Nelly Dean

Nelly is a patient, responsible, and resourceful woman who is most often found caring for others; she describes herself to Lockwood as “a steady, reasonable kind of body.” Nelly begins her lifetime role as a caretaker when she is young. For example, when Hindley, Heathcliff, and Cathy fall ill with the measles, “I had to tend them, and take on me the cares of a woman.” She later cares for Hareton, describing him as her “first bonny little nurseling,” and is also a surrogate mother for Cathy Linton. In a novel in which biological parents are often either indifferent or destructive towards their children, Nelly offers a model of a caring and nurturing presence. She can, however, go too far in her interventions, as when she gives in to Catherine’s pleas to go and visit Linton after Heathcliff tells them that his son is dying of a broken heart. Since this visit indirectly leads to Cathy’s unhappy marriage to Linton, Nelly might have been a better guardian if she had stood her ground.