Unreliable Narration of Wuthering Heights

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Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is the story of two intertwined families from late 18th century England through the beginning of the 19th century. Living on an isolated moor, the families interact almost exclusively with each other, repeatedly intermarrying and moving between the manors Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The reader hears the story from Lockwood, the tenant of Thrushcross Grange, through the housekeeper, Nelly Dean. After he inquires about Heathcliff, his strange landlord living at nearby Wuthering Heights, Nelly recounts her experiences with the Earnshaws, former owners of Wuthering Heights; the Lintons, former owners of Thrushcross Grange; and Heathcliff, a gypsy urchin adopted by Mr. Earnshaw. Nelly narrates the story inaccurately to downplay her own involvement and responsibility for the tragic events that occur in Wuthering Heights. Nelly is an unreliable narrator. Lockwood is a poor judge of character who believes Nelly's every word, but upon meeting Catherine Heathcliff (Heathcliff's daughter-in-law), even he recognizes Nelly's inaccuracy. Cathy "‘does not seem so amiable,' I thought, ‘as Mrs. Dean would persuade me to believe. She's a beauty, it is true; but not an angel'" (327). Nelly knows the characters personally, and therefore has a biased opinion of them, embellishing some characteristics while downplaying others based on her experiences with them and her intentions. She later plans to bring together Lockwood and Cathy, so she portrays Cathy as a romantic and virtuous character to Lockwood in order to raise his opinion of her. Also, Nelly is more interested in telling an entertaining story than the truth. She admits that her intent is "to follow my story in true gossip's fashion…" (67). As such, we can assume that some of the harder to believe events—such as Heathcliff throwing a knife into his wife's neck—may have been added or embellished for interest's sake. Between Nelly's intentions to shape Lockwood's...
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