NDB #3: The Reliable or Unreliable Narrator in Wuthering Heights

Mr. Lockwood and Nelly Dean are opposites in almost every way. A bit of a dandy and unaccustomed to the “grim and taciturn” inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, he is a sophisticated and sentimental outsider to the “ill-tempered” Earnshaws. She, however, is a shrewd, self-educated servant and has been with these families for most of her life.

To what extent do we accept Nelly’s point of view as narrator? Is her conventionality necessarily wrong or limited? Is it a valid point of view, though one perhaps which cannot understand or accommodate the wild behavior she encounters?

Does she represent normalcy? Is she a norm against which to judge the behavior of the other characters? How much does she contribute, whether unintentionally, semi-consciously, or deliberately, to the disasters which engulf her employers?

To what extent is Nelly admirable? Is she superior to the other servants, as she suggests, or is she deluded by vanity?

Is she genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons or is she selfishly detached from, even a bit jealous of, their social positions clearly above her own?

Choose one (or more) of the topic questions above. Embed two quotes from this section of WH in your response (as demonstrated in the prompt above). Quotes may not be repeated so read all posts prior to yours. Then challenge at least one other post.

Lockwood                                          Nelly

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38 responses to “NDB #3: The Reliable or Unreliable Narrator in Wuthering Heights

  • Alex Shively

    To what extent is Nelly admirable? Is she superior to the other servants, as she suggests, or is she deluded by vanity?

    She is admirably for telling Lockwood the whole story about power and revenge upon he decides to return to London. Upon Lockwood’s return in September Nelly finishes the story she started telling him. I feel Nelly thinks she is superior to other servants. She has been around a long time and seems to know everything compared to others. She is of a higher level compared to others and have had more responsibility than them before. I believe she might be deluded a little by what she thinks but not much.

    • Alex Shively

      “I was almost always at Wuthering Heights; because my mother had nursed Mr. Hindley Earnshaw.” Nelly had been at Wuthering Heights since her early childhood due to her mother.

      “I have read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also, unless it be that range of Greek and Latin…” This quote shows how long she has been there and how much knowledge of the place she has. She knows every book in the library except for the ones in Greek and Latin.

  • Brianna Boswell

    Nelly’s point of view as narrator should be accepted. She is the most normal character in this book so far, unlike Heathcliff, for example, who is referred to as a “brute beast”. Nelly doesn’t narrate about what someone told her or what she thought happened; she narrates what she experienced and witnessed, which makes her even more credible. Nelly is an admirable woman who has stuck by the Earnshaws and Lintons for basically her whole life. She loves young Cathy so much that she “returned softly” to Cathy’s room to kiss her goodnight, even though she was very unhappy with her at the moment.

    • Drew Dalton

      Nelly does narrate using facts from other people including villagers, Isabella, Dr. Kenneth, and the shepherd boys, which doesn’t make her credibility concrete

    • Madelin Bishop

      I agree that she should be accepted because Nelly seems the most normal out of all of the characters. Nelly doesn’t cause many uproars or cause much commotion unless she is trying to help someone. She seems that she is telling the truth,and with her having first hand experience with all of the other characters makes her credible. I also agree that she is an admirable woman because she is always helping the family with anything they need and trying to make them happy. Nelly always puts the well-being others before herself.

    • Adrianna Bowman

      I do not think that Nelly’s point of view should be accepted. I do think she is a reliable source, she said so herself early in book she likes the “gossip”. Also i fell like she twists the story around to make herself look like a better person

  • Drew Dalton

    To what extent do we accept Nelly’s point of view as narrator? Is her conventionality necessarily wrong or limited? Is it a valid point of view, though one perhaps which cannot understand or accommodate the wild behavior she encounters?

