Finding unbiased and credible sources to put your trust into can be very difficult. When a story is told, your source typically knows or has an opinion of the people being talked about. They also may be involved in a way that can limit their knowledge of facts. Throughout Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, the narrator introduces readers to many sources of information. But, like the childhood game telephone, the stories are apt to change. In the novel, the story goes from Isabella and Zillah, to Nellie at Thrushcross Grange, who tells Lockwood, by whom the audience receives the information. In Wuthering Heights, Lockwood is the most credible source, but each source giving readers the information is not as credible.
John Lockwood arrives as fully unaware of the history or the people of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. His alienation from the people living at these properties prevents him from making any preconceived assumptions, so he tends to give people the benefit of the doubt. Before speaking with Nellie Dean, Lockwood meets Heathcliff and does not find anything wrong with him. But, he leaves his opinion of Heathcliff to himself and relates Nellie’s words directly to the readers, without paraphrasing or comments. He learns about the history of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights and immediately broadcasts it, without processing his thoughts into opinions against the other characters. At the beginning of the novel, he experiences a strange atmosphere at Wuthering Heights. He introduces Hareton, Cathy, Heathcliff, Zillah, and Joseph who are all free from any prior opinions. He only comments on appearances, tone of voice, and emotion. He leaves out any indication that he has negative thoughts towards anyone in the house. Lockwood seems to like Heathcliff, but, he does not let this interfere with the narration of the story.
Most of the content in the novel is revealed by Nellie Dean as she tells Lockwood the story of the two homes. Her story is credible because Heathcliff confides in her, giving her access to information about the story of Wuthering Heights. She is present for many of the events in the story, has a close connection to basically everyone involved, and enjoys access to private information. In addition, she seems to be free of any mental illness. But, there are many clues pointing to Nellie being a questionable narrator. First, as a servant, she should not disregard the duties she has and should not be gossiping to a tenant. Also, she has a strange sense of her status, acting offended when treated as a servant. But knowing she is not at the level of the Earnshaws. What exactly is her role in the two households? She obviously plays favorites, because she regards Cathy and disrespects Linton. She seems untrustworthy, because she cannot fulfill her only duty at Thrushcross Grange: keeping Cathy away from Wuthering Heights. She causes trouble in many ways, such as admitting Heathcliff into Thrushcross Grange to see Catherine after she marries Edgar and allowing Cathy’s communication with Linton through love letters. All of these actions and opinions show Nellie has biases, unlike Lockwood.
Zillah, the maid at Wuthering Heights, fills Nellie in on what happens at the house when she is not there. During Cathy and Nellie’s captivity by Heathcliff, Zillah is the only one who gives her with any information of the outside world. When Cathy is returns to the Heights after her father’s passing, Zillah informs Nellie of what is going on at the house, but with bias. “She thinks Catherine haughty, and does not like her,” observes Nellie, which she infers from the biased interpretation of Cathy’s arrival at Wuthering Heights by Zillah (281). Zillah is seen as a troublemaker. She stands by and watches as dramatic events unfold, and typically contributes to them. She welcomes Lockwood into the house, then throws him in Catherine’s old room, stirring up distress for the people of Wuthering Heights.
Isabella Linton also shows Nellie some of the story through a letter she writes when she lives at Wuthering Heights with her husband. Having a rebellious personality, shown through her marriage to Heathcliff despite her family’s wishes, she should be regarded cautiously and trusted slowly. When Isabella moves to Wuthering Heights, she rapidly develops signs of mental illness. She beings throwing knives, conspiring to murder, and engaging in vicious rages. In addition to this, she develops symptoms of a personality disorder, which deepens her rebellious traits. Isabella’s experiences and opinions peak in an extreme contempt for Heathcliff and Catherine, which is a clear hindrance in factual storytelling. These factors contribute to an unstable personality, which proves she is an untrustworthy source.
Lockwood, as the primary narrator, captures every part of the story and presents it clearly. He does not add to the biases presented in the dialogue and proceeds to share with readers. Nellie, whose character is questionable and prone to bias, gives a rendering of the facts only slightly colored with subjectivity and opinion. Zillah and Isabella are the least credible of the sources. Their words were very biased. The credibility of the narrators in Wuthering Heights varies as the story is told to readers. It is up to characters in the novel, as well as each reader of it, to decide whom to trust.