathy, nothing could be more natural than to ask Nelly Dean to tell him their story to pass the time.

Nelly Dean is the ideal insider. She has been with the Earnshaw and Linton families almost her whole life as a servant, having attached herself to the Earnshaws as a child. As a servant in both the Earnshaw and Linton households and a maid to Catherine, Nelly has seen both families up close and personally. She knows their stories more fully than anyone else.

Both Lockwood and Nelly, however, are unreliable narrators. Nelly, especially, has contributed to the tragedy; she has every reason to shade the story to make herself look better and the original Catherine worse. The unreliable narration is part of the genius of the story and has beguiled readers and critics for generations.

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I was kind of frustrated by the narration when I first read this book, but I realize now that the frustration is part of the book's charm.  After all, that makes the book more interesting.  You really get drawn in, because just when you think you have it figured out, you don't!

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