    I can’t really take Nelly too seriously because of how biased (with the Lintons) she seems to be, how much she seems to instigate certain situations or question situations she already knows about. She uses villagers to fill in parts of the story she doesn’t know, and with these filled in accounts I don’t necessarily trust everything she says. I guess the only thing I could describe her as is a “wild card.”
    Two examples are when Heathcliff reaches the peak of his crazy behavior Nelly says “Is he a goul, or a vampire?” Since she helped raise him as a child it would be ridiculous to even bring up this type of question. She’s even quoted in the book saying “Hindley hated him, and to say the truth I did the same” (talking about Heathcliff as a child)
    She seems to feed off the drama between the two families

    • Jordan Hall

      I believe that Nelly is a very reliable source. She was there for most of the story and if she was not there then I trust that she received her information accurately from someone who was there. Otherwise, I do not see why she would include information that wasn’t true into her story. She obviously is close to the family since they practically raised her even though she is just a servant. Her being a servant but still having close connections within the family makes her a very reliable source. She is almost like a bystander in an accident. She can give pure facts without feeling guilty for betraying anyone she loves. I do believe that she could be a little biased towards the Lintons, however, she is in my opinion the most reliable source based on the options of other characters.

    • Brianna Boswell

      Nelly does not seem like the type of person to make up a story. I don’t think she would tell Mr. Lockwood something unless she really believed it was true. She could be a little biased towards the Lintons now, but remember, she used to live with the Earnshaws. So we don’t know for sure if she is biased towards the Lintons. I believe that Nelly is a very valid source.

    • Adrianna Bowman

      While I do think she is a drama queen, and likes to be involved in most things going on. I Do think that at times she can be a somewhat reliable person and narrator. I do think that she is looking out for the greater good of every one, like how she helps to be a nurse to the children and help to raise them. I do think there is a little glimmer of good in her.

    • Jared Ralph

      Nelly may be biased, towards the Lintons, but she still plays an important role to both of the families and she has some reliability to what she says. Although, she questioned whether Heathcliff is a ghoul or a vampire, does that relate to her raising Heathcliff? I believe she tried her best to raise Heathcliff as best as she could, but doesn’t it come down to how you want to act? Another person cannot tell you how to lead your life and how you should act. They can suggest it, but it comes down to what you want to do. So, I don’t think it is ridiculous to raise this question since Heathcliff has the power to do as he pleases and act as he wants to. Nelly may have her own opinions and may not approve of everything Heathcliff does and how he acts, but she can’t do anything about it.

    • Mitchell Jones

      Nelly tries her best to defuse situations and stop them from happening. Many times things work against her and she can not do anything about it. I don’t think she feed off the drama between the families either, after seeing how much she tries to put a stop to it. Would someone who likes something stop it?

    • Keaton Johnson

      I think Nelly is the most reliable source in the story because she has worked for both families, and has been there for most of her life. Nelly tells the story how it is she mentions things often that she has done t wrong. If she was a unreliable narrator she would leave out parts that she did not act appropriately in because it would make her look bad.

  • Jordan Hall

    I believe that Nelly is caught up in her own vanity and is not necessarily as superior as she believes. She, of course, would have the upper hand of servants who have just started to work there or haven’t been there as long as she has. I believe she does have special privileges simply because of her hard work through the many years of her service, However, I believe that she is giving herself too much credit. It is almost as if she believes that she is better than anyone that hasn’t been living with them for their whole life. She sees some of the newcomers as “uncivil little things” as if she is better than them even though she is a mere servant. She even judges guests as if she has a say in if they should be allowed to be in the household and admits that she is “prejudiced against them.” Her prejudice shows her vanity that she believes she has a right to be something more than just a servant and she deserves a seat at the table with the rest of the family since she was practically raised by them.

    • Jessica Embry

      I think Nelly is prejudiced against them because she feels like she has been around the Earnshaws and Lintons for so long that it is okay for her to have this mindset. I feel like since she has been around the Earnshaws and Lintons since childhood, she does have an advantage from the other servants which makes her appear superior to them.

    • Morgan Montgomery

      Nelly basically is a part of the family. I would not consider her as an upper hand of any servants. She is the only one who makes the effort to treat the families like her own, nurses them while they’re sick, and listen to their ranting. People like Heathcliff, Edgar, and Cathy run to her for everything, she doesn’t make the first move to them to make herself seem of top importance. Her personality is more caring, respectful, and guardian-like than it is at all prejudice

    • Jordyn Martin

      I don’t believe Nelly thinks she is superior over the other servants. She has been a mother figure to almost everyone in this section. Because of this, they go to her when there’s a problem and in return Nelly does what she thinks is best. Although I do agree that she has the upper hand. She is more experienced and more connected with both families.

