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The Narrative Techniques in Wuthering Heights

Jack Todhunter | Friday August 07, 2009

Categories: KS4, Narrative, Narrative Techniques, Prose, Wuthering Heights, Writing

The narrative technique employed by Emily Bronte is both complex and beguiling.

There are two obvious narrators in Lockwood and Nelly Dean but several other elements are incorporated within the novel to channel the story.

Bronte ensured that the action as a whole is presented in the form of an intricate collection of written fragments or verbal eyewitness accounts by characters who have all had some part to play in the story they unfold.

The author employs a general Rahmenerzählung approach to the narrative with Lockwood’s tale comprising the outer framework of the action.

Lockwood’s dramatic primary encounter with Heathcliff at the outset leads him to seek secondary details from Ellen (Nelly) Dean. She in turn is the recipient of tertiary narratives. For the most part, Lockwood tells us what Nelly has told him and she in turn passes on what others have told her in baton fashion with a variety of flashbacks.

As readers, we are faced with a narrative jigsaw puzzle, fitting together these accounts of events with their complex timescales in and around the dwelling called Wuthering Heights.

Consequently, at times we are three steps removed from events. Strangely, with such narrative “distance?, we do not feel emotionally remote from the tale. The effect is quite the reverse; we are sucked into the compelling action.

Lockwood’s sentences are often complex. They consist of a number of clauses or long phrases, frequently separated by dashes or semi-colons.

One noticeable feature of Lockwood’s style is his use of multisyllabic lexis. Chapter One throws up examples such as: penetralium, misanthropist, auxiliary and countenance. This language gives us the impression of a narrator who is educated and whose command of English is sophisticated and assured.

Nelly Dean’s narrative is both vivid and detailed, though by contrast, her lexis is less refined, even colloquial. Her testimony provides the inner frame of the framed...

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