Narrative Technique of Wuthering Heights
A very complex element of Emily Bronte's writing technique is the narrative style she uses when alternating between the two characters of Nelly Dean and Lockwood. Wuthering Heights is a story told through eye witness accounts, first through Lockwood, followed by Nelly. Lockwood's responsibility is shaping the framework of the novel whereas Nelly provides the intricate recount of the personal lives of all the characters having been present first hand. Although, each character does have a different emotion and style.
Wuthering Heights has a very complicated narrative structure. There are two clear narrators, but the novel is almost a drama, that is to say, dialogue plays a great part.
Different levels of narration construct the story, not by the usual way of telling the same events from different perspectives, but the participation of characters helps in understanding what happens. It could be said that, instead of a multi-perspective story, this is a multi-layered story. We need to connect every part to obtain a global comprehension. But, at the end, some points remained unexplained (for example, where Heath cliff was born, how he got his money, if Catherine was really a ghost or not...) and even the narrators are not so reliable as they may seem to be –because they are also characters involved in the plot, not omniscient narrators.
In the novel we find two times of reference:
-a “present narrative”, that is a kind of “present time”, when Lockwood rents Thrushcross Grange, meets his landlord, Heath cliff, and asks Nelly Dean to tell him the story of his landlord.
-a “past narrative”, that is a kind of “past time”, where the events told by Nelly Dean took place.
Both are interrelated and got mixed during the novel, since the action extends to the present narrative, and the book opens when it is about to finish. The time reference go backwards and forwards very easily.
The reason why I have said before that this is a multi-layered novel, is that, apart from the two obvious narrators, we have incidents explained by characters who had taken part in them, as Catherine in her diary at the beginning or Isabella’s letter to Nelly. By means of dialogue we learn a lot of things about the characters and the story too. In addition, the narrators are eyewitnesses, characters involved in the story, and they neither have an absolute knowledge about the events, nor about the inner life of the other characters.
We can say that Lockwood represents a “narrative external frame”. He put the story in context, and like the readers, listens to Nelly’s storytelling -although he gets in touch with the main characters in his “real time”. In fact, the whole novel is supposed to be extracted from his personal diary, where he took down Nelly’s words.
She is, therefore, a “narrative inner frame”, since she has taken part in the happenings. Lockwood as narrator, as character.
He is the new tenant (inquilinous) of Thrush cross Grange, a gentleman who came from the city to the Yorkshire country. He is a stranger in Yorkshire, and the behaviour of the people of Wuthering Heights is difficult for him to understand. So, he asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to explain their history to him, in order to understand the situation. With his questions about Heathcliff he arise the reader interest, and by the chapter 4th we are eager to hear the story.
As narrator, Lockwood is very perceptive to details and changes in the characters (as we can see, by comparison, in the opposite descriptions of Cathy or Harleton at the beginning or at the end of the story). We know the action through his personal diary, where he comments on what he has seen, and since he is an outsider it is easy for us, the readers, to identify with him. In addition, his personal style, full of descriptions, his constant misunderstandings, make him a very likeable character. He makes...
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