    • Madelin Bishop

      I do not think Nelly believes she is better than the other servants. I think she knows that she has the most experience, and that she knows how to handle the situations well. I think Nelly deserves a seat at the table with the others because she is practically the family. Nelly has raised a lot of the children, and has watched over them when they were sick. She waits on the family all of the time and puts the family in front of herself.

  • Madelin Bishop

    Is she genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons or is she selfishly detached from, even a bit jealous of, their social positions clearly above her own?

    Nelly is genuinely attached to the Earnshaw’s and Linton’s. Throughout Nelly’s whole life she has helped both families and nursed them when they are sick. She always stands by their side until the end, or they get better. Nelly is continually putting the needs of the Earnshaw’s and Linton’s in front of hers. For instance, Nelly go sick from taking Cathy to see Linton and she remained “incapacitated” for three weeks, which was a “calamity” that had never happened before those weeks. This goes to prove that Nelly always stays busy helping the families out all of the time. Cathy and Nelly had an argument one night over whether Cathy should be able to go see Linton, and they both left mad with altering opinions. But, the next morning Nelly took Cathy to see Linton because Nelly “couldn’t bear to witness her sorrow.” Nelly really does care about how the families feel and wants to make them as happy as she can.

  • Jessica Embry

    Nelly is admirable because she is willing to tell Mr. Lockwood the story of Mr. Heathcliff and the Earnshaws and the Lintons. She also cared about Catherine and she somehow managed to still be worried about Heathcliff when Catherine died. When Mrs. Heathcliff calls Edgar a “Monster!” Nelly stinks up for him by saying “he’s a human being,” to me this a reason why she is admirable, she tries to see the good in everyone. Nelly thinks she is superior to other other servants. I think Nelly is superior in a way to the other servants because she is asked “to order a carriage,” and to do so she has to ring a bell and commit to “a servant’s care.” After Catherine’s death, Nelly heard someone “show their giddiness” in Mr. Linton’s house. She asked why in the world they would be laughing and what Mr. Linton would’ve done if he had heard the laughter. Nelly thought it was a maid who had walked through the front door, but it was really Mrs. Heathcliff. Nelly has also been taking care of the baby since Catherine has passed away. She had been with the Earnshaws since childhood, which gave her an advantage over the other servants, and I feel like the Earnshaws went to her before any other servant. When Heathcliff was going to take Hindley out for five minutes, he asked Nelly for a comfirmation and she told him he could keep Hindley out all night. Even if this was a rhetorical question that Heathcliff asked Nelly, I think it still shows her importance above the other servants because he didn’t ask the other servants if it was okay if he took Hindley out.

  • Morgan Montgomery

    Is she genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons or is she selfishly detached from, even a bit jealous of, their social positions clearly above her own?

    Nelly is most definitely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons, as she is always with them and in between all the drama and craziness that occurs between the two. “I thought it over aloud, in my master’s presence; walking straight from her room to his, and relating the whole story…” (Chapter 24) This quote is from Nelly, after Catherine revealed to her that she had been secretly visiting Wuthering Heights. Afterwards, Nelly immediately ran and told Edgar. This proves how caught up Nelly can be in the families, and how she even acts as more of a parent to the children, caring for Catherine’s safety. Also, speaking of young Linton in Chapter 21, Nelly says, “When I chanced to encounter the housekeeper of Wuthering Heights, in paying business visits to Gimmerton, I used to ask how the young master got on…” Being as young Linton was sick and Catherine was extremely sad and concerned for him, Nelly genuinely cared and was constantly asking how he was doing. This shows how concerning and mother-like Nelly is, and her respect for both families.

  • Adrianna Bowman

    To what extent do we accept Nelly’s point of view as narrator? Is her conventionality necessarily wrong or limited? Is it a valid point of view, though one perhaps which cannot understand or accommodate the wild behavior she encounters?

