Wuthering Heights - Narrative Techniques

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The Narrative Techniques in Wuthering Heights
Although Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel, it is notable for the narrative technique she employed and the level of craftsmanship involved in it. Although there are only two obvious narrators, Lockwood and Nelly Dean, a variety of other narratives are interspersed throughout the novel. The reasons for this are that the whole action of Wuthering Heights is presented in the form of eyewitness narrations by people who have played some part in the narration they describe. Unlike other novels where parallel narratives exist i.e. same event, within the same time frame being narrated from different perspectives, Wuthering Heights has a multi-layered narration, each individual narrative opening out from its parent to reveal a new stratum (level) of the story. This intricate technique helps to maintain a continuos narrative despite of the difficulties posed by the huge time-shifts involved in the novel. Lockwood’s narrative is the outer framework of the story. He is then present as the recipient of Nelly’s story and she in turn is the recipient of tertiary narratives. A.) Heathcliff: Chapter 6, 29

B.) Isabella: Chapter 13, 17
C.) Cathy: Chapter 24
D.) Zilla: Chapter 30.
Nelly’s narrative is so dramatised that we could argue that much of it is in the form of a tertiary narration, e.g. the conversation involving Heathcliff, Catherine and Edgar on Heathcliff’s return is recorded in the words of the participants. The effect of this is to present the story directly to the reader so that our perception is constantly changing as if we were witnessing a drama. The difficulty facing the author at the beginning if the novel was to find a method by which the reader could be introduced into the household of the Heights, so that its characters and its ambience could be understood. The purpose of Bronte’s narrative is to draw the reader into a position where he can only judge its events from within. Lockwood presents the normal outsider or the reader, by drawing him into the penetralium, the reader is cleverly introduced to the realities of this hostile and bewildering environment. The narrative form poses severe limitations for the author in that she cannot use her own voice, the story must speak entirely for itself, its values must be self-generated, created for us by the language which must be emotive and strong, particularly in moments of self revelation and strong feeling. In Wuthering Heights each narrative takes place within the action occupying an important place in the dramatic structure so that the reader never stands completely outside the story. We, like Lockwood, find ourselves as the direct recipients of Nelly’s narrative, we are immediately inside the world of Wuthering Heights and therefore the events loom large and have a more dramatic impact, because they are not prefaced for us by editorial comment or introduction provided in the first person by the author. While the larger frameworks of Lockwood and Nelly’s narratives, provide the necessary objectivity, the smaller more condensed narratives like Catherine’s diary give us direct glimpses into the imaginary lives of the main protagonists, these together form the core of the story and are joined in subtle ways with each other. They suddenly appear without warning and the memory of them remains vibrant in the background. The modify over veins of all the outward events that Nelly or Lockwood describe, allowing for an individual response or appreciation to the core developments of the story. Bronte seeks to engage the reader directly through the reactions of her narrators, the technique is abrupt and dramatic allowing little time for insight but confronting us with a sharply focused scene where the characters are realised first as physical presences, they are set in motion at once and the chain if events begins to occur, the reader is immediately caught up in the overall experience of the story without having time to...
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