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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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Nelly Dean is a mainstay in both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. She has "seen it all" through serving the generations of Earnshaws and Lintons. Fortunately for the reader, Nelly is a regular "chatty cathy" and loves to tell the extended tale of tormented love on the moors.

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When Ellen (Nelly) Dean picks up the narration of the story, it is her familiarity with what happened to both families that gives the story its strength. She's almost always in the position of having to be the bearer of fateful news. For example, she has to tell Heathcliff of the first Catherine's death even though she doesn't want to. She sort of imposes herself into the other characters' lives. She boldly questions Catherine about her reasons for marrying Edgar. At the end, she suggests that Heathcliff should make his confession before dying.

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Describe how Ellen Dean has first-hand knowledge of both of the families and is so well acquainted with the events of this novel.

Ellen Dean, or Nelly, is a trusted servant for the Earnshaws and has been for years.  "Nelly is loyal but conventional, and reads very little into events, " says the enotes discussion.  It continues:  "Nelly's familiarity with the actors is an important element of the narration, and a hazard of her station is that she must repeatedly be the bearer of news that will move the action in a fateful direction."  She is a person who speaks her mind when called upon but who has little self interest. We often have her observations of a character and her/his actions even if she had not told these opinions to the character.She is with the family when they bring Heathcliff home, understanding and loving in different degrees the members, aware of their cruelty to Heathcliff but equally aware that becomes a misfit. She knows Cathy's ability to be cruel, and tells her it is not right to marry Linton. As for the Lintons, she works for them at times too, living with them with Cathy goes to marry Linton.

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