    I think we accept Nelly Dean as the narrator at first, as she seems to be the peace keeper between Wuthering Heights. Nelly often took the side of Hareton when she tells Catherine that she “can have more than one cousin”,and she continued to make fun of him. She was supportive in this moment. I also think at a certain point we realize she is too good to be true. Though she has “always been around at Wuthering Heights” she often tells the story just to make herself look good. I do not think she is too reliable because she could be taking parts of the story out. I think her point of view is somewhat valid for these reasons. I also think she has a limited point of view because she is often not a witness in the stories she tells.

    • Jessica Embry

      I believe that we should accept Nelly’s point of view because of the fact she is always around Wuthering Heights. She uses her own experiences and what she sees and hears to help her narrator the story. I don’t think she tries to make herself look good, and I feel like if she would be taking things out of the story, then she would’ve just talked about herself instead of the Earnshaws and the Lintons.

    • Sydney Hitchel

      I also think we should accept Nelly’s point of view. I find her to be an admirable person. She seems to put the needs of others before her own needs, and she is always there to help. She has basically become a part of the family over the years.

  • Jordyn Martin

    Is she genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons or is she selfishly detached from, even a bit jealous of, their social positions clearly above her own?

    Nelly seems to be genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons. She has been working there for most of her life so has basically become a part of both families and even “divined instinctively” the emotions and actions of the characters. She is a mother figure to pretty much everyone. Nelly tells Catherine that words aren’t enough and that “deeds must prove it also” giving advice on the relationship between young Catherine and Edgar. I feel Nelly wouldn’t give advice that would strengthen a bond between her master and his daughter if she was jealous of their social positions. I believe she wouldn’t bother to keep up with all the events that are happening between the families if she didn’t genuinely care about them.

  • Jared Ralph

    Is she genuinelyattached to the Earnshaws and Lintons or is she selfishly detached from, even a bit jealous of, their social positions clearly above her own?

    Nelly is genuinely attached to both the Earnshaws and the Lintons. She is always in the matters of the two families or in between all of the drama that happens. Some of the other characters even go to her with their problems which show that she has connections and is attached to the families in certain ways. For example, in chapter 17, Isabella asks Nelly for help and reports to her about the violence between Heathcliff and Hindley becoming too violent and in the same chapter, Nelly defends Edgar from Mrs. Heathcliff. Mrs. Heathcliff claims that Edgar should not be considered a “human being” because he destroyed her heart. Nelly defends Edgar by saying that Isabella needs to be “more charitable” and remember there are worse men than him. I feel like Nelly has strong feelings for the other characters in her story and I believe she wouldn’t have said what she said if she didn’t mean it or if she didn’t care about Edgar. So, I think Nelly wouldn’t have anything to do with the families if she wasn’t genuinely attached to them.

    • Adam Moser

      Edgar is also her boss so she might have just stood up for him to look better in front of him. Even if she didn’t care for Edgar too much she would still say something maybe to earn brownie points with him.

  • Sydney Hitchel

    To what extent do we accept Nelly’s point of view as narrator? Is her conventionality necessarily wrong or limited? Is it a valid point of view, though one perhaps which cannot understand or accommodate the wild behavior she encounters?

    I think that we should accept Nelly’s point of view as the narrator. From what we have read so far in the book, she seems to be a truthful and credible person. While some may consider her to be vain because of how she puts herself against the servants, I don’t think this is vain. I think she deserves to be above the others due to her many years with them. She is a part of the family basically, since she was raised by them. She always is there and willing to help them. She puts their needs above her own. She never seems like she is just looking out for her own good or trying to cause drama.

    • Sydney Hitchel

      I do not think her point of view is limited. While she may not be able to witness every single thing that happens, I feel as if she would be able to find out nearly anything that has happened in the house due to how long she has been there, and the amount of trust everyone has in her.

    • Maci Quisenberry

      I agree, Nelly has worked hard to be where she is. She tells the truth to anyone who asks it even if it might be hard to say. She treats the Earnshaws and Lintons like family because she has been with them for so long and her loyalty belongs to them.

