Why is Ellen Dean such an important character in Wuthering Heights, besides the fact that she narrates the story and has personal knowledge of events that take place?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ellen Dean is an important character in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte because she is believable. When you think about it, some of the characters in the novel are a bit crazy, not to mention Cathy and Heathcliffe themselves and the author may have been seeking to establish a solid backbone, or an underpinning, to add credence to her wild tale. Itis worth remembering that an elderly relative (an eminently staid and sensible one,) came to look after the little Brontes after their mother died.) She's one of the two narrators, and like Emily's aunt,  is loyal but conventional. She's very literal and sensible not seeing anything weird in the novel's events. Her unflappable and maybe even boring personality may act as a foil for Emily's weird descriptions. There may be a bit of the servant about her as well - she has the 'see no evil ,hear no evil' style that stems from a servant's dependence on his masters and the need to show no curiosity about his affairs whatsoever for fear of losing job and livelihood. For example, Ellen Dean (Nelly) shows no revulsion whatsoever to the thought of a bloodstained tree trunk and the actions that may have caused it. However, she can be outspoken at times, but mainly when she feels she is doing her job - she questions Cathy about wanting to marry Edgar, and suggests to Heathcliff that he might want to go to confession before he dies. Perhaps it is her God and her role that give her moral strength at these times.

abwa2013 | Student

Thank you!

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Wuthering Heights

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