Wuthering Heights

by: Emily Brontë

Nelly Dean

Before I came to live here, she commenced . . . I was almost always at Wuthering Heights; because my mother had nursed Mr. Hindley Earnshaw that was Hareton’s father, and I got used to playing with the children: I ran errands too, and helped to make hay, and hung about the farm ready for anything that anybody would set me to.

After Mr. Lockwood returns to Wuthering Heights, he asks Nelly to tell him the story of the place. Here, Nelly begins the story with an account of her connection to the Earnshaw and Linton families. Nelly’s tale provides the reader with a clear picture of Nelly’s work ethic and close relationship with the families, setting her up as a knowledgeable, but biased, source.

I confess this blow as greater to me than the shock of Mrs. Linton’s death: ancient associations lingered round my heart; I sat down on the porch and wept as for a blood relation, desiring Mr. Kenneth to get another servant to introduce him to the master.

Nelly describes her emotional reaction to learning of Hindley Earnshaw’s death. Despite Hindley Earnshaw’s capricious mistreatment of Nelly and downright cruelty at the end of his life, Nelly’s reaction proves her loyalty to the Earnshaw family. She calls Hindley Earnshaw her foster-brother, evidencing her strong connection to the family. The reader sees Nelly’s sympathetic and forgiving nature.

The twelve years, continued Mrs. Dean, following that dismal period were the happiest of my life: my greatest troubles in their passage rose from our little lady’s trifling illnesses, which she had to experience in common with all children, rich and poor . . . She was the most winning thing that ever brought sunshine into a desolate house[.]

Nelly continues her story to Mr. Lockwood by describing the “happiest” days of her life as young Catherine grew in her care. After the dark period of Catherine’s and Hindley’s deaths, Nelly experiences some happiness living at Thrushcross Grange and helping to raise young Catherine. Nelly’s love grows quickly, proving her as a caring, maternal, and loyal character.

On the succeeding morning I was laid up, and during three weeks I remained incapacitated for attending to my duties: a calamity never experienced prior to that period, and never, I am thankful to say, since . . . the confinement brought me exceedingly low. It is wearisome, to a stirring active body[.]

Nelly describes an illness she battled for three weeks, something she rarely experienced. She reveals how difficult it was for her to be inactive and not attend to her duties. Her recollection reveals both her toughness and her strong work ethic. While many of the families in her care experience frequent illness or weakness, she only faces it once in her lifetime.

You see, Mr. Lockwood, it was easy enough to win Mrs. Heathcliff’s heart. But now, I’m glad you did not try. The crown of all my wishes will be the union of those two. I shall envy no one on their wedding day: there won’t be a happier woman than myself in England!

Here, Nelly Dean reveals to Mr. Lockwood how she feels about young Catherine and Hareton Earnshaw falling in love. Nelly explains how their union represents the culmination of her hopes because this connection will end a decades-long conflict. Nelly proves once again how strongly she feels for those she has cared for her whole life, regarding these families as her own, loving as deeply as any maternal figure.