      • Sydney Hitchel

        Quotes: “But there’s this difference: one is gold put to the use of paving-stones, and the other is tin polished to ape a service of silver.” This shows how they separated people and judges, but they still accepted Nelly. This shows how she was accepted, I=and I think gives her more credibility.

        ‘I do. Come, Nelly, hold your tongue” this shows that Nelly wanted to tell the truth. They had to tell her not to say what happened, which makes her admirable

  • Mitchell Jones

    Does she represent normalcy? Is she a norm against which to judge the behavior of the other characters? How much does she contribute, whether unintentionally, semi-consciously, or deliberately, to the disasters which engulf her employers?
    Not much about Wuthering Heights is normal, and I think Nelly is the closest person to it out of all the characters so far. “You had better sit down in there, and entrust your message to me.” I think Nelly has little to contribute to the disasters since things tend to work against her no matter what she does, like in this quote where Joseph follows her even after she tells him to sit down. “people can have cousins and of all sorts”. Here Nelly tries to calm down Cathy to get her to leave Wuthering Heights before the scene becomes even worse.

  • Maci Quisenberry

    Is she genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons or is she selfishly detached from, even a bit jealous of, their social positions clearly above her own?
    Nelly is genuinely attached to the Earnshaws and Lintons. She has been working for them for almost her whole life and had become attached to them, and she cares about their personal well-being and safety. She learns to be brutally honest with them. One example of this would be when young Catherine escapes Thrushcross Grange and goes to Wuthering Heights. Edgar didn’t want young Catherine to know anything about Wuthering Heights, so Nelly went after Catherine and told her the whole truth about Wuthering Heights, and they both decided to not tell Edgar about what happened. This shows that Nelly is heavily involved in their lives and would do anything to keep them safe. When Edgar falls ill Nelly tries her best to fulfill the fatherly role he played to Catherine. This shows that Nelly does care about Catherine in a way that most people wouldn’t care about their employers. Nelly loves these two families and would do anything to keep them safe.

  • Traci Renfrow

    I think that Nelly is a reliable source because she has been around both families the longest and would be the one to know almost everything that goes on. Nelly is also one of the normal ones in the book, and she contributes to the family’s problems because the characters come to her whenever they have a problem and she tells them what they should or shouldn’t do.

  • Keaton Johnson

    To what extent do we accept Nelly’s point of view as narrator?

    I accept most of the things Nelly says as a narrator.She seems to be involved with almost everything that happens between the two families; so I believe she is not that limited. She also does not leave out things even when she did something wrong, “I said Heathcliff forced me to go in, which was not quite true.” She does not benefit in anyway from telling him she lied, but she wants to tell the story how it actually happened. Her telling the truth even when it does not benefit her shows she is a reliable source. Another example is when young Catherine escapes and Nelly ask her to not tell, “He would perhaps be so angry, I would have to leave.” She is telling Mr. Lockwood it was kind of her fault that the whole thing started between Linton and Catherine because of her negligence.

  • William Robinson

    I think Nelly is reliable because she has been with the families for most of her life, and she is trusted by both families and is seen as a mother figure. Nelly is deeply involved in everyone’s lives and the characters come to her when they have problems. I think that Nelly feels like she needs to be more than a servant to the families, and has to protect them. Because of this, i feel that she is genuinely attached to the families and not detached or jealous of them and their wealth.

  • Adam Moser

    I believe Nelly is admirable because she seems to be the most emotionally stable person in the story. She acts like the most mature person and she takes care of young Catherine when her father Edgar is sick. “Catherine, why are you crying, love?” I asked approaching and putting my arm over her shoulder. I think this not only makes her admirable, but also superior to other servants because she is almost like the mother figure for Catherine. “It’s wrong to anticipate evil.” Nelly says this to Catherine and I think this is important because it shows how Nelly, the hired servant, is teaching Catherine life lessons. It shows that Nelly is loving and really cares for Catherine and the family. This is why Nelly is superior to the other servants.

  • Kristen Lively

    Nelly is admirable because she has stayed with these families even though they are broken and not the best to be around at all times. She is also the most stable person in the story, she handles problems that arise in a mature calm manor rather than acting irrationally like many of the characters in the story. Nelly is superior to the other servants because she actually cares about the families shes working for.

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